Welcome to this special interview, #114, with Chase Wassel, a former NCAA college athlete. Chase is graduating this spring from NCAA Division 2, Holy Family. She enjoyed not just a good collegiate volleyball career, but what can only be described as a stellar volleyball career.
For those of you dreaming of competing in college, listen to athletes like Chase who have already traveled the road and are now looking back.
This interview is incredibly motivational and insightful! Chase Wassel played volleyball for four years at Holy Family University, under Coach Jeff Rotondo.
I would encourage you to also read the interview with Coach Rotondo, Amazing Division 2 Recruiting Guide with Coach Rotondo
How did you get involved in volleyball?
Growing up in a family with 5 girls, raised by two life-long athletes, being involved in sports wasn’t even questioned. I played a handful of different sports, from lacrosse to basketball, from soccer to volleyball. Volleyball was a little later for me, as I just signed up for CYO in 7th grade. It wasn’t until high school until I developed a deeper passion for the sport.
When you were in high school how did your thought process of possibly playing in college evolve?
I went to Lansdale Catholic where volleyball was huge. I was a 3-year varsity player and we won a few PCL titles. My high school coach told me that if I wanted to really be at the top of the list with the best, club volleyball would be a huge plus for me.
My sophomore year is when I agreed to play for Infinity Volleyball Academy. Jeff Rotondo and Susan Kim (directors of Infinity) offered me a spot. They worked alongside me for three years. It wasn’t until my second season that I was asked if I had any interest in playing in college.
I questioned my potential. Lacking confidence and faith in myself set me back. But I always knew I had the determined, hard-working mindset of an athlete. The end of my junior year, heading into my senior year is when I fully committed myself to find a place to play in college.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of playing club volleyball in addition to high school volleyball?
There are tons of pros and cons when your break down club volleyball from a player’s viewpoint. Some of the pros were that you
- stayed in volleyball shape year round
- have college coaches come to almost every showcase or tournament
- get ahead of some of the athletes who weren’t playing club
- develop a handful of connections
- play against some of the toughest competition around
- are consistently improving your game
Some of the cons would be
- the immediate turnaround from high school season to club
- missing events (socially, sometimes even some holidays)
- long weekends dedicated to tournaments traveling
- finances can play a role for some people
In my opinion, I think club is one of the best decisions I could have made for myself.
What did your club coaches do to help you through the recruiting process?
Mentioned earlier, Jeff and Susan are the directors of the club. It wasn’t until my second season, that I was asked: “Do you want to play in college?”
At the time, I was not sure if I had what it takes. They believed in me and told me that I am unaware of the potential I had and how far I could go if I dedicated my time and focus to become a collegiate athlete.
When the time was right, they came to my house and sat down with myself and my parents. We discussed the type of athlete I was, what it is like to play a sport in college, what I will have to do to become a top recruit in the area, and what level I was looking to play. They provided me with the most amount of information a clueless, 18-year-old me needed to know. They are the reason I am where I am today.
What made you decide to attend Holy Family, a Division 2 school, when you could probably have played Division 1?
When I was introduced to Holy Family University, I immediately connected with the family aspect. Finding a place with a close-knit, family feel, made the decision easy. Jeff and Susan have created a culture that sold me from the start. I wasn’t interested in the commitment, job-like demand that sometimes you may get from a D1 program. I also at the time did not know 100% what I wanted. No matter where my talent was at the time or is now, I have not a single regret about choosing Holy Family over a Division 1 program.
Was it the right decision?
I feel as if I get this question often. To be honest, over the course of my four years I have asked myself this very thing. I will always be thankful for my decision on choosing Holy Family. Aside from the volleyball, I have gained life-long friends, learned more about myself than I ever thought I would, I got to have my parents, family, and friends support me every step of the way, and I got to create memories, lessons, and blessings to keep with me for the rest of my life. I know I was supposed to be here, and I thank everyone who played a role these past 4 years, and I would do it all again. I am leaving here with one hell of a journey that I would not change for the world, in every aspect.
What advice would you give to freshman before they arrive for their first college practice?
The advice I would give to freshman heading into their first practice is to breathe and trust the process. I remember the intimidating moment leading into that first practice. You are going to be playing with people you have never played with before, learning completely new terminology and technique, playing at a completely different speed and level than you are used to, leading you to make mistakes.
