Larson has won two Olympic Games medals (silver at 2012 London Games, bronze at 2016 Rio Games), a FIVB World Championship gold medal in 2014 and countless other honors in the past nine years. She has earned consecutive USA Volleyball Female Indoor Player of the Year awards in 2015 and 2016.
Larson began playing volleyball at age 12, making her debut with Nebraska Elite Volleyball Club in 1998. As part of the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline, she represented the U.S. at the 2003 FIVB Girls’ U18 World Championship. Larson later had a stellar four-year career at the University of Nebraska, including winning the 2006 NCAA Division I National Championship title. In September 2017, Nebraska retired her number-10 jersey.
In a break from her training with her pro team Eczacibasi, Larson took a few minutes this past week to take part in the latest question-and-answer series with selected U.S. Women’s National Team players.
USA Volleyball: You are in your fourth year with Eczacibasi in the Turkish League. Aside for the quality of play, what are factors you like about playing for Eczacibasi?
Larson: “The people. I have been very lucky to have played next to some of the best athletes who are even better people. The organization. Overall, they do a great job of being very organized and a professional club. It allows us as athletes to just focus on our job instead of some possible external distractions.”
USA Volleyball: What are some skills that you are working on while away from the National Team and in Turkey?
Larson: “I am always striving to be the best I can be in every skill of the game. I strive to keep an open mind for new opportunities to learn. One thing recently is that I’m trying to become more available attacking in all zones of the court.”
USA Volleyball: What are some things you like to do in Turkey while not playing volleyball?
Larson: “I am a home body in general, so for me just being organized at home, meal prepping, relaxing is my go to. However, I am thankful they have movies in English here and a lot of great restaurants to try. Istanbul is an amazing city and I feel very lucky to live here.”
USA Volleyball: Your path to the National Team started early as part of the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline, including participation in the 2003 FIVB Girls U18 World Championship.
Larson: “I remember being so scared for that tryout. I just wanted so badly to wear the USA uniform. I was going to do whatever it took to make that team.”
USA Volleyball: How did the HP program help you get to where you are today and what would you recommend to other young athletes contemplating becoming involved in the HP program?
Larson: “Like you said, I was lucky enough to be a part of the pipeline and I wouldn’t have changed those experiences for anything. It allowed me to compete at the highest level for my age. It got me exposure and I felt like it helped me better prepare for college. I would definitely recommend girls trying out because it keeps your name in the loop. So, when the national team is looking for people to come try out, they know who you are and you understand the system. Again, it’s not for everyone. I think balance is important. I was a multi-sport athlete which helped keep me fresh and my love for volleyball.”
USA Volleyball: Coming from a town of just over 800 population (Hooper, Nebraska), did you ever expect that you could be playing on the biggest volleyball stages?
Larson: “I never expected I would be where I am today. I dreamed about it a lot, but never expected I would be here. I was very fortunate to have very supportive family around me that helped me get where I am. I am forever grateful.”
USA Volleyball: What does this teach other young players who may not have the same advantages of kids from larger towns?
Larson: “I think this teaches young players from smaller towns that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to something. However, I was traveling to a bigger city to play for a club, but being in a small town allowed me to have balance. Like I said in my previous response, I could play other sports, which in turn allowed me to mentally and physically get a break. I think that helped me strive even more to be the best I could be.”
USA Volleyball: Volleyball has given you the opportunity to go to many fascinating places. Where is the coolest place you have gone to because of volleyball and why?
Larson: “Ohhh that’s a hard question. I don’t know if I could pick one. One of my favorite places to travel to is Japan. The country is so clean and the people are always so kind. Every tournament is so organized as well.”
USA Volleyball: Volleyball teaches many things, both on and off the court. What are the best lessons volleyball has taught you off the court?
Larson: “I think the biggest lesson it has taught me is how to be a part of a team. I have been a part of a lot of great teams and many talented players, but the ones that stand out the most are the ones who had to fight and grind to be the best. I think in life things don’t just come to you by chance, you must fight and grind your way to the top.”
USA Volleyball: While overseas, do you follow the Nebraska Huskers and watch any of their matches online? What is it like to cheer for them thousands of miles away?
Larson: “I do follow how they are doing. Unfortunately, I can’t watch as often as I would like because most of the games are on when I am sleeping. I always make sure to check the score updates on twitter. They are doing so well. I am definitely a proud Alum! #GOHUSKERS”
USA Volleyball: What was it like to take a few months off from major competitions this summer and focusing on other things in your life before returning to the U.S. Women’s National Team?
Larson: “It was nice to take a few months off to relax the mind and spend time with friends and family. The down side of our job is that we are often away from our family and friends many months out of the year, so it was nice to get caught up on some lost time.”
USA Volleyball: You and Foluke Akinradewo are the veterans of the Women’s National Team having participated in two Olympics Games. Is a third Olympic Games among your long-term goals?
Larson: “As I get older the more and more I try to focus on living in the present. I am going to take a day at a time and be the best I can be both physically and mentally. If that allows me to participate in a third Olympics, then I would be extremely happy. I want to be the best in those areas, so I can be the best for my teammates.”