When Katie Crosby was a senior in high school, she made what she thought was a smart decision.
As a volleyball player at Los Alamitos High School in Southern California, Crosby was a star. She won a California Interscholastic Championship, was named to all-tournament teams and won most valuable player awards. She was good - good enough to get recruited by Arizona State head coach Brad Saindon. Good enough to play Division I volleyball - good enough to play at a Pacific-10 school.
It was an opportunity most high school athletes dream of and few receive, so Crosby took it. She liked the coach, she liked the team, she liked how the palm trees that dot Arizona State's campus mimic the look of her hometown back in California.
Things began to go awry though when Crosby arrived at school. She redshirted her freshman year and by the time she was ready to put on a Sun Devils' uniform for the first time, her outlook that had once been rosy had dimmed: coach Saindon had moved on to Western Oregon University. It's the kind of thing that happens frequently in the world of college athletics, but it left Crosby in a somewhat precarious situation.
"[The new coach] didn't recruit me and so I really needed to prove myself to him," she said. "Maybe he didn't even want me playing."
Crosby didn't see the court much in 2008. She appeared in only 19 of 109 sets, and didn't play once in a conference match. Her team went 13-17 that season, and for the first time in her life, Crosby didn't like playing volleyball.
"It wasn't very much fun, sitting on the sidelines and stuff, and we weren't winning very many games," she said. "That was hard."
So once again, Crosby had a decision to make. She knew she wasn't happy playing at Arizona State, so one of two things had to happen: Either she would transfer schools and play volleyball somewhere else, or she wouldn't play at all. At first, she chose the latter, opting out of the volleyball program at Arizona State after just one season, but the decision didn't sit well with her. Volleyball had been a big part of her life for years, and the idea of abandoning it made her uneasy.
"I wasn't really ready to be done playing. I love playing volleyball, and so I think it was hard knowing that I was gonna be done," Crosby said. "I've always been a student athlete. I was like, 'What am I gonna do with my time now that I'm not at practice every day and I'm not traveling to games and stuff? I'm gonna have to get a job or something,'" she joked.
Transferring, she decided, would be her answer, and in GW, she found a new home. Before making her official recruiting visit in February 2009, Crosby had never been to Washington, D.C. Like many other students who choose to attend college in Foggy Bottom, living, studying, and in her case, playing volleyball, in the nation's capital is, in her words, "way cool for me."
Her love for the game is back, too. Crosby gets chills on the court again, something that stopped happening for her at Arizona State. She's played well for the Colonials so far in her first season, earning a spot on the all-tournament team for her performance in the D.C. Challenge, a local-team tournament hosted this year at American University and George Mason. She said the accolade, along with the praise of her coaches and her acceptance by other members of the team, has validated that the move to GW was the right one.
"It just makes me feel good about myself, and it's nice that the coaches are happy with how I'm playing and what I'm doing," she said. "The girls have kind of accepted me on the team, they've been very welcoming and all that."
Of course, there are things Crosby said she misses. The wintertime weather, for one, is a worry, especially after seeing pictures of her adopted campus covered in snow last year. Her friends and teammates back at Arizona State will be missed as well, although she says they still talk frequently, and Crosby still checks for results of Sun Devils games online.
"I'm just done with the ASU volleyball part," she said. "It's fine, I left on good terms and everything. I still talk to the girls and stuff. We talk about how we're doing, so that's good."
Ultimately for Crosby, her decision to transfer is easy to boil down. Sports, at their root, are supposed to be fun, and at GW she's managed to find joy in volleyball again.
"I just know how unhappy I was there," she said. "I just think I'm having a much better time here, you know?"