Remember that you are going to be pushed to your limit. You just have to take each practice day by day, have faith in your coaches, believe in yourself and work hard. Hard work and effort are undefeated. Know you are here for a reason. Some days will be good, and some will be bad, so fall in love with the process.
How did you grow and change as a person from your freshman to senior seasons?
Freshman year, fresh out of high school, my 18-year-old self was struggling to adapt to the college lifestyle. The responsibilities, the commitment, the organization, and maturity were a lot to grasp.
Looking back on my college career and as a senior today, I can confirm that I have seen myself grow. I actually told my coaches that. I finally realized all this time the culture they were implementing on us, when we thought it was crazy a year or two ago, actually paid off.
Starting off as an immature, entitled freshman to a senior captain with a demeanor that completely changed to become a mature, loyal, dedicated adult, makes me thankful that I trusted the process and allowed myself to grow through the highest points in my life to the lowest. It all came together to develop me into the person I am now.
The career of an athlete, even a successful one is not all roses all the time. Were there times at Holy Family where you struggled with the physical or mental strain? How did you deal with those times?
Yes. I would say this comes at least once a season. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Being a college athlete is not simple, and all athletes could back me up on that.
I specifically remember my freshman year. It was maybe 6 days into preseason and my parents came to visit me and I burst into tears. Sometimes adapting to something so new takes longer for others.
Even 4 years later, I broke down at the beginning of my season. It almost came off as if “wow, I cannot do this anymore.” I couldn’t believe I was saying that, and I surprised myself thinking “I can’t believe I still have this feeling as a senior.” Long story short, I came to realize that in those times, do not be embarrassed or afraid to talk to someone. Whether that be a teammate, a roommate, a friend, counselor, family, etc. I found it beneficial for me to go directly to the coaches. This allowed them to get a better understanding of who I was as a person and how to help me get through these tough times.
How has Coach Rotondo impacted your life?
I truly do not know where to begin with coach. Jeff was the first person who truly believed in me. From the first day of club tryouts to him giving me a hug after my final collegiate match, it’s almost as if I owe this guy my life!
He has helped me in a ton of different areas of my life. Jeff is more than a coach to me. He is a friend, a father like figure, and a forever wonderful person I am thankful to have in my life.
He taught me how to believe in myself, handle adversity, work hard, to never give up, how to become a leader, etc… the list goes on. He made sure my priorities were straight, that it’s family, faith, school, and volleyball. That is coming from one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met in the sport, making you realize there is more to volleyball than just volleyball. We have developed a relationship I will forever be thankful for.
You are about to graduate. What is next in the life of Chase?
It’s crazy to think I have to move on from my college life. I am a Communications major, currently working as a Marketing Intern for Chick-Fil-A. I would love to do something in Social Media Marketing for a company after I graduate. But what’s been on the radar is deciding on whether I want to pursue an overseas career with volleyball. I am currently discussing this over with my parents and my coaches to finalize a decision soon. So, stay tuned on what the verdict will come to!
What advice would you give to high school girls who would like to compete at the college level?
There is a very, small percentage of individuals who get to say they left high school pursuing a further career in a college sport. I say if you truly have a passion for the sport you play, go for it. If you have even the slightest gut feeling that you want to, go for it.
Playing a college sport has more benefits than you think. Yes, it is very time consuming, a ton of commitment, dedication, and stress. But it makes everything SO worth it. It is so much more than just a sport. I would not trade my college career for the world. Even now that I am officially done, I don’t know what to do with all my spare time since I am not in the gym 24/7!
I think that if you put your mind to it, you can do absolutely anything. Think about it this way, you won’t know what it’s like if you don’t try. If you try it and don’t like it, you can’t say you didn’t give it a shot!
Is your dream to play in college?
If you have talent, work your tail off and have a good attitude, there are roster spots and athletic scholarships available. However, if you wait for college coaches to come knocking down your door and throwing scholarship money your way, you will miss out.
I want you to know the truth about athletic scholarships. In The Ultimate Guide to Athletic Scholarships, I provide you with actual facts and statistics. I interviewed over a hundred college coaches and asked them to help you to understand scholarships.
The truth isn’t so glamorous as promising your child a full-ride. But once you know the truth, you will have the ability to evaluate the offers your child does receive. You will have the tools to make the best decision.
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Here is another great article for parents: Are You D1 or D2 Caliber?
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