Candace Martin – Alabama State Volleyball

“Without volleyball I am not quite sure where I would be. Volleyball has played such a vital role in my life for so long, that it is hard to think about life without it. Volleyball has been my saving grace. As a young Black girl growing up in the inner city of Memphis, TN where crime was prominent, I knew that volleyball would be my best option to make a better life for myself. My mom raised four children, all boys and one precious girl (I am the baby and only girl), while working 3 jobs at one point, just to make ends meet. I knew that I had to obtain a full ride to college because there was no way my family could afford sending me to school, so I set my goal, worked toward it, and succeeded.  Volleyball opened various doors for me from being Alabama State University’s SAAC President, the SWAC SAAC President, SWAC Woman of the Year, and a NCAA Postgraduate Intern. Most importantly, volleyball allowed me, a first-generation college student and D1 athlete, the opportunity to bring a college degree home to my mother.”

“Volleyball has taught me to set my goals high and to work my hardest to reach them. Volleyball has taught me the importance of drive, determination, will, stamina, and GRIT. Without volleyball I would not be the woman that I am today. Graduating Magna Cum Laude as a first-generation student athlete has defined me as a person. The ability for me to attend a four-year institution, complete at the DI level, and maintain a 3.9 average GPA (debt free) verified for me that I can do anything that I set my mind to. In addition, I learned while in diapers how to lead, take charge, and let my presence be known, growing up in a home with four older brothers. I believe the experiences I had growing up prepared me for a lot of what I endured as a student and athlete.”

“A closed mouth does not get fed. That is the advice I would give to young girls reading this article. Be confident and empowered by your voice. It is okay to say exactly what you want, but be willing to put the work in and work toward that. There are people that want to help and invest in you, but the only way to identify those individuals is to use your voice. There is no way I would be where I am right now, without the village that helped me along the way. 

“As a black woman and athlete, I was a late starter. Most collegiate athletes, especially at the DI level, began as a young child. I picked up my first volleyball in middle school, 6th grade. Of course, growing up I cheered, danced, and tried tennis (I was supposed to be the next Serena haha), but I realized that none of those were my passion. My mother presented volleyball to me and I tried out for the team and fell in love. However, through middle and high school I only played the traditional season. Club volleyball was not presented to me until my junior year. I played competitive club volleyball only my senior year of high school. One reason being that the volleyball clubs were 30-45minutes away from my home, but most importantly because my mother could not afford the fees to allow me to play, but we knew that would increase my chances of obtaining a full scholarship. Then I experienced for the first time being “the only black girl”. My mother was not able to travel to tournaments to watch me play because she had to work, so I would travel with teammates and their families quite often. So, to the girl experiencing what I experienced, you will be fine. It is never too late.”

“As far as racial equality in sport, I hope that one day inner city children have access to competitive sports at an affordable cost. Therefore, this would not only increase the number of minorities in sport, but also in college.  The way that most people are probably reading this article. Social Media. I believe that individually and collectively athletes can use their platform to speak out about issues in sports and far beyond. Due to the unfortunate and most recent events of police brutality and racial injustice, we have seen more and more student athletes use their voice and social media platforms to promote change in the world we live in.”

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