The best word that I can think of to describe this week’s featured muse, Leslie Cikra, is “presence.” And only a fraction of the truth behind that description can be attributed to her height, which is saying something considering that Leslie is a graceful, composed, and powerful six foot, four inches tall. When I say that Leslie has presence, what I really mean is that she lives in the present moment. She is continually optimistic, grateful, and excited about what is to come, even when the next step may still remain a daunting mystery. She makes a conscious effort to maximize her life opportunities and her own happiness – a priceless skill that all of us would benefit from. This positive lifestyle and outlook has taken her near and far (literally) and within the next month she will be headed off on her next big adventure to begin her third season of professional volleyball, this time in Korea!
- Age: 24
- Location: Denver, Colorado (for now!) but I’ll be relocating to Korea at the end of July to play volleyball professionally.
- Education: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Field of Interest: Competing, volleyball, yoga, hiking, photography…I love physical challenges and the ability to capture a moment forever.
- What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? My ability to step back and always find the beauty in the simple things, even within the daily chaos of life.
- What’s On Your Current Playlist? I currently have Purity Ring blasting full-time. I just saw them live and and I’m still on that post-concert obsession.
- What Are You Currently Reading? I just finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Time to figure out what’s next!
Questions + Answers
Your outstanding talent as a volleyball player has literally taken you around the world, from knoxville, tennessee and all across the usa, to france and greece, and now to korea! Has volleyball proven to be a sort of universal language in these unfamiliar places? how do you manage to connect to those around you in such a foreign environment?
Volleyball is definitely a universal language! There are different styles of playing all over the world, and the game changes a little bit from place to place, so there is always a little adjustment period. My first year of international volleyball was TOTALLY different from anything I played in college. But learning to adjust to different facets of the game has definitely made me a better overall player.
In some places it’s harder to connect than others…I think Korea will definitely be the biggest challenge so far! No matter the country or language spoken, I have found that my teammates respond best when I work to interact and communicate with them on the court (even if they don’t understand what I’m saying!)
When you were all set to start your second season of professional volleyball in Greece, your contract fell through and you had to return home. That must have been heart-breaking, especially being so far away from your home and support system. How did you find the strength to persevere with your goals and maintain your optimism that you were on the right path?
Coming home from Greece really flipped my world upside-down. It was not an easy path at all. Instead of going back to LA where I was living before I left for Greece, I decided to go back to my hometown, Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and my support system.
I decided to remove myself from the volleyball world for a while, and that was when I really dove into yoga and started working at lululemon. I needed to come back to my roots and do some soul searching. Time off allowed me to refocus and do a lot of goal-setting (outside of the volleyball scene) with some awesome new friends.
Looking back, it was the best thing that I could have done because it really renewed my motivation and love for the sport of volleyball, even though I was as far from it as I had been in my entire life.
What is your favorite aspect of playing volleyball professionally? Is it the fierce competition, the traveling, the people you get to meet?
My favorite part about pro volleyball is definitely the competition. Nothing beats the feeling of standing under the lights getting ready to take on another opponent.
The travel, people and experiences are awesome as well, but it just doesn’t get any better than competing and getting after it with another great team across the net.
YOU THRIVE ON PHYSICAL CHALLENGES. WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE “IN THE ZONE?” IS IT A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE WITH VOLLEYBALL THAN WITH YOGA?
Volleyball and yoga are completely different to me when it comes to being “in the zone.” When I am playing my absolute best volleyball, my zone is when I feel an unstoppable confidence. My yoga zone is a calm, uninterrupted focus combined with steady breathing.
Although their peaks are different, yoga has made me a better volleyball player because the two different “zones” really compliment each other.
THE CAMPAIGN TO BRING BACK THE LADY VOLUNTEERS LOGO AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, YOUR ALMA MATER, IS OBVIOUSLY VERY CLOSE TO HOME. WHAT DOES THE LOGO MEAN TO YOU? WHAT HAS INVOLVEMENT IN THE CAMPAIGN BEEN LIKE FOR YOU?
The Lady Volunteer logo is a huge piece of my identity. It represents a legacy of blood, sweat and tears that my team and every other women’s team at the University of Tennessee has put in to win championships. It represents grace and respect and holding yourself to a high standard every single day.
The involvement in the campaign has been a lot of work, but it is so rewarding to see how many people we have been able to inform and educate on what the Lady Vol logo represents and we still have the utmost faith that we will eventually restore the logo to its rightful place.
Check out the campaign’s website here!
WE DON’T WANT TO MAKE TOO MUCH OF SUPERFICIAL THINGS, BUT YOUR HEIGHT IS DISTINCTIVE. IN A SPORT LIKE VOLLEYBALL, THIS MUST BE ADVANTAGEOUS. HAS YOUR PHYSICALITY INFLUENCED YOUR INTELLECTUAL OR EVEN INTERPERSONAL EXPERIENCES, AND IF SO, HOW?
I was always taught to love being tall, as both my Mom and Dad are over six feet tall. As far as interpersonal experiences go, I have always stood out because of my height, and I’m often asked if I play basketball or volleyball. It’s definitely a fun conversation starter. I was always taller than the boys my age growing up, but I can’t imagine not being tall now. I absolutely love my height and it doesn’t hurt for volleyball either.
YOUR BLOG DOES AN EXCELLENT JOB OF DOCUMENTING THE UPS-AND-DOWNS OF YOUR JOURNEY IN SUCH AN ARTICULATE, OPEN, AND HONEST WAY AND with such an optimistic tone. WE ARE SO ADMIRING! IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO your readers, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM?
My biggest piece of advice is to be grateful.
On my toughest days, I am simply grateful for a healthy body, loving family and overall wonderful life. Everyone has rough patches, but if you can find even just a small amount of love and gratitude in simple things over the course of a day, I really believe that manifests happiness in life!
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
That is a tough one. I have so many awesome people in my life who really build me up. My closest friends are my biggest inspiration.
Two of my best friends, Jasmine, who is such a beautiful soul and one of the hardest working people I know and never complains, and Nikki, who just graduated with her MBA in an accelerated one year program and is just an in-general-ass-kicker at life, inspire me to work hard and do my best every day.
Also, all the other pro-volleyballers I have had the pleasure of coming in contact with over the course of my journey inspire me. It is not an easy gig, and they have pushed me to be better and supported me along the way. I really admire the players who never seem to take time off, and always manage to crush it every single season!
+ KNOW ANY OTHER ACCOMPLISHED, DRIVEN YOUNG PEOPLE WE SHOULD FEATURE? PEOPLE WHO ARE BUILDING THE LIFE OF THEIR OWN IMAGINING? LET US KNOW!