Imagine sitting in a
movie theater and never tilting your head to the side
throughout the entire movie to see past the large head
in front of you. Standing at a staggering 6 feet 7
inches tall, USA Volleyball women's national team
player Tayyiba Haneef doesn't have to worry about
jumping up and down like a kangaroo to find a lost
friend in the crowd or tilting her head to catch a
glimpse of the movie screen. She was blessed with the
physical trait that coaches fight over and players
"God gave me this height to use it for something
so I am going to put it to work," said Haneef.
"My parents put me in almost every sport there is
and said 'try it for a year and if you don't like it
you don't ever have to play it again,'" said
Haneef. "When I became a three-sport athlete they
never pressured me to choose one sport."
Basketball, track and volleyball took up most of
Haneef's spare time but eventually she listened to her
heart and chose to pursue volleyball. "I had a
little taste of the Olympics in 2000 and now I want to
jump in and take one big bite," said Haneef.
In preparation for the 2003 season Haneef spent a
season overseas playing in Italy. Her time abroad was
a whole new experience in itself.
"It was a very difficult time for me adjusting to
things…the first three months I didn't have a car, a
phone, or internet access. I pretty much went to
practice and then came home to my little apartment and
watched all five of my Italian TV channels," said
Haneef. "It didn't help that we lost practically
every single game and then our coach got so mad that
he decided to withhold our pay as well. Every day I
found myself thinking 'why was I here' and 'do I
really want to play volleyball?'"
Mentally, playing overseas was a real learning
experience for Haneef. But even though it was a tough
first year she plans on heading back across the
Atlantic Ocean again to gain more experience in hopes
of elevating her level of play. One thing Haneef
figured out while she was in Italy was, "I really,
really, really love the USA…I mean people say there
is no place like home and it is so true…I would
never give up living here for anything in the
This summer Haneef is back on familiar soil preparing
with a team that speaks her language and shares the
same goal; an Olympic gold medal. "It is on the
top of everyone's mind…it's something that we all
know we can accomplish but we don't want to jinx it…so
now we all just get on the court every day and work as
hard as we can," said Haneef.
If and when the gold medal match comes, Haneef already
has her game-time attire all picked out. The socks,
shoes, and uniform will all be the same, but one
special item is on reserve, ready and waiting to be
brought out of the closet.
"I have this Champion sports-bra from the 1996
Olympics that my mom bought for me. It is my
competition bra, but I only have one so I have to save
it for the big matches," admits Haneef. "It
has the Olympic symbol on it and that symbol
represents what I am working for, so it just seems to
bring more energy out of me when I wear it."
On and off of the court, Haneef has an undeniable
presence. In 2002 she started all 11 matches at the
World Championships, averaging 10.3 points per match
and earning a silver medal along the way.