We continue our athlete retirement series by honoring Nichole Millage of the U.S. Women’s Sitting Team. Nichole is a four-time Paralympic medalist who started with the team in 2005, less than a year after the team won a surprise bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. She was named an alternate for the team that competed at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, but then got the surprise call to play and won her second Paralympic gold medal.
Over the next few months, USA Volleyball will honor athletes who have decided to hang up their U.S. National Team jerseys. Whether they played on the court or in the sand, USA Volleyball thanks these athletes for their hard work and dedication over the years.
We continue the series by honoring Kim Hill of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Kim is a two-time Olympian and Olympic medalist who started with the team in 2013 after being “discovered” at the U.S. Women’s Open Tryout (now the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Program). A year later, she was named MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship as the U.S. took gold. After this interview, Long Beach State announced Kim had agreed to be a volunteer assistant coach for its women’s volleyball team.
Years with the U.S. Women’s Team: 8
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Position: Outside Hitter
Career Highlights: Won bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games and gold at the 2020 Olympic Games. Named MVP of the 2014 FIVB World Championship where the U.S. Women won gold. Won the 2019 FIVB Club World Championship with Italy’s Imoco Volley Conegliano.
How is retirement going? Do you feel retired?
“In a lot of ways yes, I feel retired, especially when I try to work out. My body feels retired. Overall, it’s going well. I was able to travel a lot during my first few months of retirement, which was really great. Now I am kind of settling into it. It’s definitely a really weird time. I’ve never had this much spare time. But I think it’s good. I’m figuring it out.”
Looking back on your volleyball career, did you accomplish the goals you set for yourself?
“For sure that and then some. My career has been unexpected. I didn’t plan on pursuing professional volleyball for as long as I did. I planned to play for a year or two overseas and then play for fun and that’s it. It took some wild turns. It was an incredible career and a really fun one, more importantly. Obviously, the gold medal in Tokyo was the icing on the cake.”
Where do you keep your gold medal?
“It’s in a box in a drawer. I don’t really know what to do with it. I have taken it to events and showed it around to take photos.”
What has the sport of VB given you?
“Probably the biggest one would be an incredible number of amazing friendships with people I never would have been friends with in a non-sport setting, people from around the world with different backgrounds. That has been the most important thing for me. It has given me a lot of different life skills: working with different people; putting in hard work. It’s given me incredible experiences. I’ve gotten to travel the world and live in different countries and have a life that is very unique. It was hard in some ways and also really incredible. I am grateful for all of it.”
Volleyball can be a grind. You play overseas in the winter and then come back and play for the U.S. in the summer. Are you looking back at that with some fondness, or are you happy not to be in the grind anymore?
“Probably some of both. I am mostly happy to not be in the grind anymore. The schedule is grueling. I wish they would change something about that to be honest. It’s not super sustainable. I wouldn’t change anything I did. I don’t miss the crazy schedule, but I miss being on a team and that kind of stuff.”
What career moments stand out the most?
“Of course, the gold medal in Tokyo is crazy and a highlight for sure. Another highlight was winning club world championships with my Italian team Imoco Volley Conegliano. That was really special. Winning stuff is special, but a lot of the daily stuff is special too. The silly stuff I did overseas with my team were highlights for sure.”
You were the MVP of the 2014 World Championship when the U.S. Women won, how did that change your career?
“That changed my career 100 percent. Going into that club season, my agent had a hard time finding me a team because nobody wanted me. The MVP helped me switch directions. It was all so new and exciting, and that team was a really special group.”
What are your strongest off-court memories?
“One of my favorites was at VNL this past year in Rimini. We had a lot of fun. It was weird to be in a bubble, but we made the most of it.
“With my Italian team, bus rides to and from stuff. Of course, just hanging out with my teammates. They are a lot of my really close friends, my best friends. Also traveling and seeing amazing things on a casual weekend trip.”
How did USA Volleyball help you in your career?
“I owe my career to USAV. I was discovered at the (Women’s National Team Open) tryout. If I hadn’t gone to the tryout, I would not be where I am today. USAV has helped develop me as a player over the years, getting my name out there, even for a contract overseas.”
What are your plans for retirement? Do you expect to stay involved in volleyball?
“I don’t really know what I want to do with my life or what career I want after this. I am sure volleyball will be in my life forever in some capacity.”