There is no doubt Tammy Mahon made the right decision.
Back in 1998, the pride of Holland, Man., bypassed an opportunity to take a scholarship to compete in track and field for a shot with the Manitoba Bisons women's volleyball team.
Mahon is still enjoying the spoils of that difficult choice nearly a decade later as she's now in her sixth season with Canada's national women's volleyball team.
"I never played much volleyball and never did the Team Manitoba thing in the summer. I was always into track and field as a high jumper," said Mahon, whose Canadian side dumped Costa Rica 25-18, 25-16, 25-18 last night at the Investors Group Athletic Centre during the 2007 NORCECA Women's Continental volleyball championship. "There are some times I wonder what would have happened, but I've never once thought I wish I had done something else."
Mahon credits Bisons women's coach Ken Bentley with steering her down the right path.
"(Bentley) came out to the farm one day and proposed what his program was all about, what he thought my future in volleyball was," said Mahon, who won two championships with the Bisons. "Since that day, I have just wanted to play volleyball. From my first year at U of M, I could see how much I improved and how much I could get back from this sport. It was addicting. I just wanted to keep going and keep going."
If you're going to have an addiction, the volleyball court is a great place to get your fix. Plus, it always keeps you coming back for more.
"It's a fairly humbling sport," said Mahon. "Just when you think you're hitting well, maybe your not passing well or not serving well. It keeps you on your toes."
Mahon has been in and out of the starting lineup the past few years, but now she's established herself and is enjoying an excellent season.
"Finally, I'm at that point in my career," said Mahon, who started at left side (power) yesterday. "I've been through a few frustrations of maybe not seeing a lot of court time and just training hard and practising hard. I've always accepted that role but now I'm getting a little bit of a payoff and I've been given a chance to be an experienced leader on the team."
Moving on from high school to become an elite player at the university level helped ease the transition from college to the national team.
"You go from being a big fish in a small pond and then you get to university and you're a tiny little fish in a big pond and you're feeling pretty insignificant," said Mahon. "But you work your way back up. And it's the same with the national team and now you know how to work your way back up. At every step of the way, your goal becomes bigger."
Bentley saw Mahon's potential right from the beginning.
"I felt early on that she could really have an impact past university," said Bentley, now in his 20th season coaching the Bisons. "She was such a raw, great athlete. And she was no-nonsense. She worked so hard every day and she never had an excuse. She was blessed with great ability, but a lot of people are and never use it.
"The attitude was ultimately what got her to where she is now. This starting position is a long-time coming. She's earned it and she never gave up. One of the best parts about this story is her persistence."