October 20, 2005

10 Questions With Volleyball's Kelly Kramer

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After spending the weekend helping the women’s volleyball team sweep Princeton and Penn, senior co-captain Kelly Kramer dug some shots from Sun Senior Writer Per Ostman.

1. Your position is listed as “libero.” Now, I thought I was serviceably familiar with the sport of volleyball, but I have no idea what that is. My computer says it’s Italian for “free.”
Well, the whole “freedom” thing comes into play because I don’t count as a substitute. I can go in and out of the game for any person in the back row. So, I’m all serve-receive and defense. I don’t rotate into the front row.
Okay, so you’ll rotate in when your position gets to the back and come out before moving to the front?
Right, but then when the person that’s opposite that position goes to the back row, I also come in for them. I can play the back row for as many people as I want.
This seems outrageously complicated. Couldn’t they come up for a better name for you? It sounds like you should be singing the national anthem in between games – a “mezzo soprano libero.”
Yeah, we like to make things difficult. I’m the one that wears a different colored jersey. It looks like I lost the right one.
Ah, so that’s why there’s always someone wearing a different color. I learned something today. Do you like to be different?
Yeah, I like to stand out a little. My teammates call it the “special person” jersey.
Do you not read good?
Yeah, sometimes.

2. As a defender, you often do the dirty work while the hitters collect the glory. Are you okay with this?
Yeah, I mean, defense is a lot of fun. I’m not in it for the glory as long as we keep winning. That’s just fine with me.
But doesn’t part of you want to play outside hitter for a match and just drop the hammer?
I played outside hitter in high school. There are some times when I see a huge hole in the block and I wish I was three inches taller.
I feel that way all the time. Do you take a lot of pride in shutting down the other team’s hitters?
Oh, definitely. You get a rush from digging a ball that someone has hit as hard as they can. It ruins their day. That’s fun.
You do a lot of diving at your position, so the kneepads must help, but it seems like you should get to wear a helmet or something.
Yeah, it’s the worst. Occasionally, your reflexes aren’t fast enough and you get hit in the face.
Balls to the face aren’t too much fun, huh?
No, not too fun.

3. Over the past four years, women’s volleyball has arguably been the most successful team on campus, and you’re currently atop the Ivy League. Yet, you guys don’t seem to get as much publicity as other sports – volleyball flies under the radar. Does this bother you?
I think over the four years that I’ve been here that we really have come on to the radar. I remember freshman and sophomore year we didn’t get much attention, but last year and this year I feel like we’ve gotten a lot. Even just based on how many people show up for the games – we’ve got great fans now.
Just like with the football team, winning will put fans in the seats.
Mmhmm, definitely.
Tell the kids why they should come out to your next match.
Well, volleyball is a lot of fun to watch because no points are ever the same. And, um, we’re on a roll, and we’re undefeated so far, and the program has a winning tradition –
I don’t want the media guide response here. Give me something to work with!
Spandex! There’s spandex!
Perfect. We’ll get to that.
It’s intense. It’s girls jumping high, hitting balls hard.
Now, that’s what I call an endorsement.

4. You’re from California, albeit the northern end. Have you had the chance to play much beach volleyball?
No, not in northern California. Our beaches tend to be a bit foggy.
And covered in rocks.
Yeah, and covered in rocks. But every time I go down to southern California, I play a ton.
Besides the obvious, how are indoor and beach different?
Indoor is a lot more about power and big plays, whereas beach is more about finesse. You have to be a stronger all-around player to be good on the beach, whereas you can be more specialized and still be successful at indoor.
As a libero, you’re a bit specialized. Does this hurt you when you play on the beach?
Not really, because in my past life I was a hitter, and a little one at that. So, I had to learn how to hit all the different shots.
So, you’re in the Misty May mold, then?
Hahaha, I wish!
Which is more fun for you to play?
Well, it’s hard to compete with an 80-degree day in the sun.
Hey, I think it might break 50 tomorrow.
Yeah, that’s exciting. But at the same time, there are different thrills to the indoor game, such as the harder hits and the bigger digs, and just more people to be around.

5. Last summer in Athens, Women’s Beach Volleyball became the most popular Olympic sport almost overnight. Much of this, for better or worse, was due to the “women-running-around-in-bikinis” factor. How do you feel about your sport’s biggest PR windfall being essentially due to sex appeal? Does this objectify women?
I don’t know that it objectifies them, because it’s not like they’re just standing there being looked at.
It’s not a swimsuit competition.
Exactly. It brought the sport the initial attention, and then people realized that it actually does takes skill and hard work. But the swimsuits and spandex are a little bit of an advantage. People are paying attention to the sport.
Should women’s professional leagues feel any pressure to make uniforms sexier?
Absolutely not. Volleyball is unique in that spandex and swimsuits are the best things to wear for how much we have to move and cut and dive. Big shorts and looser clothing would get in the way. In other sports, the traditional clothing has worked just fine. I don’t think it’s necessary to change things to make a sport sexier.

6. You guys aren’t out on the court wearing bikini’s, but I’m reasonably certain that they make longer cuts of spandex. The inseam for your uniforms is roughly a quarter-inch, give or take a few millimeters. Do you ever get self-conscious?
We got a little self-conscious in the red spandex that we started out wearing.
Why? Was it shorter than the black?
No, it was just bright red. Red shows all.
Oh. I see.
For the most part, we’ve all played in spandex through high school and now through our college careers. You get used to the length.
Or lack thereof.
They tend to ride up during rallies, so no matter how long you pull them down, they’ll be hiked up by the end of the point anyway.
That’s comfortable.
You get used to it. You gotta love it.

