Feature: Akers, Sheldon key ingredients for volleyball success

By Marc Knutila published September 7, 2006

Success in collegiate athletics is achieved much like a great meal is created. A team has its chef, or coach, who goes out and gets the best ingredients, the players, and puts them all together to make one fantastic meal, or team.

And just like in cooking the most important piece to any good meal is the quality of the ingredients. Winning seems to boil down to recruiting.

This past off season, The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs volleyball team went out and got two first class ingredients.

All cooking references aside, juniors Brooke Akers and Diane Sheldon came to the UCCS campus each from respected Division I universities and, coincidentally, both also came from military academies. Akers attended the United States Air Force Academy, while Sheldon went to the United States Naval Academy. Somehow, to the benefit of the UCCS volleyball team, both managed to find their way to UCCS.

The two have similar accounts of what attending a military academy entails.

Sheldon signed a full ride scholarship to play for the naval academy in Annapolis, Md. coming out of high school. It was supposed to be the start to a highly successful volleyball and academic career at one of the best institutions in the U.S. The honeymoon period did not last long.

"The first year was like boot camp," Sheldon recalled.

The term "Boot camp" evokes images of films like Full Metal Jacket or An Officer and a Gentleman. It couldn't have been that bad, right?

"I would get up every morning at 6 a.m. in order to be ready for formation at 7 a.m. I would need to memorize three articles from the news, ten pages of professional knowledge and three of our meals for the day," she explained.

Professional knowledge was typically a ten-page piece of text ranging from equipment to ammunition.

After formation, Sheldon would then go to class from 8 to noon, followed immediately by a workout in the gym from noon to 12:30. After the workout she would go back to class from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Then she would be off to the tough Naval Academy volleyball practices which went from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"After practice I would go and get some dinner and then do my homework," Sheldon explained. "Then at 10 p.m. it was lights out and they would go and 'tuck you in.'"

Then she would do it all over again the next day. It appears "boot camp" seems like a fair assessment.

Brooke Akers had a similar experience at the Air Force Academy.

Given a full ride scholarship out of high school she enrolled at one of the most acclaimed universities in the country. Her honeymoon was as short-lived as Sheldon's.

"The first six weeks was basic training," Akers explained.

Just like with Sheldon's "boot camp", letâ€TMs judge for ourselves how hard "basic training" really is.

"Everyday was the same," she said.

Her day started at 7 a.m. where she would have to attend a mandatory breakfast. She would then go to class from 7:30 until 11. After class she was off to lunch, followed by the gym at 1 p.m. She would work out for an hour or so and then start getting ready for practice which went from 3 to 7. Then she would wind down by going to dinner and studying for the remainder of the night.

The lack of freedom in her daily routine was the biggest concern for Akers.

The Academy does not allow televisions for the entire year and does not allow cell phones for the first 6 weeks. It also has little things that Akers began to get frustrated with.

"Any time I wanted to go anywhere I would have to run there on the marble strips," Akers explained.

She is referring to a white marble strip that surrounds the campus that all freshmen must run on at all times.

It meant that even if she needed to walk ten feet away, sometimes she would have to run all the way around campus on the marble strip to get there.

"Basic training" did not suit Akers.

Fast forward to this semester and the daily routine for the two have changed dramatically.

Even the little things that normal college students take for granted are the things that both of them love.

"It's weird just being able to pick my own times for classes," Sheldon explained.

Akers on the other hand enjoys UCCS for the size and friendliness.

"I really like it because it's so small and all of the people are really friendly," Akers replied.

Even so, Sheldon and Akers have no regrets about going to their respective academies.

“I have no regrets,” Akers replied. “I have a lot more discipline and learned how to interact and respect myself and others better.”

Sheldon echoed her sentiment.

“I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to finish,” explained Sheldon. “But, I donâ€TMt regret it because I made some of the best friends of my life (at Navy).”

However, to say that Sheldon had no regrets would be an overstatement.

When both Akers and Sheldon were still at their academies, Air Force and Navy played against each other, but unfortunately Sheldon was hurt and could not play. But she remembers the game, or more to the point, Akers very well.

“(Akers) was one of their best players,” stated Sheldon. “I was really upset that I couldnâ€TMt go in and block her.”

Fortunately for UCCS, they donâ€TMt have to worry about Sheldon blocking Akers. The same cannot be said for the entire RMAC Conference.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Brooke AkersBrooke Akers1MB
Brooke AkersBrooke Akers1MB
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