November 15, 2011

Jessica Colberg: Pioneer and True Student-Athlete

Contributed by Andrew Owens

As a girl growing up in Long Beach, California, Jessica Colberg always dreamed about playing collegiate volleyball.   In her senior year of high school that dream became a reality when she signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Sacred Heart University. 

Colberg reflected on why she chose Sacred Heart, "It was just coach's (Rob Machan) philosophy and he was going to let me major in nursing, which was awesome because no one else was going to let me do that."

The reason most coaches would not allow her to play volleyball and major in nursing is the incredibly demanding schedule that it entails.  Colberg, a senior, describes a normal day as waking up at 6:00 am and being at the Pitt Center by 6:45 for practice, which usually lasts two hours and is followed by an hour workout session. 

"Our practices are often tougher than games," stated Colberg.  "The B side is awesome, we always hype about every person being important, that's because it's true.  Without them we couldn't do anything.  They are the ones who push us every day in practice.  Every person contributed to winning a Northeast Conference Championship last year."

After her workout is finished, Colberg goes to class, which most days consists of a 3-3 ½ hour block.  "Sadly, I'm at the library most of the time.  I'm either at the Pitt, Cambridge, the library, or a hospital."

If this isn't enough, Colberg has a nine hour clinical rotation on Thursdays that forces her to miss practice.   But that does not stop her from coming in on her own to get a one-on-one practice session in.  Colberg, a captain this season, realizes that her missing practice does affect the team, but appreciates the support she receives from her coach and teammates to pursue her dreams after graduation.  "It's tough, and it definitely takes a toll on the team, but everyone is very understanding."

 Sacred Heart Head Coach Rob Machan always speaks highly of his senior libero, "Jessica has had an immeasurable impact on the program in her career at Sacred Heart.  She has continued to work hard to develop her skills and as one of our team captains this year and has helped guide us to our highest ranking in program history." 

It is clear as though there is mutual respect between player and coach.   "He is like my dad, he's hard on us, but he genuinely cares about us," commented Colberg about her relationship with Machan.  "I believe coaches like him are really hard to find.  I will be friends with him after I graduate and for the rest of my life."

As long as an ordinary day may seem, game days are the most mentally draining.  "Volleyball has the longest warm-up for any sport, it takes an hour-hour and a half."   Colberg describes game day as getting to the gym four hours before the match is going to start, and going through multiple warm-ups.

The life of a student-athlete is tough enough, but Colberg acknowledges the added difficulty of the extra responsibility on her plate.  "It's just hard, for volleyball you think you just go to practice and go home. But for us we care so much, that when we go home we still think about it.  I compare it to having two full time jobs.   It's definitely doable, but you are not going to have a life at times." 

Working this hard every day, Jessica still has a vision for the future.  "My ideal plan is to move to Hawaii, and become a nurse for a year out there.  Then move back to California." 

After all she has achieved, it is impossible to doubt that Colberg will accomplish anything she wants.  But for now, she has her sights set on a second straight Northeast Conference Championship.  On and off the court, the future is indeed bright for a true Pioneer, Jessica Colberg.