JM Plummer, Zaun Scholarship Winner

JM Plummer, Eric Zaun Scholarship Winner: ‘Adversity Didn’t Know What Hit Her’

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Below is the application of JM Plummer, a recent winner of the Eric Zaun Memorial Scholarship, which doled out nearly $7,000 in funds to five up and coming beach volleyball players in its inaugural year. The selection committee was so impressed with Plummer’s essay that we asked for his permission to publish it. Enjoy, have a great weekend and, as the inimitable Zaun would say, S10.

By: JM Plummer

There are many things a professional beach volleyball player faces in their life, and in the summation of one word we can describe the largest obstacle, “Adversity.” It is not always easy, but through thick and thin volleyball players find their way to the court. Some might even say it’s how you get there, not where you are going. In my application I would like to take you on a journey of a personal account and event that brought me to playing one of the most enjoyable volleyball tournaments of my career. This expedition was playing the Motherlode in Aspen, Colorado with the one and only, Eric Zaun.

I receive a phone call from Eric ten days before the most famous Labor Day tournament in the states, The Motherlode. Soon after I am booking a flight to Denver to play with a very talented partner in Zaun. I had never traveled with Eric, but from what I knew about his personality, it was going to be a doozy to say the least. Plans were set and I let Eric know when I would be in Denver, he had gotten to town a few days early to kick it with some friends and to get some training in around town. After doing so I just figured I would meet up with him via lightrail or Uber and we would make our way up the mountain 3 hours to Aspen. I had just been asked to play and I had no part in making travel arrangements more than my flight. I figured he had it all figured out and we would just magically appear in Aspen. This is when Adverstiy set in, and yes I capitalize the “A” in Adversity because he would say it like it was a living, breathing thing.

I call Eric, and to my surprise, he is half way up the mountain already as he hitched a ride with buddy Skylar McCoy and one other. Eric just said “Yeah, just figure it out.” Nobody else could have said it more positively than he did at that moment, as I walked off the airplane into the unknown. So now, phone on 5%, I find myself grinding through Facebook to find anyone who is anyone to get me up that mountain for the tournament that started in 12 hours. Finally, I get linked up with these two female players who are also heading up to the event. At that moment things were starting to get figured out, Adversity was being pushed away as I had so many times before in my volleyball career. I then took an hour-long train commute through the beautiful city of Denver and got scooped up and brought to one of girl’s relatives house that lived half way up the mountain. I had just met these girls, and now I’m meeting the family, thanks Eric.

I say thanks because Eric left me without a paddle, but he left me a compass. That compass was positive can do attitude and sheer will power. I ended up staying in a beautiful mountainside home with fresh pears from the property pear tree and a fantastic nights sleep. We then took off the next morning and arrived to the courts in time for our first match, we take zero warm up (Adversity) and take down the first match in straight sets. Adversity didn’t know what hit her.

I soon find out that we have no room or lodging to stay in while we are on the mountain. I say “Eric, where are we gonna sleep man??” He just replied, “Yeah, we will just figure it out.” Adversity strikes again in a new form.

To cut this already long story down I will hit the highlights from there on out. I find out that Eric has a sponsor for the event, a local restaurant. The owner offered us a wing in their mountainside mansion on the skirts of Aspen. Take that Adversity. We had a little too much fun some of the nights. Body Armour Sport drink sponsored the event, the ultimate hangover cure. Slap in the mouth to impending Adversity. Battled Adversity to a third place finish, my best finish in the event to date. Didn’t have a ride back down the mountain. Adversity loses again due to an overage of rental cars in the area, cheap ride back down while also hitting up a natural hot spring off the beaten path.

Experts say “Turn your negatives into a positive.” What was learned on that trip is that Adverstiy is a living, breathing thing, but because of this being, we can become better and more fruitful versions of ourselves. This negative thing that is Adversity, is really creating some of the most positive outcomes. Adversity can be wrestled into a glorious and positive thing. Falling into shit and coming out smelling like roses was never truer. We could have made more legitimate plans for our trip, but we just didn’t, and that’s what made the trip so exciting, enticing, scary, fun, unbelievable, unforgettable, and bonding. My friendship with Eric Zaun was molded that weekend through his most standard way of team and friendship building, Adversity.  

In closing, I think that the passing of Eric has now put more Adversity on us than ever before. My story now helps me understand, that this is our chance to do something positive following this tragic event. Make this darkness a light for all people struggling with whatever they may be struggling with. Be a good friend, ask the hard questions, and treat others with kindness. I thank the beach volleyball community for the monetary donation to help a lucky beach volleyball player battling Adversity at the bank, or for those suffering from Myfundsarelow disease.

I personally am making do with all of our savings from our big move form Florida this past April. After dropping being a club coach, high school coach, and State College coach in Florida to move to the volleyball paradise, I currently referee part time High School, College, and Beach Volleyball, but any all financial help is very much appreciated in my strides towards my goal of being a mainstay in the AVP / P1440 main draw. Peace, and take care.