Have you ever wondered if there are any celebrities that played volleyball in their childhood or teenage years? Or perhaps said to yourself ‘Oh, if only he/she played volleyball…’ after seeing an NBA superstar or a top female gymnast showing their athletic prowess in their own sports? Well, some of them did… So let’s have a look at some of the world’s biggest celebrities who used to play volleyball at different stages of their lives.
Currently, the most prominent ex-volleyball player is undoubtedly the star goalkeeper of Chelsea and the Belgian national team Thibaut Courtois. The tall keeper has recently attributed his presence and skills in front of the goal exactly to volleyball: “Because I played volleyball I had good reflexes and I liked to dive, so sometimes I went in goal when we rotated”. What is more, volleyball runs in Thibaut’s genes – his parents were former professional players, and his sister Valerie Courtois is playing for the Belgian national volleyball team and the Polish Budowlani Łódź.
Valerie is not the only volleyball player who is a sibling of a famous footballer. Daniela Ospina, the sister of the Colombian keeper of Arsenal David Ospina is a former Colombian volleyball international. She now plays for Voley Playa Madrid in Spain, while her husband James Rodriguez is the star of the football team Real Madrid.
Another, less well-known footballer who used to play volleyball at an early age is Millwall’s vice-captain Danny Shittu, who also claims to have acquired some key skills from the sport. ‘People say I have a big leap on me and I’m telling you, it came from volleyball. That’s the technique I try to teach youngsters. I think I was pretty good. When I was about 16 I was in the England junior team. I went to America with them once. I loved volleyball as a kid’, concludes the ex-Nigerian international.
Basketball and volleyball often go hand-in-hand due to the similar physical requirements in both sports. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the top NBA players have once been volleyball stars in their schools and colleges.
The first one to come to mind is the legend from the 1960s and 1970s Wilt Chamberlain. The dominant center, who is known to have scored 100 points in a single game not only became a volleyball player after he finished his basketball career with the Lakers, but also became a president of the International Volleyball Association in 1975, and was later named in the US Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Another famous NBA star with a volleyball past is Vince Carter. The guard/forward, who is known as ‘Air Canada’ because of his huge jump and spectacular dunks, played volleyball at his High School and was even named volleyball Conference Player of the Year back in 1994.
The young Cameroonian Joel Embiid, who currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers only started playing basketball when he was 15. Before that, he practiced volleyball and even planned to play professionally in Europe.
The most popular female basketball player who had her volleyball spell in the past is Elena Delle Donne from the Chicago Sky in the WNBA. She played volleyball for her college in Delaware and won the state volleyball championship. After experiencing some personal problems because of which she declined her basketball scholarship offered to her by the University of Connecticut, Elena briefly returned to volleyball and went to play for the University of Delaware volleyball team. Eventually, she dropped out of the team one year later and returned back to basketball.
Strangely enough, many cricket superstars are fans of volleyball and often play the sport whenever the opportunity arises. The most famous one is the batsman Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the greatest cricketers of all time. However, he is not the only one – bowler Sohail Khan, batsman Sourav Ganguly, and opening batsman Virender Sehwag were known to play volleyball on numerous occasions – as a warm-up activity in trainings, during preparation camps or while having a break from the cricket season.
Other famous sportspeople who used to play volleyball include the evergreen swimmer Dara Torres and the netball player Anna Harrison. Dara played multiple sports, one of which was volleyball. She was part of the Westlake High School volleyball team and the University of Florida volleyball team. Anna, on the other hand, is a gold medallist for the New Zealand netball national team, and a professional beach volleyball player at the same time. She was such for three years – between 2007 and 2010 when she retired from netball to partner with Susan Blundell in the sands of the country down under.
There were a lot of Hollywood superstars portrayed as volleyball players in their teams. One example is the game of volleyball between the characters played by Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer in Top Gun.But still, the actor most popular with his volleyball career in real life was probably Tom Selleck. Tom played as an outside hitter in his home club in Hawaii, while his son was an All-American volleyball player in the 1990s. The actor famous for his role in Magnum, P.I. also played beach volleyball.
Other actors who played volleyball in the past are Baywatch star David Hasselhoff, actor Dean Cain and TV-series actresses Cassidy Freeman and Nina Dobrev.
Although not specifically having any volleyball background, Prince Harry is always keen to play sitting volleyball during the practice sessions of the British Team competing in various Paralympic events such as the Warrior Games or the Invictus Games.
As you can see, there are quite a few well-known people for whom volleyball has a big part in their lives. The list goes on and on… So if you know any other famous people who are in any way connected with volleyball, do let us know!
Photo Sources: imgkid.com, 7sur7.be, imgfave.com, fidumic.clubos.net, The Guardian.