Back in third grade, La Porte's Halle Seaburg dressed up as Misty May-Treanor for a wax museum project at Hailmann Elementary School.
"We stood there and would say something about the person," said Seaburg, who wore a USA Olympics t-shirt and pretend gold medals for the exhibit. "I started volleyball when I was really little. Our family loved to watch the Olympics and I remember her and Kerri Walsh playing beach volleyball. They were such inspirational people."
When new Slicers coach Jessica Ramirez lined up a Zoom meeting last week between the three-time gold medalist and her team, no one was more excited than Seaburg.
"It was like a sign," Seaburg said. "I had to tell her. We had a workout on Zoom the day before and (Ramirez) told us she had a big surprise for us. Then she texted us later and it was, by the way, we're going to be talking to Misty May. I was like, 'oh my gosh, we're going to be talking to an Olympian.'"
Three years ago, when Ramirez was coaching the La Porte junior varsity, she tried to get in touch with May-Treanor and Walsh, but didn't hear back. This time around, she had been following May-Treanor on Instagram for about month when she saw on the former Olympian's page that she was inviting athletes with questions or seeking advice to email her.
"It's a weird time for everybody," Ramirez said. "A lot of pro athletes have the time right now to do something like that. I reached out to her a couple weeks ago to see if she would talk to the girls. I made it all about the girls and how it would have an impact on them. She messaged me back four days later and she was all about it. We're ramping things up for the summer and possibly having a full season, and it was a good way to kick-start things."
Ramirez asked May-Treanor to talk to the group of 21, including seven freshmen as well as former Slicer standout Gillian Santana, about what it took for her to be successful, to initiate the conversation, and it was largely open ended after that.
"She talked to the girls for like an hour, 45 minutes," Ramirez said. "Halle's telling her, 'you're my idol.' It was really cute. For her to take that much time out for the girls, I was really impressed. I was really grateful for that. I was really proud of our girls, too, for the questions they asked. It wasn't like, 'what's your favorite animal?' I wanted to make sure we were hitting on certain points. They asked asked good questions."
Unsure about what to ask, Seaburg asked May-Treanor what her kids' names are.
"She has three little girls," Seaburg said.
Seaburg, in particular, could relate to May-Treanor's path to success. Both are 5-foot-8 and May-Treanor, like Seaburg, was a setter.
"She believed in herself and pushed herself hard to be able to accomplish so much," Seaburg said. "She played indoor in college and was always a hitter. They turned her into a setter and she was third string, but the starter transferred and the second string wasn't in shape, so she wound up being the starter. It was so cool that she got the opportunity because she worked so hard. She was willing to do whatever she had to do. That's the mindset you have to have."
Seaburg hasn't played much beach volleyball, but Ramirez has really taken to that version of the sport.
"I fell in love with beach last summer," Ramirez said. "It's a totally different sport, but the fundamentals are the same. I've got a sand court in my back yard. I play almost every day. We had a tournament at the house (Sunday)."
While she's retired as a player, May-Treanor remains active in the sport, now channeling most of her energies into coaching.
"Sometimes, athletes will say yes (to a talk) and then they give off an entirely different vibe, but she was like, if there's anything you need, if you have any questions, feel free to ask," Ramirez said. "She has headbands and water bottles, so she wanted to know all the girls' names. She asked us, what colors are you? I told her orange and black. She said, well, I have red, white and blue, so I'll send you white."
The La Porte volleyball team did a Zoom meeting (left) last week with three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor. It was particularly exciting for Slicers senior-to be Halle Seaburg (below), who dressed up as May-Treanor for a school project when she was in third grade at Hailmann Elementary. (Photos provided)