June 13, 2024

Playing professional volleyball is a huge accomplishment, and soon to be California Baptist University alumna Hana Okuhara will be leaving CBU with a degree and a chance to play professional volleyball. 

Growing up, it had been Okuhara’s dream to play volleyball professionally, and now she finally gets her chance. Seeing how she trains and taking an in-depth look at the mental and physical side of going pro is essential to understanding how difficult it is to get to this level of play.

Okuhara has always had a passion for volleyball, and anyone can see that through the way she plays. She puts everything she has into the sport and has loved every second of it.

We know the time and effort required to become a student-athlete, and even though the season is over, Okuhara has been working hard to make sure she is ready for when she is called to go pro.

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“(I am) practicing with my old team five times a week, I lift five times a week and I make sure that I am getting in two to three times a week (for) some core workouts and strengthening my upper body,” said Okuhara, senior health science major. “As volleyball players, we are blessed with big, strong legs that are explosive and powerful but right now, since I am a setter, I am working on being explosive with my upper body, too, and pushing myself to be better in that aspect for my team.”

As her time at CBU is coming to an end, she reflected on her favorite memory while playing at CBU.

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“This last season at CBU, we played New Mexico State in New Mexico,” Okuhara said. “We came back because they were beating us 2-0. We came back and won them in five, which has not happened in New Mexico for a very long time. And that helped us grow so much as a team because we were able to push through and see that we really can play well together as a team. 

“This core memory for me has been so motivating and encouraging because in those moments where I feel like I am not performing well or things aren’t going well, I can think back on that moment and remember that we are in this together. It’s not a me thing, but it is a we thing. That game is my all-time favorite because of the win and the confidence that comes with it.”

Okuhara has been playing for 12 years. Being a good player means being coachable and willing to accept advice.

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“This advice has stuck with me and has helped change my mental game drastically,” she said. “(My coach) said something along the lines of, ‘Confidence is a feeling; therefore ,it comes and goes. Confidence goes up and down. If you want to be mentally great and mentally there all the time, you can’t rely on a feeling.’ So when I am having highs and lows in a game, this helps me remember that my confidence is a feeling, but my preparation is something I can control. Therefore, I need to make sure I am prepared and control what I can control. I cannot stress and freak out over the little things I cannot control.”

Okuhara has an understanding of the game of volleyball and overcoming tough times. She offered advice to anyone who dreams of playing at the collegiate level or even after.

“What I would say is that when you hit those tough times and challenging moments, remember to find joy and remember the happiness your sport brings you,” said Okuhara. “Find joy in the little things. I took some moments for granted, and I pushed myself too hard sometimes, but make sure you’re enjoying the process of it all; it doesn’t last forever. You only have so long to play and make your mark, so play hard and enjoy your time with your sport because it goes by very fast.”

Okuhara has pushed past many obstacles to make it to where she is today. It is going to be great to see where she ends up playing professionally and see her take to the court at the next level.

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