Empowering Through Sports: Vaughan’s #BlockBack Paves the Way for Young Volleyball Players

 Empowering Through Sports: Vaughan’s #BlockBack Paves the Way for Young Volleyball Players

Vaughan’s Block Back

Vaughan Anoa’i a rising star athlete with a passion for volleyball and a deep connection to her Samoan heritage, is using her platform to make a difference. Inspired by the Fa’alavelave tradition of community support, Vaughan’s “#BlockBack” pledge aims to diversify club volleyball by making it more accessible for young girls. Read on to learn more about Vaughan’s unique perspective, her philanthropic efforts, and how she’s using sports to empower the next generation.

Buckeye Review: Could you share a bit about the significance of the Samoan tradition of Fa’alavelave and how it has influenced your philanthropic efforts?

Vaughan Anoa’i: In Samoan culture, a Fa’alavelave is incredibly significant, symbolizing our deep commitment to supporting family and community during important life events. This tradition has profoundly influenced my philanthropic efforts with my personal pledge entitled “Vaughan’s #BlockBack.” Just as a Fa’alavelave brings people together to provide support, my pledge is committed to diversifying club volleyball by donating the necessary funds to make it more accessible for all, as volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, today. I aim to create a sense of community and support, ensuring that young girls have the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.

Smith-Anoa’i Archive

BR: Looking ahead, how do you envision Vaughan’s Block Back continuing to empower young girls in the years to come?

VA: Looking ahead, I see Vaughan’s #BlockBack expanding its reach to serve even more communities, originating from my hometown of Los Angeles, CA and now to Georgetown University in the greater Washington, DC area. I plan to enhance this pledge by offering more educational support, mentorship opportunities, and scholarships. By fostering a network of empowered, confident, and independent young women, I hope to inspire a new generation of leaders who will continue to uplift and support their respective communities. My vision is to create lasting change and provide young girls with the tools that they need to thrive both on and off the hardwood court.

BR: It can be tough to balance the expectations of others with your own goals. How do you stay true to yourself and your passions?

VA: Balancing others’ expectations with my own goals is definitely challenging, but I stay true to myself by regularly reflecting on my values and priorities. My heritage and family-oriented upbringing helps keep me grounded and remind me of what truly matters. I set clear personal goals and maintain strong connections with my family and mentors, all of who support me in staying focused on and committed to all of my aspirations. This helps me navigate external pressures while staying aligned with my true self. 

BR: Your Samoan heritage is a beautiful part of your identity. How do the values of your culture empower you both on and off the court?

VA: My Samoan heritage instills values including respect, humility, and a strong sense of community, which empower me in every aspect of my life. On the court, these values make me a supportive and respectful teammate. Off of the court, they guide my interactions and commitments. My multicultural values give me strength and purpose, allowing me to lead with integrity and compassion. I take my role as a scholar athlete seriously and strive to always put my best foot forward in all that I do.

Smith-Anoa’i Archive

BR: Juggling athletics and academics can be challenging. Do you have any advice for aspiring student-athletes?

VA: My advice for aspiring student-athletes is to master time management and organization skills. It is vital to create a schedule that balances your academic and athletic commitments and stick to it. Utilize any and all available resources including tutors, coaches, and academic advisors, and never hesitate to ask for help when enduring challenges or difficulties. Stay passionate about both your studies and your sport, as this passion will keep you motivated through trying times. Additionally, and most importantly, prioritize your mental and physical health, as both are crucial for your success.

BR: You’ve achieved so much at a young age, but did you ever experience self-doubt? How did you overcome those challenges?

VA: Yes, I have definitely experienced self-doubt. Overcoming it involved leaning on the support of my family, friends, and mentors, who always believed in me. I focused on my strengths and celebrated small achievements to build my confidence. Positive self-talk and setting realistic goals helped me stay motivated. Viewing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles has been crucial in overcoming self-doubt and building resilience. It is important to quiet unnecessary outside noise and center myself and my goals.

BR: Who are your biggest role models, both in volleyball and in life? How have they inspired you to find your voice as a young woman?

Anoa’i Family Lineage Photo Credit: Smith-Anoa’i Archive

VA: In volleyball, Asjia O’Neal is a huge inspiration to me. Her dedication, skill, courage, social justice advocacy, and sportsmanship are qualities that I respect and strive to emulate. In life, my parents are my greatest role models. They have instilled in me the importance of hard work, integrity, and staying true to our cultural values. Their unwavering support and guidance has empowered me to find my voice and use it to make a positive impact through the many communities I serve.

BR: Coming from the legendary Anoa’i family, there’s a strong athletic legacy. How did you discover your own passion for volleyball, separate from your family’s wrestling background?

VA: Growing up in the Samoan Dynasty Anoa’i Family, I was surrounded by a strong athletic legacy, particularly in the realm of wrestling. However, I discovered my own passion for volleyball through exposure to various sports. Volleyball captured my heart because of the teamwork, strategy, and the sense of camaraderie it offered. My family’s support has allowed me to explore and develop my own identity within our athletic legacy, and I am grateful for the encouragement to pursue what I love.

BR: What advice would you give to young girls who might feel they need to conform to certain expectations to succeed?

VA: My advice to young girls is to always stay true to yourself. Embrace your unique qualities and passions, even if they don’t necessarily fit the traditional mold. Success comes from being authentic and pursuing what genuinely makes you happy. Surround yourself with supportive people who appreciate you for who you are and remember that your individuality is your greatest strength. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to break the mold to achieve your dreams and aspirations.

Related post