7. Besides excelling in volleyball, you’ve also been a ski-racer. Do you feel any similarities between the two sports?
Definitely. They both require very strong legs. You’re squatting the whole time, and you have to transition your weight quickly.
But in skiing, you get to wear the full-body spandex instead of just the shorts.
Mentally, what do you find is most different between an individual racing event and a team sport?
In a ski race, you have one chance – every hundredth of a second matters. In a point-for-point game or a team sport, you can’t do everything yourself. Every point is important, but every point isn’t “the game.” There’s less of a do-or-die attitude in volleyball, but there’s still pressure to get every point.
What made you choose to pursue volleyball at the collegiate level over alpine skiing?
I had to make the decision after my freshman year in high school to either stay at my high school and not be able to train for the next level of skiing, or leave everything in San Francisco and move to Lake Tahoe or Colorado and go to a ski academy. The academic programs for the ski academ
ies weren’t particularly strong.
I wanted to go straight to one of the academies right after eighth grade, but my Mom made me promise that I’d do one year of regular high school. So, I went out for freshmen volleyball in the fall, just to kill some time.
“Kill” some time? You’re hilarious.
Oh! I didn’t even – no pun intended!
No, but I ended up really enjoying volleyball. I realized that one injury in skiing would not only ruin my career, but my academic aspirations. And I loved my high school in San Francisco, so I ended up choosing volleyball.
I’d say things worked out pretty well for you.
Yeah, I’m happy.

8. What’s the hottest men’s team at Cornell?
Oh, I hate this question!
See, everyone says this. But secretly, I know they love this question.
I hate it because everyone gets in trouble! I know that I’ve given people a hard time about it. Can I give you a top five?
Only if they’re in order. I need a #1.
Well, obviously every team has their –
Don’t give me that.
Okay, if I had to pick one –
And you do.
I’d pick men’s track, because they’re the ones who take off their shirts at our games and distract the other team.
Really? Is this against Ivy League rules?
I hope not! But, they have been known to distract the other team.
But not you guys.
Of course not.
You’re focused on the match.
Oh yeah. Very focused.
Not thinking about the naked men behind you.

9. What’s on your current iPod playlist?
Ooooh. A huge mix of things. Everything from Country –
And some Classic Rock to Hip Hop. My mood varies by the minute, so I need a good variety in there.
Your team plays a warm-up tape while you’re getting ready before a match. How crucial is proper song-selection?
It’s beyond important. We actually go through about four different mixes before we find the right one. Everyone gets their input, but some people’s suggestions are taken more seriously than others.
Yeah, I can’t imagine you’d want to hear Britney Spears right before playing Harvard. You don’t want to feel like you’re at a sorority mixer.
Give me some examples from your tape.
Well, it opens with “Bring ‘Em Out,” we’ve got “Gold-Digger” on there and “Living On A Prayer” – gotta have the old classic – and “Play A Little Country.”
Is that a song, or a request?
Hahaha, it’s a song!
Really? I’m sorry to hear that.

10. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you pick and why?
First, I’d pick Bobby Crosby, the shortstop for the A’s, because I’m in love with him.
Does he know this?
Are you the girl at the Oakland Coliseum with the “I Heart You, Bobby” sign?
Do you wait outside the stadium for the team bus?
Then how can you say that you’re in love with him? You’re obviously not putting in the effort.
But I’m not there! I’m here! I was this close to him once, though. I worked for a TV station in the sports department, and we did a pregame interview with him, but all I could do was sit there with my mouth open like an idiot.
You didn’t get to say “hi?”
No, I just stared.
Well, I’m sure he didn’t think you were an idiot. Give me two more.
I would actually like to meet Vince Lombardi. He was just so intense and competitive.
Can you do that? Aren’t you from San Francisco? Shouldn’t you want to meet Bill Walsh?
Yes and no. I just think Vince Lombardi would be cool to meet from an athletic standpoint. I love my Niners, though. But, I’m a little upset with them right now.
Yeah, their starting QB is younger than we are.
They gotta rebuild. But I have faith.
At least someone does.
Third, I’d really like to meet my great-grandmother, on my mother’s side.
No one has ever wanted to meet a passed relative. You’re adorable. This is touching. I’m touched.
Just to learn more about my family’s history. I’m an only child and I only have four cousins – there aren’t a whole lot of us. Maybe learn about any traditions that got lost or our family roots.
This is far and away the most wholesome response I’ve ever received. I don’t know if I can ever speak to you again.
Hahaha, I’m sorry!
You’re ruining my whole shtick! Why couldn’t you have picked Ozzy Osbourne or something?
You want me to try again?
No, that’s okay.
My Mom is going to see this and be like, “Your great-grandmother and Bobby Crosby?”
Yes, but she’d probably love him.
I’d hope so. I’d need her approval if I’m marrying him.
No, I think you need his approval if you’re marrying him.

10 Questions With Per Ostman will appear weekly, or until he gets fired. Comments and threats can be sent to per.ostman@mac.com.

Archived article by Per Ostman
Sun Senior Writer