Arizona Athletics

Former Arizona Wildcat Cursty Le Roux Helping Launch Athletes Unlimited Volleyball

For collegiate women’s volleyball players, their senior season will be the last time they play the sport they love against high-level competition.

For the select few that move on to play pro volleyball, they have to move out of the country to pursue their dream of playing at the next level because there is no pro indoor volleyball league in the U.S. for female athletes.

As you can imagine, having to leave all your family and friends behind to achieve your dream can be stressful on an individual.

Now, thanks to Athletes Unlimited staying in the country is going to become a realty for women volleyball players who want to pursue a professional career.

Athletes Unlimited is a league that has given the country a new look at pro softball with its fantasy version of the game in which players are drafted each week and new teams are created.

Now, they are looking to do the same with volleyball. By doing so, they are the first of their kind in the United States. The league plans to launch sometime next year in February.

One person who is a part of this league is former Wildcat Cursty Le Roux or Cursty Jackson as she was known as when she was in an Arizona uniform.

Here’s the Q&A from the interview with Le Roux on how the league came about, and much more.

Q: How did the league come about? And how did you first hear about it?

CLR: So I initially first heard about it from Instagram actually. Jordan Larson posted. She’s the captain of the U.S. national team and she posted that she was a part of it. She’s one of the faces of Athletes Unlimited for the volleyball section of it. At the time I was pregnant. I kind of looked at it. I was like, Okay. And then after I gave birth, I realized that it was just a good option for me seeing that the season is only six weeks. With COVID-19 and everything going on, I thought that it would be a good fit for me.

Q: Will it be run similar to how Athletes Unlimited operated softball with the draft process?

CLR: Yes, exactly. So right now I am actually I’m PEC (Player Executive Committee), and it is athlete driven. We have a lot of say in how things are run and then also who’s actually in the league. So right now with the Player Executive Committee people suggest players to us that are already in the league. And then we just kind of rate them and say yes or no. The policies and everything made up by us the players. So it’s the first of it’s kind, and just so innovative and it’s pretty cool to have a say in what you’re doing as a professional athlete, because we never have a say so just to have this platform is absolutely amazing.

Q: What goes into the process of choosing a player? What is a yes, and what is generally a no?

CLR: Usually how it works is that you receive an email, or someone suggests a player and we reach out to them. And then they send us stuff. After reviewing the film all of the players, and the executive committee have to say yes. right now, we have signed some big players at levels really high. So we just want that to be across the board. Just with experience. I think what we’re looking for is just the character of people who want to be a part of the league too and are excited to be a part of something so innovative and new. But yeah, usually what it looks like when we say yes, is someone that is really explosive, really has done a lot for volleyball and who would just be a good fit personality wise. We only have a certain amount of positions available.

Cursty Le Roux

Q: How does this league prepare athletes for the Olympics?

CLR: It prepares athletes tremendously because right now with USA volleyball, one thing working against us is if an athlete decides that she wants to stay home and train, she can’t play 6-on-6. We just don’t have enough athletes back at home that are high level enough for her to train. Right now if you want to go to the Olympics or be a professional volleyball player you are staying in other countries for eight months out of the year across the board. So with Athletes Unlimited, it’s just another resource for us to get even stronger at the Olympics because with COVID-19 it’s difficult for us to travel, it’s a lot of uncertainty. People are getting stuck in different countries. We have the starting opposite for the USA Team Karsta Lowe, who has decided to just play for Athletes Unlimited. And then Jordan is playing in China for the beginning of the season, and then she’s finishing off with Athletes Unlimited. It’s just a great opportunity to continue that training because, say for instance, the season in China is from November until February, you won’t have anything from February to July. That’s a long time to be out of competition and not playing against the best. Just another resource for girls to train at the highest level.

Q: How important is this league for young girls thinking about wanting to play volleyball and seeing that there is something for them professionally in this country?

CLR: I think it is so important for young girls to see that they don’t have to go overseas, but overseas is an option. I think me being 30 years old, I’m one of the oldest American volleyball players still playing. Usually we retired early because it’s such a grind being away from our family for such a long time. I do think that it will just expand the horizons for USA volleyball and, keep girls playing because I know a lot of women who have ended their careers just because they didn’t want to travel across the world and play volleyball. It will just keep it going and I don’t know, with Athletes Unlimited it just feels like a family environment and a safe place. It’s a beautiful system and it’s so innovative and I’m excited to be a part of it.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.

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