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SENIOR CLASS AWARD


Vote Now to help me achieve the Senior Class Award. I have made it to the final 10, but now you can vote every day till December 8th to help me win the award! VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

"Classroom
Savanah Leaf is a senior with a double major in Psychology and Human and Social Development with a 3.877 cumulative GPA. She earned distinction on the President’s Honor Roll in Spring 2013 for her perfect 4.0 semester GPA, as well as the Provost’s Honor Roll (3.75 GPA), Dean’s List Honor Roll (3.5 GPA), Athletic Director Honor Roll (3.2 GPA) and UM’s Book Buster Club (3.0 GPA) in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. Savanah is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Furthermore, she was named to the 2013 All-ACC Academic Volleyball Team and is a two-time ACC Honor Roll student-athlete.

Character

A team captain for the 2014 season, Leaf leads by example. The rising senior can frequently be found working on her craft and routinely brings her teammates along to work out together. A tireless worker, Leaf has taken the eight newcomers under her wing to show them what it takes to be a Hurricane student-athlete. Beyond the court, Leaf has organized team-building activities that have helped the 2014 Canes bond as they prepare for the upcoming season.

Community

Leaf has been instrumental in making in impact in the Miami community and in her home state of California. The rising senior has worked as a volleyball coach at the Jose Gandara Volleyball Camps in Coral Gables the past two summers and she has been a summer volleyball coach for the San Francisco Juniors VB Club. Leaf also got the Canes involved in a service project that helped revitalize inner city parks in the Miami area.

Competition

Leaf was a first team All-ACC selection following a 2013 season in which she led the Canes in kills (442), aces (38) and points (524). She ranked second in the ACC and 41st nationally in 2013 with 4.52 points/set. A career-high 25 kills helped Miami beat No. 12 UNC on Nov. 3, giving the Canes a victory over their highest ranked opponent during the 2013 season. The team leader with 14 double-doubles a year ago, Leaf was a key contributor in getting the Canes to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. She has also represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics and at the 2013 Continental Cup."

My First Beach Experience


So I started playing some beach volleyball on May 5th ; on a road to my next Olympics. I jumped right into an intense two week try out against some of the top beach volleyball players in England. I had to adjust to the change in climate, and also the switch from indoor to beach. I had to get some “sand legs” as they put it. Moving quickly within the sand was no easy task, and I needed to adjust to 'the elements' - jumping less high and having factors like weather affect me. The six weeks of training were nothing compared to the years of experience our opponents would have, so we had to get up to a competitive level by speeding up the learning process and taking accountability for our own progress. CEV's continental Cup, hosted by England, was fast approaching so our coach, Kirk Pittman, attempted to cram in a training schedule with the necessary skills to be successful.
I was very impressed with how the Bournemouth Leaf Academy prepared the venue for the tournament. Various people joined together to build the sand courts we played on, and which the school would use for future development of young beach volleyball players. Engineering students worked to build the outside foundations of the court, and then athletes, coaches, and administrators used barrels and spades to even out the gravel and sand. It was a legacy in itself to see so many people working together to better the future of beach volleyball in England, a place where volleyball is still a rising sport. After building the venue the same people worked extremely hard over the weekend to make sure the CEV Continental Cup ran smoothly. Students were liaisons and ball boys, helping all the athletes with anything and everything. I have never seen so many members of a community come together to back up a lesser-known and lesser-supported sport, and I thus felt proud to be representing this avid community in the tournament.
In the last week of practice, our partners were selected, and I had the great honor of playing with beach volleyball Olympian, Zara Dampney. With her experience and guidance, I quickly learned how to take advantage of my mental and athletic strengths. We improved with each game, learning one another's skills and abilities. We were a little unseasoned at first because I hadn’t played in any competitive beach games before, and Zara had been in retirement for about a year. But after a hesitant start we quickly learned that we actually had a lot more potential than most people were expecting. We won all of our games on the opening day to secure a spot in the finals of the tournament, against a top European team. The next day after a good nights rest we played the top teams in the tournament. After winning the first one we found ourselves playing a golden match against the opposition's top team. In a nail-biting 3 setter we lost 18 to 16 after gaining match point multiple times. Our energy was high and we had family and friends cheering vibrantly throughout the stands. Our performance exceeded our expectations and I gained comfortability and confidence playing different shots and blocking in a variety of ways. Our game plan seemed to be working, but at the end of the day we made a few too many errors and didn’t pull through.
Although this wasn’t the end of the tournament I felt that it was our last one because I still can’t stop thinking about it. I am not good at handling losses, especially when I know we could have won and snatched up first place in our first tournament together. It was sorely disappointing, and what made it so different from an indoor loss was that my mistakes weighed more heavily on the game. I missed way too many serves, and I believe that cost us the game. However, there is strength in knowledge. With knowledge, there are no excuses, I can’t hide from the obvious and blatant fact that I need to do better. I may have played my best game yet, but I know I can do better. What excites me is that so many people have told me that they were so impressed with how we played, but I felt that we had more in us, and especially in my own game. I can do more, I have so much room for growth, and I am eager to show everyone how great I can be.

