Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christa Harmotto returns to Hopewell with a new kind of medal

U.S. Olympic silver medalist Christa Harmotto Dietzan appeared at Hopewell High School on Wednesday for a Q&A session and autograph signing.

HOPEWELL TWP. -- Ten years ago, Christa Harmotto brought gold medals back to Hopewell High School from both the WPIAL and PIAA Volleyball championships.

When she returned Tuesday night, she brought a different gold medal back – one from the world championships that she won as a member of the US National Team.
“After winning those gold medals in high school, I had no idea how far my career would have gone,” said Christa, who also brought a new last name back to Hopewell. After her recent marriage, she is now Christa Harmotto Dietzen. “I knew I was going to college but I didn’t know about anything beyond that.
“Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been thankful for the support of everyone who has helped me along the way.”
Along the way, Christa has built on the three WPIAL and one PIAA titles from Hopewell, winning two national titles at Penn State and while being named an All-American four times while there, and won a silver medal as a member of the 2012 Olympic team.
Before talking to local volleyball players for an hour about setting goals and values, Hopewell gave Harmotto Dietzen another honor – her number 20 was retired with a plaque to go alongside other Hopewell greats such as Tony Dorsett and Joe Colella in the Hopewell lobby.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen,” said Harmotto Dietzen. “My roots mean so much to me. They’ve been so important in making me the person I am, that blue collar work ethic and the values that were instilled in me.”
Harmotto Dietzen reflected those values in the hour she spent talking to the student-athletes in attendance. There were no volleyball strategies discussed and no plays diagrammed. The only volleyballs in the gym were ones students (and coaches) brought to be signed.
She told the crowd to set goals but expect peaks and valleys – growth happens in the valleys. She told the crowd that she was thankful for her injuries because they made her mentally stronger and how the rehab made her even better at time management.
She told the crowd that no matter where she played and no matter how big the event, the court was always the same size she played on at Hopewell and the ball was the same size, so to filter through all the other distractions and to focus on that.
“I’ve wanted to do something like this, to talk to student-athletes on their level,” Harmotto Dietzen said. “I’ve done Q&A sessions with club teams before in southern California but I appreciate the boosters setting this up so I could share about goals, values, and leadership.”
Considering that volleyball has taken her to the highest level of her sport and sent her all over the world, some may have found it surprising that Christa was adamant that the student-athletes not just focus on one sport but to play as many different sports as possible, to avoid burnout both physically and mentally.
“I played all the sports, I played soccer, I was in gymnastics until I got too tall for it, and I played basketball,” she shared after the program. “I loved basketball and I can remember how tough it was to give up basketball before my junior year. It was my first major decision and my parents were out of town and I can remember calling and telling them.
“I had just reached the point where I felt I had to make a decision to concentrate on the US junior national team. It was a really difficult decision.’
The decision, though, has worked out, obviously, very well, and it doesn’t look like the end to its effect is near.
“Yes, there is another Olympics (2016) in my plan,” Harmotto Dietzen said with a smile. “After that, we’ll see. Mr. Borkovic (her high school coach, Terry Borkovic) asked me if I’d ever get into coaching and I had to say yes.
“I can’t imagine ever dropping out of volleyball.”
For good reason – it’s been an amazing 10 years.

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