Road to Rio
Volleyball star Kim Hill (’12) trains for her biggest achievement yet: the Olympic games with Team USA.
When Kim Hill made it on Team USA in 2013, just one year after graduating from Pepperdine, she had no idea how exciting the next year would prove to be. As she continued to improve her game, Team USA dominated at the 2014 FIVB (Fédération Internationale de Volleyball) World Championship. In the Gold Medal match against China, she scored the team high of 20 points. Team USA won the Gold Medal, and Hill was named Most Valuable Player.
Today, Hill lives in Istanbul, Turkey, where she is training with Team USA for this summer’s Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She takes a break from her grueling schedule to tell us all about her volleyball career.
When did you start playing volleyball? At what point did you realize playing volleyball could be more than just fun?
I started playing at age 13. I had grown too tall for soccer, so I decided to try out volleyball, but I was most serious about basketball. I realized pretty quickly, maybe around age 15, that I enjoyed volleyball most and decided I wanted to pursue it more seriously.
How long have you lived and trained in Turkey with Team USA?
This is my first season playing professionally here in Turkey, so I’ve been here since October 2015.
What was it like to be named MVP at the World Championships?
That was really an incredible moment, mostly of shock. But winning that World Championship trophy was such an amazing feeling of joy and pride in what we accomplished as a team. It was truly indescribable.
What do you consider to be your career highlight at Pepperdine?
Making it to the NCAA Elite Eight was such a proud moment for me and us as a team. I think Pepperdine had only made it that far one other time, and I don’t think anyone else in the country thought we would make it that far.
What will change about your training schedule as you get closer to the Olympics?
Getting closer to the Olympics, I’ll be back in the U.S. training with the national team, so training will become more focused on Rio. Since we will be back together as a team, it will be more focused on improving the specific things we as a team need to get better at. The routine will be somewhat similar, though.
What is the best and worst part of training for the Olympics?
The best part is probably just the focus and intensity everyone feels, having this big common goal of an Olympic Gold Medal always in front of us. The worst part is just that it’s time-consuming and we don’t always get to have normal lives as athletes. Since our work is so dependent on our bodies, we have to make sure we’re always feeling our best. So while other careers might allow you to stay out late with your friends and just be more tired the next day, as an athlete you know your body and performance will suffer with less sleep, so you have to sacrifice some of those things. But it’s so worth it.
What motivates you?
The dream of the Olympics is a big motivator, but really my teammates are the biggest motivator for the daily grind. To have other people working hard with you and for you really makes you want to work harder for them.
Who have been some of your best coaches along the way and what have they taught you?
Our national team coach Karch Kiraly is really incredible, and his growth mindset is a rare thing to see in a coach of his caliber. I also learned so much from coach Nina Matthies during my time at Pepperdine. She has been such a strong female sports role model for me. The biggest thing she taught me was to trust all the work you’ve put in, all the hours, so that when the game time comes, you know you’ve done it before and can just let it rip.