Haleigh Washington Wants to Win, Have Fun, and Study Aristotle

August 24, 2016 at 9:51 am 2 comments

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

When Haleigh Washington decided she wanted to play volleyball in college, she turned to her father for advice on where she should go. There was one rule: She wanted him to point her towards the best volleyball school in the country.

So Alecs Washington told his daughter about Penn State, which had just won its fourth straight national title. She completely believed her dad – “I didn’t do any research after that, I was horrible about it,” Washington recalls – and years later, Haleigh is a national champion, an All-Big Ten selection, and one of the leaders on a 2016 Nittany Lions squad that is once again expected to be among the best in the nation.

And while she is a leader for a team that wants to win another championship this fall, Washington is making sure that she’s having fun. In fact, she’s having so much fun that Onward State called her the most fun athlete at Penn State last year (this is an assessment with which Washington disagrees, because she thinks “every athlete that goes to Penn State is having a blast doing what they’re doing”).

That’s not to say the junior middle blocker doesn’t take volleyball seriously. When asked about Penn State’s uncharacteristic early exit from the 2015 NCAA tournament – the team was eliminated by Hawaii in the regional semifinals – Washington says that the bad outweighed the good for the team last year, specifically referencing a number of “little mistakes that didn’t click,” like inconsistency. Washington says that the team has worked to correct those smaller issues as it prepares for 2016.

But Washington’s definition of fun is somewhat unique. She doesn’t think having fun means goofing around or being light-hearted. Rather, Washington thinks fun stems from a place of loving what you’re doing.

Photo via Cardoni

Photo via Cardoni

“I think fun in the context of volleyball comes from loving the game,” Washington says. “Because it’s so much easier to have fun when you’re in love with what you’re doing, and when you don’t love what you’re doing it’s really hard to enjoy doing it.

“I love what I study, I love philosophy, my family’s incredible, my friends that I surround myself with just make it easy to enjoy being me,” she adds.

Off the court, Washington has fun by majoring in philosophy and psychology. She’s able to rip through her favorite philosophers with the same ease that she lists her goals for the volleyball team this season.

“I’m a sucker for Aristotle,” Washington says. “I’m a sucker for the ancient philosophers, I love them. I love Aristotle and I love Socrates, I love Aristotle’s ethics, most importantly, because it talks about happiness and I think that that’s a big thing, especially when you’re in the college years.”

Once her volleyball career ends, Washington wants to go to Columbia University for graduate school. But for now, she hopes to have a bit more fun on the court. Oh, and she wants to win as many games as possible, because that’s how she defines success.

“If I want to be successful, I want to win,” Washington says. “That’s what success is for me, is, like, when you win. And don’t get me wrong, you can have a successful team and not win…but that isn’t successful enough for me. I want to win.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

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Entry filed under: Athletics, From the Magazine. Tags: , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ben Bronstein  |  August 24, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    To back up your point, the first time I saw her play play, my nickname for her popped into my head, “Joy!” When I told her, she said that was fine because she has an aunt named Joy.

  • […] ’58, ’63g; a chat with the 2016-17 Penn State Laureate; fun photography with volleyball superstar Haleigh Washington; and a lesson on playing Pokémon Go around […]

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