U.S. Standout Destinee Hooker Travels Road to Olympics

2012 may just turn out to be the year of Destinee's Calling

Courtney Davidson
Destinee Hooker

On the court, U.S. Women’s Team player Destinee Hooker is power, intensity and athleticism personified. What people may be surprised to know is that her everyday personality is in stark contrast to this “alter ego.”

“That cocky, aggressive player is the best mentality to have when you are out there competing,” she said. “If you sit down with me and get to know me, you’ll find I’m giving and very passive. I find it hard to say no. I’m more goofy and laid back than people realize.”

Coach Hugh McCutcheon agrees. “People tend to make assumptions by how an athlete competes. Those individuals playing against her feel uncomfortable as she’s battling them physically and emotionally…As a coach, I’ve got to respect and like her on-court demeanor.

Case in point was Hooker’s performance during the FIVB World Grand Prix where the opposite was named MVP of the event with a second place ranking of 101 points (90 kills, eight blocks, three aces). During the entire tournament, she achieved a .357 hitting efficiency, 228 points and scored 15 or more points in 11 of 13 of the matches she played. The final match in Macau, China saw the American team beat Brazil 3-0.

Hooker cites the entire Grand Prix as her U.S. team career highlight so far, mainly because it propels the unit toward the World Cup, the 2012 Olympics’ first qualifying event. She emphasizes that her focus is not on the ultimate prize but instead said she’s taking the season “day by day, step by step, match by match.”

“If you look too far ahead, you lose focus,” Hooker said, preferring to concentrate on the team’s strengths like its chemistry and determination and less on worrying about a particular opponent or ranking.

“A lot of teams want blood so we’ll see what happens.” She defines the squad’s greatest competition as “every one we come against…One day it’s lights out and the next it’s not. We beat them; they beat us. They are all equally competitive when the time comes.”

Despite the pressure associated with qualifying for the looming Olympics, Hooker is able to “let it go” when she steps on the court by praying and realizing stress “brings you down” and making the decision not to allow those feelings to impact those around her. “I need to worry about the game only.” She also feels fortunate to have the support of teammates, her coaches and especially her family: parents Ricky and Marvetta and sister Marshevet, who is a 2008 Olympian in long jump, IAAF world champion and boasts a long string of other track and field titles.

“My sister is the reason I started in the sport. I wanted to be like her,” Hooker recalls of her teen years playing volleyball in high school with Marshevet. “She’s my favorite athlete. I admire her energy and the fact that she’s not a quitter and always does what it takes to get the job done.”

McCutcheon said much the same about Hooker’s work ethic. “Her most obvious attribute is her physical ability…she jumps high and hits with power. She has a strong presence on court and plays with passion and intensity. But what I appreciate most is that Destinee keeps pushing to get better. I like the way she embraces the process and grinds it out to improve incrementally.”

With the team working and competing well together on and off the court, McCutcheon is optimistic about its future prospects. Hooker remains humble about her role in the equation. “It’s definitely truly an honor to represent the United States and have a team and coaches that place trust in you,” she said The best part of the is the opportunity to learn from others like Danielle Scott, she said.

And she has a message for the fans from all over the world who communicate with her through her Facebook page, the ones who offered encouragement when she was sidelined with an injury this past spring while playing for the professional Italian team Scavolini Pesaro. “It means the world to me that they take the time to sit up in the middle of the night to watch or send a comment. God bless them all.”

Courting the Future

Before joining the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team, Destinee Hooker was an award-winning University of Texas volleyball player as well as a four-time NCAA champion in long jump and two-time state title holder in high jump. She gave up her final season of track to play professional volleyball in South Korea with GS Caltex Club. She’s also played professionally on an international level for Corozal Pinkins in Puerto Rico. And she hasn’t looked back.

Although her track background helps her with jumping ability and spills over somewhat into training, she doesn’t miss her “other” sport at all. A possible Olympic berth precludes Hooker from finishing her college studies in the immediate future although it is an option someday, she said.

In five years, she’d like to be healthy enough to still be playing volleyball. Hooker eventually envisions herself married with two children and the owner of her own clothing line. She’s already endorsed by apparel brand Rox Volleyball.

Hooker tells VBM that as a tall woman (6’4” and 160 pounds) she’s mindful of the need for affordable casual wear such as jeans or khakis for people of height as well as tops with sleeves that properly reach the wrists.

“I’d love to come up with a line of apparel for the fans that have supported me. I really appreciate them being there,” she said.

Want more on Destinee? Take a peek inside her bag.

Originally published in December/January 2012

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