Player Sacrifices In Hopes Of Playing College Volleyball

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The days are long, the travel is extensive and the practice hours are demanding.

But for 16-year-old Brooke Cannon, playing club volleyball in the Valley area is well worth the sacrifices.

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Payson High School junior Brooke Cannon shows the setting form that has earned her statewide recognition as a talented, skilled player.

"Volleyball is my passion and I'm hoping it pays off with a college scholarship," she said. "My goal is a (NCAA) Division I school but even if I get a Division II scholarship it would be awesome."

Cannon's quest for a scholarship began three years ago when she decided playing on the Club Red 17-years-and-under traveling volleyball team was the best way for her to get the recognition she needed from college recruiters.

Since hooking up with the team, she's played in tournaments in Denver, Anaheim, Atlanta, Las Vegas and around the Valley.

"We go to a lot of places. It gets pretty exciting," she said.

In addition to showcasing her skills in tournaments, Cannon has participated in prestigious Sports Performance camps in Texas and Illinois.

"Those camps are usually nine hours a day for 10 days," Cannon said. "They are tough but the best camps you can go to."

While the tournaments and the camps can be thrilling, it is the rigors of traveling to Phoenix three or four times per week for practice and games that taxes Cannon and her family.

"There are a lot of sacrifices in going (to the Valley) that often," Michelle Cannon, Brooke's mom, said. "But we want to know in a few years that we did everything we could possible do to help Brooke with her goal (of playing college volleyball)."

In addition to playing on Club Red, Cannon's pursuit of a scholarship includes participation in an extensive training routine.

In the Chaparral Pines Clubhouse weight room, near where Cannon lives, local trainer Nina Ray puts the teen through a specially designed strength training and conditioning program.

"It has helped me a lot," Cannon said. "To be good, a volleyball player must do it (strength training)."

Cannon has also enlisted the services of retired Chicago-area high school coach Joanne Travis to tutor her in the essence of the sport.

"She is my rock," Cannon said. "She knows so much about volleyball."

In addition to club volleyball increasing Cannon's nation-wide exposure and improving her game, it has also been a cultural experience.

"I've met so many people from all around the country that I wouldn't have known if I wasn't playing," she said. "I've learned something different from most all the people I've met and the places I've been."

As a Lady Horn

When not training or playing club volleyball, Cannon is a starring member on the Lady Longhorn volleyball team.

Last season as the starting setter, she was one of three PHS players named to the Class 3A All-Region first team.

During the campaign, she was able to hold down single setter responsibilities in coach Arnold Stonebrink's 5-1 offense.

"That was a huge challenge," she said. "But as the year wore on, I became more comfortable with being the only setter."

Cannon began playing school volleyball in seventh grade just after her family moved to Payson from California.

"Shelli Creighton was my coach in seventh and eighth grade," Cannon said. "She's the one who encouraged me to be a setter."

After a successful two years on the Rim Country Middle School team, Cannon was placed on the PHS junior varsity as a freshman.

The following season, as a raw, untested sophomore, she earned a starting position on varsity.

"That was a bit intimidating," she said.

Nonetheless, Cannon quickly became a stellar prep player Stonebrink could count upon to pull the trigger in the Lady Horn offense.

During her six years of playing school and club volleyball, Cannon admits there have been times she has questioned herself.

When that happens, she calls upon advice given to her by her cousin -- professional golfer Ben Crane.

"When I get down, I say to myself, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,'" she said. "My cousin says that. He's such an awesome athlete and amazing Christian."

Although Cannon is only a junior with another full year of play ahead of her, the teen's exploits on school and club teams are garnering her attention from recruiters.

"She gets about five letters a day," her mother said.

Hopefully, one of those will someday lead to Cannon's goal of a university scholarship.

"If that happens, all that my family has been through to help me will be worth it," she said. "I'm so thankful for their sacrifice. They are an inspiration to me."

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