Tammy Mahon | #4 | Position: Leftside | International Matches: 173 | Hometown: Holland, Manitoba | Status: Retired |
Tammy Mahon has played a huge part in my career with Team Canada. When people find out that I play for the National Team, it is often followed with “oh yaaaa – I know Tammy! She’s the captain, right?” She clearly had a lasting impression on all staff, players, and fans. Throughout the eight years that I have played with the National Team I have played with Tammy for 6 of those. It was super upsetting for me when she decided to retire as I selfishly would have loved to continue playing alongside her. She taught me more than she can imagine. Coming in to the program as a child (okay… 18 years old… but same thing), she took me under her wing from day one and taught me how things worked. My first experience with the Senior A team was back in grade 12 when Sam Loewen and I went to train with the team for a couple weeks at the end of our summer. Our Junior National Team missed out on qualifying for the Junior World Championships by one place the following summer and so therefore didn’t have a program that year. The Senior FISU girls were on break so here were these two children (okay… 18 year olds… but same thing) fresh out of high school, attempting to not faint or pass out in front of these studs. Naoki (Mia) Miyashita was the coach at this time (who's drill of choice was touch-10 impossible balls across 2 court lengths) and Carrie was the strength coach… practices were in Lipset Hall (hellooooooo blast from the past!). That might still be, to this day, the hardest I’ve ever had to work. I remember almost passing out during WARM-UP… 30 minute ladders at 100% speed with consistent sprints and jumps and fast feet in between wasn’t particularly what I had expected. I remember Tammy being nothing but inclusive and helpful those couple weeks I was there. The following year I made the Senior A Team and I was always watching to see what Tammy was doing (out of the corner of my eye… in the most subtle-non-stalkerish-way possible). From my first year on the team to her last, I saw her work her butt off every single day. I only remember her missing ONE practice during all of those years. She pushed herself and each other in the gym and in the weight room; she never coasted and she held every one of her teammates accountable. In fact, one summer she had to address the team to tell us to push HER more – just because she was captain didn’t mean she was exempt from someone else kicking her in the butt when she needed it. Being captain also never went to her head, as she was humble, made sure everything was in order (nets set up every morning, making schedules, sending emails, etc. etc.) and made sure that everyone was feeling their best.
We “completed each other” as we were often subbing in, back and forth for each other – we were each other’s halves as we liked to say. I could go to her for anything and everything and her advice was always spot-on. We went on a lot of trips together all around the world but the most memorable one for me was our three week South America Tour. She touches on it a bit in the questions below, but it really was an absolutely crazy trip. Nobody could have even imagined how insane it would actually be and of course, Tam was always super positive throughout all the madness. We started our tour in Argentina and at the time, it seemed like a fantastic idea to bus everywhere. Mmm… no. Never again. Days would usually consist of waking up at the. Crack. Of. Dawn. (think 5am) after getting in to wherever we were sleeping a few hours before. We would drive throughout the day, get out and practice at our destination or we would play a match, which was followed by the heaviest dinner possible… MEAT at midnight was the norm. Nothing was easy and still to this day I think of this trip when I’m tired; nothing will ever compare to that. Playing off of two hours of sleep and extreme travel is not an easy thing. Once we were in Peru, however, it all became worth it as we took a big team trip to Matchu Pitchu (our only day off for weeks and we were hiking up ancient Inca Trails for six hours). That was actually unbelievable… and despite almost driving off the small bumpy trails that they called roads, almost falling to our deaths a couple times, up an impossibly steep mountainside, it was a perfect day. That is… until we were all safe and sound on the train back to our little town, Cusco, and looked down at our legs. Sorry – but do I have a second round of the chicken pox? I swear you’re only supposed to get this once in your life. Oh wait… you have it too. Almost every person on the hike was covered in some form of bug bites, which covered our legs. Of course we decide to Google it when we got back to our hotel (worst idea ever) and it informs us that these pesky little bugs were in the long grass that we were frolicking in for the whole day and that if you “pop” the bites (which we were all doing) it would scar your legs forever. Girls were absolutely FREAKING OUT – I remember this night so clearly and was actually rooming with Tammers.
