School senior Bethany Zummo is one of the top players in the country in her sport.
The 18-year old volleyball phenom debuted on the National Paralympics Sitting Volleyball team last month against the Chinese national team.
“I was so happy. The whole experience of being around people who weren’t from America,” Bethany said. “It’s so much more than volleyball – it’s the world.”
Bethany lost part of her leg at a young age because she was born without a fibula, one of the bones running from the knee to the ankle. She’s been wearing a prosthetic leg since she was 2, explained her mom, Kelly Zummo, and was raised like any other kid.
“It was just really important from day one that she knew she could do anything anyone else could do," Kelly said. "There was never any excuse.”
Bethany had just made the seventh-grade volleyball team when she came across Paralympic volleyball at a tournament her team was attending in Reno. The game uses the same rules as standing volleyball but is played sitting down. Players scoot on their butts along the floor and the court is smaller.
“I wanted nothing to do with it. I just wanted to be with the girls who were jumping and spiking and blocking,” she recalled. “I didn’t feel disabled.”
As Bethany grew older and her volleyball career flourished, the subject of Paralympic volleyball would come up, but it wasn’t until the middle of high school that she felt that she was ready to try it.
“I realized that I had accepted in myself that I was a good (standing) volleyball player,” she said.
Bethany quickly came to love the sport and said it’s harder than standing volleyball because players use their arms to move themselves around on the floor and it requires more reading to know where the ball is going to fall.
She began practicing with a co-ed team based at the University of Central Oklahoma a year and a half ago while continuing to play on the varsity team at Dublin High School. Last month she was tapped to play libero, a back row passing position for the National Paralympic Sitting Volleyball team.
In the fall, Bethany will attend the University of Central Oklahoma, where the national team is based and of which she'll be a member, to study psychology. She’ll also travel to tournaments, possibly to the Ukraine and Brazil in September. But, she said, she has her eye on a goal further down the line – to play with the team at the 2012 summer Paralympics.
“I want to go to London and prove I’m athletic," she said. "I want to prove that.”
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