“My identity never changes”: After transformation, Caskey blossoms into Hall of Famer
MANAGING SPORTS EDITOR
When Colleen Walsh joined the Delaware volleyball program in August 2004, the Cleveland, Ohio native was just one of hundreds of volleyball players nationwide who each year move from high school stardom to a new chapter in their volleyball careers –– the often overwhelming and perilous status as a collegiate volleyball player.
Fast forward about 12 years and two months –– the former outside hitter stands on Tubby Raymond Field during halftime of the Homecoming football game on Oct. 29. Caskey is one of ten people taking part in the Delaware 2016 Hall of Fame class induction ceremony, which includes Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and Delaware track and field and cross country legend Jim Fischer, among others.
What is most vividly expressed about Caskey’s Delaware volleyball career is the ongoing list of accolades: four-year starter, all-time leader in kills and kills per game, four-time all CAA member, and a sensational senior year in which she was a CAA first-team selection as well as the CAA player of the year. In the midst of these accomplishments, however, it’s Caskey’s journey of self discovery that provides the backbone for her incredible success.
The journey began during her first few weeks with the team in 2004. As an incoming freshman, Caskey described the adjustment process as a demanding, yet eye-opening development.
“I no longer was as good as I thought I was,” Caskey said. “I had a lot to learn, whereas in high school, big fish, little pond, and then coming here and just—a team of people who were all all-stars in high school and so just getting used to not always playing as much as we thought we would and having to do things a new way, was just very, very difficult and you know, our coaches were really hard on us like coaches should be. They wanted to be successful and they always were pushing us for more.”
Caskey was one of six freshmen recruited by former coaches Bonnie Kenny and Cindy Gregory. For reasons still unknown to the public, the coaches were fired on Oct. 16. Delaware Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak hired Sara Matthews as head coach on Jan. 12.
As Caskey trudged through what she labeled an “often-difficult” freshman year in the fall of 2004, her attention on volleyball often took control of all aspects of her life.
“I think my freshman year was so hard because my day rose and fell with my volleyball performance and it was just a horrible way to live,” Caskey said.
In what she said was a critical step in her transformation process, Caskey decided to join the campus ministry towards the end of her freshman year.
“When I got involved in the ministry, I was reminded through the Bible and Scripture that my identity never changes,” Caskey said. “God created me as a person with dignity and worth and that’s who I was and I got to play volleyball as a part of that. So I kind of steadied out, I can have a good game, a bad game, I can win, I can lose, and I can work really hard and want those things but that doesn’t impact who I am as a person.”
From there, Caskey entered into an arena in which her faith is forever linked with her motivation. Since graduation, she’s continued her work with campus ministry, now operating with Delaware’s athletes intervarsity, as well as campuses all across the mid-Atlantic.
When Kenny and Gregory were fired mid-season, she stepped in with the team, acting as a volunteer assistant coach. While assisting interim coaches Brian Toron and Dana Griskowitz, Caskey also participated in the team’s Bible studies and provided a helping hand to players, often during times when they were both physically and mentally challenged.
Sitting among numerous all-time greats in the Delaware Hall of Fame, the former volleyball standout is constantly reminded of the impact her faith had on her career and currently has on her life today. Using this experience as a mechanism for improving the lives of young student-athletes is now her passion and the meaning she’s found in it is remarkable.
“I’m still Colleen, I still have a family who loves me no matter what, God says he loves me no matter what,” Caskey said. “I wish I would’ve learned that from a younger age, to just realize that it’s just an opportunity and privilege to get to do it and forever how long you get to do it, just don’t take it for granted and enjoy the time that you have, whether you play in middle school, in high school, 1 year in college, 4 years in college, professional, it’s just such a privilege and an opportunity, but it doesn’t define who you are.”