“you cannot afford to live in potential for the rest of your
life; at some point, you have to unleash the potential, and
make your move” – Eric Thomas

Dear Maria,


Sometimes people walk into your life for reasons you don’t realize until it’s too late. I wanted to write this blog to thank you, Maria, for being my inspiration and motivation. You have brought so much light into the lives of the people you have met through your energy and positivity, and I’m sure we all only wish we could be half the person you are.
 From the moment I met you, you always gave me compliments and encouraged me to go after my dreams. You always told me how proud you were that I got into an academically prestigious high school and was working towards attaining a collegiate-athlete scholarship. As a young girl, I always looked for a person that I could aspire to be like, and you were one of my greatest inspirations. I never had the chance to thank you for being the role model I’ve always wished for, and I am forever grateful for your presence in my life. I have always looked at you like a second mother to me, and I hope to repay you by living up to your expectations and dreams, as one of your many children.
I hope I can one day emulate your bubbly spirit. Looking back, you were always the loudest person in the Gym screaming for Kenny, even though sometimes you didn’t know what you were cheering about. I remember one time, you were yelling, “C’mon Kenny put your hands up! Hands up! Defense! Defense!” I couldn’t help chuckling, because Kenny had the ball in his hands and was actually playing offense. You asked me, “Why are you laughing, c’mon yell at Kenny, he needs his hands up!” So I just attempted to join in for the cheer, knowing that it wasn’t the right call. But after seeing Kenny playing even harder, I realized it wasn’t about yelling or screaming to tell Kenny what to do, it was really all about how to do it. I learned through your enthusiasm that bringing the right energy to whatever you do, even if you are doing the wrong thing, can make all the difference. Your smile and spirit was contagious and made everyone in the Gym more energetic and excited to play. Through your energy I have learned to take on every task with high spirits. Although I am not always eager to do things, I try to imagine you screaming in the stands for me, and it gives me a boost to accomplish my tasks.
I remember when you graduated from the College of Marin. Kenny sent me pictures from the graduation, and I was thrilled by the excitement and pride. I remember you telling me everyday how you wanted to see Kenny graduate, and how you wanted me to do the same. You were always so eager to remind me to keep working hard at school because, “no one can take a college degree away from you”. Seeing you work hard to graduate, despite all of the challenges you faced, inspired us all to do the same. We haven’t and will not give up on your dreams for us to graduate, because you have instilled in us the dedication and motivation to achieve academic and athletic excellence. I have recently heard that Kenny has received a full scholarship to go to a University in Utah. I honestly can’t help but tear up at writing this because I am so proud of him for accomplishing this goal. I know you are looking down on him and praising him for his diligence and growth, and I too look at him as an inspiration for myself. Although I am not always around to tell Kenny, I want to thank him too for being like a brother to me by always encouraging me to work hard in my sports and academics. Ever since I met him, Kenny has been stuck in the Gym only to work towards his basketball and scholar goals, and I can’t begin to express my happiness for him to finally get to where he’s always wanted to be. I want to thank you Maria, for being the guidance we have all needed to get to where we are today.
 When I first heard about your passing, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not being closer to you and Kenny in the last months of your life. I was off trying to work at school and volleyball, and I never gave back to you for helping to motivate and inspire me. I didn’t realize how big of a part of my life you were until you were gone. I was angry that someone took your life and didn’t realize your value. I never had so much hate for gun violence until your passing because I felt that your life didn’t deserve to end with something so heartless and cold. You are the definition of livelihood, and your passing just never seemed possible. I felt guilty when looking at your open casket because I didn’t cry then. But after leaving the funeral I understood why; when I saw you lying there it was not the same Maria I had always known. It was a different person because the person I knew was saved in my memories with contagious smiles, unforgettable laughter, and enthusiasm. Through reflection of your story and Kenny’s story, I have learned the importance of appreciating the people in my life that have influenced me positively in various ways. I want to thank you, Maria, for showing me the importance of gratitude.
I don’t believe I would have ever made it to the Olympics without these lessons, or even built up the courage to transfer from San Jose State University to the University of Miami. You have taught me to aspire to get better in everything I do, and I hope I can make you proud. You are a mother, teacher, and friend, and you will never be forgotten. Thank you, Maria, because I couldn’t have gotten here without you.

