COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 11, 2018) – Sara Hughes has been elected to the USA Volleyball Board of Directors as the female beach athlete representative, and Brent Rasmussen has been re-elected to his board position as Sitting Volleyball Athlete representative. Both positions are effective July 1, 2018, and their terms run through June 30, 2022.
Hughes, 23, will bring knowledge of the game as an athlete in USA Volleyball’s High Performance pipeline that resulted in a stellar collegiate career and now on the international tour. She began playing beach volleyball at age 8 and quickly became someone to watch in the future.
“I am so excited and honored that I was elected to the USA Volleyball Board of Directors as the female beach representative,” Hughes said. “I am eager to learn and discuss how to keep growing our sport on both the women’s and men’s side. Beach Volleyball is my passion and I’m excited that I have the opportunity to help continue the sport in the best way possible outside the court.”
“We welcome Sara Hughes to the board, and will rely on her experience in student-athlete and collegiate conference governance to continue the conversation about athlete issues within USA Volleyball and the Olympic and Paralympic world,” USA Volleyball Board of Directors Chair Lori Okimura said. “Her perspective as a national team athlete who has experienced USA Volleyball from every level of the Path to the Podium will help us strengthen our advocacy for athletes, coaches and officials in our pipeline. She is ready to actively engage in the issues and I am really looking forward to working with her in our shared area of beach volleyball representation.”
Prior to heading to college, Hughes represented the United States in several international competitions. At age 16, she teamed with Justine Wong-Orantes to place ninth at the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball U19 World Championships. The pair repeated the finish in the same event one year later. Hughes also competed in the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championship with Caitlin Racich.
In 2012, Hughes teamed with current beach partner Summer Ross in the 2012 FIVB Beach Volleyball U21 World Championship. A year later Hughes and Kelly Claes teamed to win bronze at the 2013 FIVB Beach Volleyball U19 World Championships.
Hughes competed in sand beach volleyball at the University of Southern California after becoming the first high school player to declare that would play sand volleyball exclusively in college. She teamed with Kirby Burnham as a freshman to win the 2014 AVCA National Championship and was named an AVCA All-American. Hughes teamed with Claes from 2015-17 to win the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships in 2016 and 2017 where the duo won 103 consecutive collegiate matches.
While at USC, Hughes served on the Trojan Athletic Senate all four years as the beach volleyball representative. She was chosen out of all USC athletes to attend the first-ever Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT) at the Pac-12 headquarters. As part of SALT, Hughes sat in on legislative meetings with the conference’s athletic directors where she was able to discuss and provide opinions on new legislation from a student-athlete perspective.
Through the end of May 2018, Hughes has played in 16 FIVB World Tour events and has two fifth-place finishes. She won four NORCECA Beach Tour titles in 2015-16 while still in college, in addition to three other NORCECA podium finishes. Hughes has six podium finishes on the AVP Tour, including a gold medal at the 2017 Chicago stop to become part of the youngest team to win an AVP title at 22 years old.
Rasmussen, elected from eligible sitting volleyball athletes who have played on the U.S. Sitting National Team within the last 10 years, will represent current men’s and women’s sitting volleyball athletes on the board. He competed on the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team from 2003 to 2011 and served as the squad’s captain at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.
“I am very excited to continue my work that was started in 2015 representing the sitting athletes in the United States,” Rasmussen said. “Sitting has been a sport that has grown leaps and bounds in the U.S. over the last five-plus years, and I am so glad all the athletes have a voice to be able to represent another way of playing volleyball. With my re-election I look forward to continuing strengthening the relationship among all athletes within USA Volleyball especially in the discipline of sitting. Since starting in 2015 I can say the Board and all of USA Volleyball has ingrained sitting into every facet. I look forward to continuing that focus and understanding.”
“Brent Rasmussen is a valued member of the Board, and contributes in every area of governance,” Okimura said. “His knowledge of the sitting volleyball discipline in particular has helped identify areas where we can be more inclusive and ways to advance our involvement in other disabled sports to increase recruiting opportunities, identify new sponsors, and be more actively involved in the Paralympic game plan. I have long admired Brent’s unique background of being a Paralympian and a private business owner, and working with him on the Board the last four years has enabled me to greatly appreciate his expertise in many areas outside athlete issues, namely in finance and corporate best practices.”
Along with competing in the 2004 Paralympics, Rasmussen served as captain for both the 2006 and 2010 U.S. Men’s Sitting Teams competing at the World Sitting Volleyball Championships. Rasmussen helped Team USA earn the gold medal at the 2003 Parapan American Games, along with silver medals in 2007 and 2011 in the same event. He served as an athlete/player representative to the World Organization Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD) from 2006 to 2010.
Along with reaching the pinnacle of the sitting volleyball world, Rasmussen has also made a name for himself in the corporate world. He currently is president of Mortgage Specialists, LLC, a small local company based in Omaha he started in May 2004. He also served as senior loan officer for Regent Financial Group from three years before taking his current position. Rasmussen feels his time spent competing and corporate experience will be an asset in his transition to the USA Volleyball Board.
In February of 2002, Rasmussen’s life change dramatically. He was driving in eastern Nebraska and noticed another car had slid off the road on Interstate 80. He pulled over to help the driver get her car back on the pavement when he was struck by another vehicle. He lost his left foot. His right ankle was shattered, and he ended up with a 16 inch rod in his right leg.
After recovering from his injuries, Rasmussen was invited to play on the Nebraska Barons wheelchair softball team. In his first season, he broke records for home runs, doubles, intentional walks and on-base percentage at the 2003 National Wheelchair Softball Tournament as the Barons won the first of eight championship and Rasmussen earned his first of five most valuable player awards. Rasmussen was inducted into the National Wheelchair Softball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Playing wheelchair softball opened the doors to new opportunities. During his first season in 2003, members of the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team noticed Rasmussen playing and asked him to tryout for their team. In October 2003, Rasmussen attended a tryout in Chicago and quickly made an impression that enabled a long sitting volleyball career at the elite international level.