At the time we were all feeding into each others anxiety, finding more forums on these mystery Peruvian bugs, and discussing how on earth can we have spotted legs when we jump around in spandex for a living. I found a photo of Carla and I with anti-itch lotion all over our legs (see above). We looked like this for the rest of the trip. Real perfection. Tammy was someone who you really could go to for anything. She had so much experience playing overseas and playing on Team Canada, filling various roles in each year. I admire her a lot for sticking with her passion, even after her closest friends on the team decided to step away from volleyball. As you get older, there is a lot of pressure to get a “normal life” and a “normal job” as many people think we just run around a court and don’t work that hard day in and day out. Coming in to my 8th year on Team Canada (pardon me, what?) I have no idea what the future holds. However, I still have the passion to play. I tell people that I am not ready to pack it in after this quad and who knows how much longer after that my body will hold up. After asking Tammy all my questions below, she also touches on the fact that she just always had the desire to play and compete and therefore, just kept on going. Why would you stop if this life continued to keep you happy? I knew we were kindred spirits – looks like I’ll be following in her footsteps closer than I thought! My favourite numbers were 12 and 4, both held by Tammy and Tasha (veterans on the team). Now that both have moved on, I have scooped up number 4 again, fully embracing it and it's magical powers. We’ll see if I can make it to twelve years on the National Team… but I'm getting closer! Now, on to Tammers.
After twelve years of playing on Team Canada and overseas, how was the transition out of the sport?
“Deciding to retire from volleyball was one of the hardest choices I have ever made, but I made it peacefully and walked away with no regrets. After twelve years and three cycles of trying to achieve the Olympic dream, I felt it was time to move on to a new chapter in life. At that point, I knew that I was unsure about committing to four more years (i.e. another Olympic cycle) with the team, so I found it only right that I step down. This would allow the new group of athletes to start their four-year journey and get the experiences and playing time they need to be ready to qualify in 2016. I also knew I was never going to fall out love with the sport or lack the interest or desire to train and play. It was just a matter of coming to terms with the fact that I wanted to include some other things in my life and start to pursue some other passions that had taken a "back seat" to volleyball for the last twelve years. The transition has had its ups and downs, some really challenging moments, and yet, some other very peaceful moments knowing it was the right time for me to hang up the knee pads!”
You were captain for five years. Did you enjoy the extra responsibility or would you have rather had someone else “look after” the team?
“After being on the team for many years, I had a strong example set before me by previous captains and veteran players so it was an honor to accept the role as captain in 2008. The extra responsibilities changed from year to year and learning to adapt to new teams, coaches, and the demands of the role were always challenging but overall I loved being captain.”
Being on a team year-round gets you used to having girls constantly be by your side. Was it ever lonely after you retired?
“I have missed my girls no doubt about it. Thankfully the connections I made with teammates over the years were built on such a strong foundation of respect, love, and understanding. Therefore, despite the miles between or the differences in our daily schedules, our contact and friendship has not only maintained, but also in many cases become even stronger. Thank goodness for the ease of communication these days!”
You retired from Team Canada but then did one more professional victory lap in Indonesia. How was playing there and why did you decide to do one more season?
“The choice to go play one more year was presented to me by my agent and it was just hard to pass up! I still had the desire to play and after talking it over with my boyfriend (now husband) we decided to do it. Playing in Indonesia was a wonderful experience and I am really happy I had that final hurrah and last chance to play and compete!”
What are some of the awards that you have won since retiring?
“In the spring of 2013 after returning from Indonesia, I was inducted into the Manitoba Volleyball Association Hall of Fame. It was such an honor to join others who have been inducted; those I look up to and those who have inspired me during my career. The Manitoba High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) also awarded me the "Athlete of the Half Century Award" because of my multi-sport accomplishments in my high school career. Both were very touching awards to receive and a nice way to cap off my career. My hometown of Holland, Manitoba also had a special evening in my honor after retiring which was so lovely. There was a dinner and some speeches, and it was a way to connect with people from my hometown and thank them for all their years of support!"
Background information on the multi-sport career:
“In high school I started high jumping and winning every competition I entered. I won each level in the High School Track and Field Provincials and hold the record for both Junior and Senior heights in the province still to this day. After competing in and winning the city provincials, coaches approached me about competing with the provincial team. In 1996 I became the Junior National champion and competed for Team Canada in a competition in the Cayman Islands. I also got to compete in the Western Canada Games, Canada Games, and Senior Nationals. In grade 12, I had to make the choice to pursue either track, volleyball, or basketball – and the rest is history! High jumping gave me a lot of unique opportunities and the individual aspect of the sport taught me a lot about my training, sport, and myself as an athlete.
