Everyday Champion: Natalie Hooper
Aug. 26, 2008
Oregon State has found success with walk-on student-athletes who have gone on to be standouts for their respective sports. "Beaver Nation" knows about Mike Hass, Alexis Serna and others on the football field, but there are certainly others who have excelled in other sports.
One such athlete is senior Natalie Hooper of the volleyball team. The Roseburg native has become a stalwart for Taras Liskeyvich's crew as a defensive specialist. She not only has been a standout on the court, but also in the classroom where she has been recognized the last two years as a Pac-10 Conference Honorable Mention All-Academic selection.
The Department of Athletics is proud to highlight Natalie as the first Everyday Champion (link to site) for the 2009-09 academic year.
The Athletic Communications staff had an opportunity to sit down with Natalie and get an insight to her time at Oregon State, what her future holds and to get to know her off of the court.
What challenges have you faced with being a walk-on?
"Being a walk-on is no different than being a scholarship athlete. The only real difference is that my tuition isn't paid for. But I did feel that I had to go out there and work as hard as I possibly could. I felt like I had something to prove - like that I did deserve to be here. I didn't care if I didn't have a scholarship. I just loved the game, and I wanted to work hard."
Would you say it's worth it to be a walk-on?
"It's definitely worth being a walk-on. You get just about the same perks as the scholarship athletes and everything's paid for except school. Everything else is the same. It's awesome being a part of the team and it's just a great experience."
After the season ends, what are your plans?
"After the season ends, I plan on finishing my degree in finance. And the following fall term, I plan on traveling abroad to Austria."
What's been your favorite thing about working with Terry and the rest of the coaching staff?
"Working with Terry and the rest of the coaching staff has been awesome. They're basically like a second family to me and it's great to have that here."
What has been your best experience at Oregon State?
"The best experience that I've had at Oregon State is the friendships that I've built with some of my teammates. I know they'll be lifetime friendships."
What is the hardest part of being a defensive specialist? Best part?
"The hardest part about being a defensive specialist is that it's super demanding. But the best part about being one is the satisfaction you get from a great dig off of a hard-hit ball. It can be pretty frustrating to an attacker."
What was your reaction to being named a co-captain this season?
"Being a team co-captain is definitely a great honor. I was pretty shocked but not completely stunned when they announced who the captains were. I know I'm a really hard worker, and a lot of my teammates do look up to Ashley (Evans) and me. It feels great. It's awesome and a great privilege."
What are some of your duties as team captain?
"Some of the duties I have as team captain are to really be the spokesperson between the coaches and the team. We kind of keep things organized and make sure things run smoothly. If something needs to be done, Ashley and I can take care of it."
What influenced you to major in Business?
"I was influenced by my father to major in Business. He owns and runs his own business."
Why did you choose Oregon State, especially after being recruited elsewhere?
"My recruiting experience was kind of interesting. I was looking at a lot of smaller schools, and every school I went to asked why I wasn't trying to play at the local schools, Oregon or Oregon State. And that kind of built my confidence. I looked into walking on at Oregon State, and it kind of just happened."
How do you balance school and volleyball?
"Balancing time in the classroom and on the court is a challenge for any athlete. I think that our coaching staff really helped us with that, and it also just takes discipline. You have to figure out what's most important to you. Getting my degree and doing well in school is definitely what comes first."
Why will Oregon State volleyball be exciting to watch this season?
"Oregon State volleyball will be exciting to watch this season because we have a lot of returners. Twelve out of the 14 players are returners."
What would you say to a casual fan that may have never been to a volleyball match?
"To someone that hasn't necessarily watched a lot of volleyball, I think that it's a game and sport that's intriguing because of the fast-paced nature. And you see some great athletes playing that can go on to bigger and better things like the Olympics."
What's the team make-up like this season?
"The team chemistry that we have this year is actually one that I haven't been involved with for several seasons now. All of the girls have actually been recruited by Terry, so that kind of makes a huge difference. Everyone's on the same page, and we know what's expected of each other. And we hold each other accountable. It's awesome."
Do you plan to coach after you're done?
"After volleyball is over, I actually don't intend on coaching. It's never been something I've ever really been interested in, but a lot of people tell me that once it's gone, I'll probably want to still be a part of it. So I could definitely see myself getting into it, even though I don't want to now."
How did you get started playing?
"I first started playing volleyball when I was fairly young. My older sister, Mary, was really involved in volleyball, and I looked up to her a lot. I watched her play for several years, and she would always pepper with me outside in the backyard and just drill me with balls. She really got me into it."
Would you recommend Oregon State as a whole to someone else?
"My experience at Oregon State has definitely been positive. I've made so many friends, and the community here is just amazing with how supportive they are to athletics and even just the university. I feel like the community absolutely revolves around OSU, and that's just been a really interesting and fun experience. I mean, where else in the Pac-10 is it like this?"