Love,
           
Savanah Leaf

Dreams into Realities



I have some dreams which few people know about because I am a little apprehensive about sharing them, but I have decided that in order for them to be actualized, I need to talk openly about them. Since the world has become a place where 'who you know is just as important as what you know', I feel it’s important to reach out to others and talk about my ideas. It could also allow me to get useful feedback, suggestions, support, and encouragement, as well as find opportunities. 
The two dreams that I am eager to realize are; A) to own my own gym and B) to be a fitness/athletic model.
There is something about owning my own gym that truly gets me excited. If I were to visualize it, the building would have exposed brick walls with one large mirror, a large window, simple machines alongside Olympic platforms and free weights, and an outside area on the roof for conditioning. I want my clients to be able to enjoy the sunshine when the weather is nice, and be able to practice yoga on the roof where the wispy air can catch our meditative thoughts. I want to be able to tailor workout and nutritional plans for each individual's needs and create a lifestyle plan that integrates mind, body, and soul to improve overall wellbeing. I want to inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle so they too can see the benefits of becoming physically and mentally active.
I would also love to be given the opportunity to be a fitness/athletic model and promote a healthy, natural lifestyle for all, portraying feminine beauty in strength, poise and determination. I think there is genuine beauty in living a dedicated lifestyle and working towards mental and physical growth through sports, yoga, food, hiking, meditation etc. I hope that one day I may be able to portray and represent whole-heartedly the fitness role model I aspire towards.
I wanted to share my dreams in this short blog to hear your thought and see if you have any ideas about how these dreams can become reality. I’d love your feedback and possibly hear if others have similar goals. Please comment below if you have any ideas for me, thanks!

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined" - Henry David Thereau

Dinner Table Talks


Yesterday at the dinner table, I was eating with the Wicks family, a couple who have graciously welcomed me into their home  while I have been playing with the England Beach Volleyball Team, and the subject of writing resumes came up. Sitting around the wooden table sharing ginger chicken and mango salsa, we talked about how many athletes get writers block when writing a personal statement and resume. Many athletes feel that all they have done in life is play sports, and they don’t realize the skills and strengths that come with being an athlete. For example, playing team sports develops your collaborative and negotiating skills as you learn to deal with difficult situations and people. Also you learn how to become outcome-oriented and learn how to take on challenges. As well as being a competitor, you become a supportive and caring team mate. Athletes also learn to be objective, open to criticism and work diligently to get better. When understanding the qualities associated with being athlete, you realize that there are so many things you can write about. Across the table we discussed how hard it is sometimes to notice all the good qualities about ourselves. We often dwell on all our imperfections and then ignore the things that we are great at because it just seems so normal and natural. But in reality, when we look at ourselves with a self-praising eye we will notice how we are all uniquely spectacular.
I decided to give myself a little self-praise to start my day positively, and allow myself to use my strengths more efficiently. I wanted to share some of the things I felt were most important in my reflections. I hope reading this will promote others to give themselves compliments sometimes.
There are so many people in the world that seem to take on each day by talking their way to success, but I am more of an action person. I don’t feel accomplished unless I physically do what I tell myself I need to do. I am a ‘list’ sort of person, I wake up and write a list of all things I need to do, and then I mark those things off as I do them. I hate procrastinating; waiting to do anything stresses me out and I love to do every piece of work to perfection. I cannot stand being mediocre at anything, and challenges excite me. For example, playing beach volleyball has been a huge challenge because I have had to adjust to the sand and a different style of play, but the fact that it is a challenge makes me determined to succeed. I hate to lose more than I love to win; I am my biggest competitor when it comes to mentality. I hate the words “I can’t” and I am determined to say,  “I can.” I am not afraid to say what’s on my mind. I am determined; I take on adversity by pushing my way through it, I feel that fearlessness brings success and obstacles cannot defeat you. I am a loving, dedicated, and supportive friend, and I will do anything if a friend needs help. My friends and family inspire me because they have conquered many difficulties, and I strive to make them proud by giving back when I can.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Journey to Sand



              Recently I was given the opportunity to try out for the England Sand Volleyball team. I have always been intrigued by the strength, ball control, and different set of knowledge skills required to play, but I have never really tested how my indoor skills would translate onto the sand. I have made a few attempts in Miami but I have never taken it seriously as a possible route for my future in sports. This summer I decided to try out because I knew, being an outside hitter, that I had a lot of qualities that I could use on the sand, and I wanted to see if a more rigorous beach training program could open up other opportunities for me
            The first week was rough. Running on sand is no easy task. Sand requires you to use your energy more efficiently; it is a lot harder to make sporadic dives towards the ball. Even when attempting to jump for a spike I find myself surprised at how low I get over the net and I am unable to hit at some of the sharper angles I usually do indoors. As difficult as it may be, the experience is helping me to grow as an all around athlete, utilizing different muscles and skills in a variety of ways.
            What I find most exciting about sand volleyball is the fact that there are two people working together to achieve one goal. Unlike indoors, there is no coach directing your every move, pulling you out if you are having a bad game, or yelling at you if you make a mistake on the sideline. Instead, the only people you can rely on during a game are yourself and your partner. With this in mind, there is a different mental aspect to the game that I have never had to really deal with before. There is more responsibility on the players to make changes when things aren’t going well, and there is no one to fall back on or hide behind. Instead you must confront each problem, and overcome adversity head on. This new mental aspect of the game will hopefully allow me to make different gains on my game, and take more leadership on and off the court.
            This week I found out some amazing news, I made the England Beach Volleyball team. Now, as I continue to train and work harder week by week, I'm looking forward to seeing if and how this will take me in exciting new directions and hopefully future successes

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass." - Maya Angelou