I started volleyball also in high school. However, coming from a school of 120 people, my exposure to a high level of training and performance was minimal. I was asked to play club volleyball in my grade 10 year but being so far from the city I could only make practices a few times a month. That continued all throughout high school. I never played provincial team because I was busy doing track and field in the summer. I did however, tryout for the Junior National team in my grade 12 year and trained with that team in the summer of 1998. I actually remember going to compete in a high jump competition one day on our lunch break between practices. I needed to compete to qualify for Canada Games, so I hustled over to the track and did my thing, and then went back to afternoon volleyball practice. Training with the Junior National Team that summer was the start of a long journey wearing the Canadian jersey! I played two years on the Junior National team and in 2002 made the Senior National Team for the first time. I became the captain in 2008.”
What is the biggest thing you miss about National Team? Professional Volleyball?
“I miss my teammates the most. I miss being part of something that is so special, so empowering, so challenging. Don't get me wrong: life after volleyball, marriage, being a mom, is all extremely special and challenging too! However, wearing the Canadian jersey, standing next to people I admire so much, trying to achieve a goal together, it is once in a lifetime and nothing can compare. I also definitely miss the travel… and Europe!”
What were some of the best trips you took with Team Canada Volleyball?
“Every trip brought it’s own special memories and experiences. The first trip I ever took to Europe for Grand Prix in 2003 was amazing; we went to Italy and I was just totally blown away by the experience. FISU Games in Korea was also an unreal trip with many great memories! A big highlight is when we went to Argentina and Peru where we got to go to Machu Picchu – a once in a lifetime experience and the bug bites we all suffered were also once in a lifetime! Every trip we took with bus rides, plane trips, hilarious moments on and off the court, each the hold a special place in my heart!”
Where are all the places that you’ve played? Who was your favorite club to play for? Favorite season overall? Favorite country to live in?
“Professionally, I had the opportunity to play in a variety of countries. Each country provided it’s own amazing experience regarding volleyball, culture, and adventure. My first year was in Sweden where we won the league championship. I then played three years in the Netherlands, a country that holds a special place in my heart! I played in Constanta, Romania for two years, which can be referred to as the land of stray dogs - I had lots of four legged friends there! After that, I played in Azerbaijan for one year, then Greece, Germany, and finally Indonesia!
My favorite season overall was in Greece. I loved the city, the league was strong, and my team had a good season winning the championship. Plus all the shopping and tourist attractions in Athens were amazing!”
Even a few years after retirement, you still had many former teammates come to your wedding this past summer – how was that?
“The day wouldn't t have been the same without them all there. My teammates over the years became my closest friends; they shaped me, inspired me, supported me, and loved me. To share the day with them was my honor and privilege.”
With a new (adorably cute and lovely) baby, what life experiences have you learned from your volleyball career that will transfer over to being a mother?
“I believe a lot of the things I learned through my sporting career will apply to life with miss Lexi! All of the skills I acquired throughout my career have helped me in the transition to life on the farm, to being a wife, and now to being a mother. Hard work, discipline, reasoning, loyalty, love, patience, passion, dedication, and so many other qualities that volleyball brought out in me, have been applied directly to my life post-career. I am thankful for everything I experienced and the ways I can use those skills now.”
Do you ever wish you retired earlier, or stayed in the game a couple more years?
“Nope. I think it all happened in the right time for me. I wouldn't t change a thing about my time playing, nor would I wish the timing to be different for retiring. It led me to Terry, led me back to the farm life I love so much, and led me to Lexi who is, after all I’ve experienced, my greatest treasure and accomplishment yet.”
Where are you now?
“We live on a cattle ranch about 80km North East of Dauphin, Manitoba (home of current player Tabi Love). We have around four hundred head of cattle, three horses, a dog, two cats, and now miss Lexi Louise to keep us busy!”
*I would like us all to take a moment and imagine what having FOUR HUNDRED cows would be like.
...Yeah. You think your days are busy.
When are you going to start teaching the bebe those volleyball moves (i.e. the Mahon-sidewinder)? Can you see volleyball in her/your future?
“No doubt I see volleyball in our future. I have tried to stay involved by doing camps and clinics or helping out with local teams in our area. Miss Lexi can choose whatever she wants to do, but I’ll be pushing volleyball and Terry will be putting a ball glove on her hand. We’ll see who wins!”
Check out Tammy's interviews on Volleywood here.
A big thanks to Tammers for doing this little interview with me. Even though she's super busy running a farm, collecting awards, and raising a child, she still had time to answer my many questions and messages. She is consistently checking up on me & my adventures and continues to be a constant support. Thanks for being so awesome. Love you lots, Tam!