Why The Eric Zaun Scholarship Means So Much To My Career
By: Megan Nash
When Travis Mewhirter, Katie Spieler, and Jon Mesko asked me to meet for a lunch during the Manhattan Beach qualifier, notifying me that I was one of the Eric Zaun Scholarship “finalists,” I was overwhelmed. I was also extremely nervous because as much as I wanted to be a recipient of this scholarship, I seriously needed it more than anybody probably knows. When we met up, it was actually to tell Logan Webber and I that we were the winners of the Zaun Scholarship, not just finalists. I had so many emotions leading up to that meeting that I immediately started crying when they told me. Logan on the other hand, kept his cool.
As a Canadian, the journey of a beach volleyball player is much different than for Americans. We don’t have the AVP, or anything close to it for that matter, to help us get our name out there. Although I’m currently based in Los Angeles, I still can’t play on the AVP because I’m not American. It’s so close within my reach, yet still so far away, making it that much more frustrating!
Canadians are stuck in this awkward position where, distance wise, we are so close to these AVP events that we can’t participate in and so far away from majority of the FIVB events that we can participate in, which are typically in Europe or Asia. So as athletes like myself transition from the NCAA beach scene into the professional lifestyle, it can be very overwhelming at first. Not only are we figuring out how to be our own managers for the first time (thanks NCAA for doing everything for us even though I wasn’t at all prepared for this), we also need to have money to invest in ourselves to jumpstart our career. If we don’t have money, we can’t fly across the world to play in these 1- and 2-Star tournaments or hire a personal coach.
I understand that American’s also deal with this transition, but they fortunately have the added opportunity to play, make some money, and get their name out there as a new professional all on their home soil through the AVP. Americans have an opportunity like few, if any, others, and I hope they never take it for granted because I would love to be in their position. Hopefully one day I will be.
On top of already having a challenging transition from a college athlete to a professional, I also decided to take the harder route for myself because it’s ultimately making me a better player and person. The easier route would’ve been to move back home to Toronto after my fifth year at LMU, tryout for the beach senior national team, and train based in Toronto while also acquiring a monthly stipend from Team Canada. Something deep down was telling me to stay in SoCal as long as I could (maybe the amazing weather and the opportunity to practice on a real beach every day, I don’t know), even though it wouldn’t be easy. It was a really tough decision for me because I’m essentially turning down money from the national team and deciding to go independent, while also figuring out a way to legally stay in the U.S.
So rather than spending my summer 100% committed to my beach career at first, I had to figure out a few things. I needed to be a student in order to stay in the country legally so my first step was figuring out how to pay for the rest of my Masters. In case you didn’t know, international students can only work on their school’s campus, so that narrowed down my options, BUT I was lucky enough to get a graduate assistant position in the School of Education at LMU. Next, I had to find a Canadian partner so that we could compete in FIVBs (even though you Americans are awesome).
Thankfully, my (now) partner, Alexandra Poletto, was in a similar position after finishing her 5th year at USC and she reached out to me. It couldn’t have been a more perfect fit because she was also wanting to stay in SoCal as long as possible. Once you’re here, you simply cannot leave. Next, I had to figure out how in the world I could afford to train with a coach and also play in some FIVB tournaments, while simultaneously starting to pay for my Master’s all by myself.
And that’s when the article, “Eric Zaun Scholarship Seeking Applicants” happened to appear on my feed.
I applied for the scholarship, super hopeful but I obviously couldn’t rely on it and needed to keep figuring out ways to make my dreams a reality (shout out to p1440 and its Developmental Program). A month or two later, when I found out I was one of the winners, it all hit me.
Small things kept coming up and leading me in the right direction, and although this was more like a HUGE thing, it reassured me that I am meant to be here, and I am meant to do this. With this $2000, it opens up my options tremendously. I can plan to go to more FIVB events, work with our personal coach more frequently, and be able to focus on my game without having to think about money constraints. I can really get my career started now. Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.
I did not know Eric personally but from what I have learned, he truly lived the beach volleyball lifestyle, grinding day in and day out. I hope I can follow in his footsteps. He’s inspired me to keep hustling and keep working for what I love no matter the obstacles put in my path. Thank you to everyone who was a part of this scholarship, you have truly changed my life.
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