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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 23, 2007

Ex-UH volleyball star looks to future

 •  Curtailing training a benefit for the big race

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Cayley Thurlby is ready for the next step in her volleyball career and is inviting fans and sponsors along for the ride.

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CAYLEY THURLBY

Age: 23

University of Hawai'i: 2002-2006 (co-captain 2005 and 2006)

Graduation: May 2007, broadcast journalism and marketing

Last seen playing: In Czechoslovakia, Spain and Argentina

Today: Training on beach courts outdoors and indoors around Chicago and working as marketing/salesperson for graphic design company

Contact: cthurlby@hawaii.edu

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Cayley Thurlby calls it My Journey and it is unlike any other in volleyball.

The former Rainbow Wahine, and University of Hawai'i graduate in broadcast journalism and marketing, is marketing herself as a beach volleyball player. With the help of a graphic designer and close friend/photographer, she designed, wrote and edited a nine-page, full-color portfolio detailing her plan to "pursue her dream" of playing beach volleyball.

The portfolio is designed to attract individual and corporate sponsors willing to back her as she embarks on her new career. The My Journey publication opens with My Story.

"Every individual has the ability to dream, but the ability to pursue these dreams is a blessing," Thurlby writes. "Through playing a simple sport, my little dream turned into something larger than I had ever imagined. ... From the moment I set my foot in the sand, I knew that playing professional beach volleyball would be my next step in my life."

That sand surrounds Lake Michigan these days, but Thurlby's beach volleyball dreams took shape here. A highly regarded recruit out of the Chicago area's Sports Performance Club, which pretty much guarantees those who get in a college scholarship, she matriculated to Manoa in time to be part of two final-four teams (2002 and 2003).

As fate would have it, the setter's playing career coincided with Kanoe Kamana'o's. She would shatter every setting record at UH and become the school's second four-time All-American. Thurlby's career would become a testament to her versatility, loyalty and love for Hawai'i and UH teammates.

It hit its apex her senior year when, after a nightmarish string of UH injuries, the team co-captain was the first sub at both hitting positions and setter, and defensive specialist. When Kamana'o missed the only two matches of her career, Thurlby guided the 'Bows to two relatively easy wins and "retired" as one of the rare unbeaten starters in college history.

BIG FAN IN SHOJI

UH coach Dave Shoji, one of her biggest fans as much for her devotion to school and team as her talent lamented how little he could play her and figured she could start for nearly every other Division I team. Thurlby proved that almost immediately when, three days into a 10-day European tour designed to "expose" American players to overseas professional teams, she was picked up in Prague by a team from Cordoba, Spain.

She played there until March, came home in April and almost immediately was invited on another "exposure" tour to Argentina with former UH associate coach Charlie Wade.

Through it all, Thurlby kept a journal and finished her final UH credits as independent study. It was a unique adventure, complete with moving into the apartment of a teammate she was replacing and having to break the news to her and discovering how enjoyable it could be to immerse herself into a new culture.

When she came back home, a coach named Taye Minn saw her playing an AVP qualifier with her sister Chelsea. He offered to include her in a group of about 15 from the Midwest he was working with to make the transition from indoor to beach.

"I didn't realize I could stay in Chicago and play beach volleyball," Thurlby said. "Him coming into my life while I was waiting for something to evolve and nothing was really happening ... it seemed natural to pursue that opportunity basically handed to me."

She plans to play some EVP events she and Ashley Watanabe were in one here last month to prepare for the more established AVP tour, home to America's finest players. She plans to push hard for at least two years to try and break through.

SUITED FOR THE BEACH

Realistically, her versatility is ideal for the beach game. "My goal now is to get my game to a level where girls want to play with me," Thurlby said. "Not me scrounging for a partner."

Thurlby has sent out some 45 portfolios to friends and prospective sponsors. Along with My Story, it details her history, event demographics complete with fan, broadcast and event growth charts, and a breakdown of her annual costs down to the dollar ($14,480 for a year of training and expenses).

Thurlby offers personal and corporate sponsorships ranging from $100 to $5,000 and up. Already, former teammate Lauren Duggins Chun hooked her up with Hawai'i's Honey Girl swimwear, which Thurlby will wear. Her trainer is sponsored by Velocity Sports Performance.

Sponsors' payoffs range from updates, body tattoos, logo placements and public appearances to something a certain credit card company would characterize as "priceless:" The good feeling that comes with helping a good person who has proved herself personally and athletically in such distinctive ways over the years.

Thurlby's "journey" has never been along the beaten path. She has always found creative ways to succeed and "enjoy every minute doing what I love." Even the marketing of this new endeavor has captured her imagination and found a comfort zone in her outgoing personality.

"Conversation flows and people have been awesome about wanting to help out," she said. "I'm constantly getting support. The sponsorship thing is not stressful for me. I totally know it will happen. It's just a matter of time."

Cayley Thurlby is ready for the next step in her volleyball career and is inviting fans and sponsors along for the ride.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.