U.S. Olympian mentors Sanford Volleyball Academy

Young players learn from two-time medalist Courtney Thompson

Two girls play volleyball while Courtney Thompson coaches them

The Sanford Pentagon Volleyball Academy got a special visitor in time for camp season.

Two-time U.S. Olympic volleyball player Courtney Thompson traveled from her home on the West Coast to Sioux Falls to work exclusively with the academy teams. Since agreeing to assist the program on an ongoing basis, she’s visited Sioux Falls in January and again in June.

While in Sioux Falls last winter, Thompson trained with the Pentagon Volleyball Academy and visited a local elementary school to share her story.

“I’m blown away by this facility and the community of athletes in Sioux Falls,” Thompson said. “The Sanford Sports Complex is like an Olympic training center. It’s really special to have a place like this to train in.”

A star since high school

A setter, the 5-foot-7 Thompson first made the national spotlight in her senior year of high school, when she was named Washington State Player of the Year. She went on to attend the University of Washington, where she set an NCAA Division I record for career assists per game (14.56), was named All-American first team in three consecutive years and led the Huskies to a national championship (2005).

Just one year after graduation, Thompson made the United States women’s national volleyball team. She helped the United States to the Olympics in 2012 and 2016 where it won silver and bronze respectively. That was the highlight of a nine-year career as a professional.

Thompson retired as a player in 2016. But she’s quickly taken to mentoring young players.

Thompson’s advice on healthy lifestyle

While in Sioux Falls, Thompson ran the Pentagon Volleyball Academy players through an array of drills and spoke on the importance of maintaining a healthy life style through strength training and nutrition.

“I always like to do core workouts,” Thompson said. “When my core was really strong I was able to move with a lot more agility and speed. As I got better, my lifts got more specific to my sport and a lot more focused on being explosive.”

But as Thompson informed the academy players, proper exercise means nothing if you don’t pair it with a proper diet.

“Eating healthy and taking care of your body is a game changer,” Thompson said. “You can think more clearly, you can move better and you can sleep better. It’s all those things. Healthy eating habits affect so many aspects of your life.”

The Sanford Sports Complex is a state-of-the-art, 500-acre development committed to the health of everyone in the region. By applying the science of health care to the arena of sports, athletes like those in the volleyball academy have access to strength and conditioning specialists, sports dietitians and physical therapists.

“The Sanford Sports Complex has every resource an athlete needs to succeed,” Thompson said. “It’s a really special place and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”

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