Three years ago, Salt Lake Community College freshman volleyball player Maddie Bushman had the opportunity to travel to Russia and take part in an international volleyball tournament. At that time, Bushman was living in Tuscon, Arizona attending Sabino High School.
Growing up, Bushman played various sports, including volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer.
“I played everything,” she said.
Coming from an athletic family, it was easy to see that she was very sports-oriented. Having played volleyball since she was seven, by high school, her focus had shifted primarily there.
“I don’t know,” was her reasoning for choosing volleyball over the others. “I just liked it. I don’t know why.”
At a young age, her mother encouraged that decision. “I started when I was really young, and my mom always wanted me to play volleyball. She kind of got me into it, and she helped me,” Bushman said.
While living in Arizona, Bushman played volleyball on a squad known as Club Dinamo. Bushman was the only girl selected from her team at Sabino to join the club.
Toward the end of her sophomore year, Bushman was able to take part in an international volleyball tournament in Moscow, Russia. Her team was there for almost two weeks, playing a total of five games against a variety of teams from different countries including Israel, Russia and Kazakhstan.
“It was a really cool experience,” Bushman said.
When the team first arrived, they travelled quite a bit, touring the city and trying to become familiar with a place they had never been. The team stayed at a school, which provided dorm rooms for them. Noting that the area seemed really run down, Bushman recognized how fortunate she and her teammates were.
“It was kind of sad that so many people lived in poverty, but it was really cool getting to know the other girls. They all wanted to speak the English that they knew and learn as much as they could about us. It was really cool.”
At the time they went to Russia, Bushman’s group consisted mainly of 16-year-old players competing against 14-year-olds. But as she observed, “They were so big and so good and it was just incredible to see how much hard work they’d put into it.”
Her team practiced once every day, while the Russian team practiced three times a day.
“Sometimes they’d work ten times harder than us,” Bushman said. “That kind of motivated me to be better and to not complain.”
Recognizing their disciplined style of play, not only did the girls from the international squad go to volleyball schools, but as Bushman recalled, “They had practice all day long, and volleyball was their life. They were all really good.”
Her team came in second place during the tournament.
“That was really great for our team; it was a great experience,” she said.
Upon coming to Utah, not only did Bushman have a great deal of experience behind her, but she has family nearby to give her support and comfort.
“I have a lot of family up here and I really wanted to go to college here,” said the two-time Arizona Player of the Year. “Salt Lake has a good volleyball team, and they recruited me.”
“I’m hoping to play here two years and then hopefully, get recruited by a bigger school, and finish my junior and senior year somewhere else,” Bushman said in regards to her future.
In terms of school preference, “Just any of the bigger colleges here; University of Utah, BYU, Utah State,” she said. “I really would like to go to BYU. My whole family’s already gone there, so that would be awesome if I got recruited from there.”
Now, as she reflects on her overall experience overseas, Bushman learned to, “Be grateful for all the things that you take for granted sometimes. Just the freedom that you have in America, to be able to do whatever you want to do when you grow up, and choose which school you want to go to. All the little things,” she said.