For about a year, Del Mar resident and volleyball star Ryann Chandler thought she’d never play the sport again.
“I absolutely did not think it would happen,” she recalled on a recent Tuesday afternoon. “I had a very negative attitude towards volleyball for a long time. I didn’t want anything to do with it.”
It’s no wonder that Chandler felt this way. After a stint as a star player for Torrey Pines High School’s volleyball team, she headed off to Malibu’s Pepperdine University in fall 2013, where she continued to play. That is, until, a match at Pepperdine where she hit her head.
“I felt weird afterwards, but didn’t think anything of it,” she remembered. “It wasn’t until I played a few more games when my head started killing me and I began to feel nauseous. My roommate suggested I see a doctor.”
Chandler soon found out that she had originally suffered a minor concussion that had since ballooned into a major one. She immediately stopped playing. What followed was eight months of pounding headaches.
“I decided to leave Pepperdine at that point,” she explained of the tough decision. “I loved the girls and coaches, but for me, I needed to refocus on myself and get healthy, both mentally and physically.”
The effects of Chandler’s headaches were largely because she hadn’t sought help sooner.
“If I didn’t play on it for so long, I would have been fine,” she said, looking back. “It’s kind of crazy that it became something that later impacted my life. When I came back to Del Mar, I wanted to take the entirety of 2014 off, just to go to chiropractors and change my diet.”
Still, Chandler’s scare shook any interest she previously had in playing volleyball, an interest she had to learn to regain.
“A lot of coaches were telling me I should consider playing again, since I was so talented,” said Chandler, who hit her stride during her time at Torrey Pines as a setter. “My senior year at Torrey, I felt like I got to run the team. We also had so many amazing players that it was almost unheard-of. We had a great season and were ranked No. 1 in the country.”
While she was working at Del Mar’s Wave Volleyball Club this past November, a former coach continued to encourage her to get back into it.
“I finally decided I wanted to play again, and it was a huge deal,” Chandler said. “It wasn’t from someone else saying I should play. I made the decision for myself.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Chandler wanted to stretch her athletic muscles once more. After all, her father, Chris, was a former star player for the NFL who played for the St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons for the better part of two decades. In addition, her uncle was a trainer for famed tennis star Andy Roddick, and her grandfather, John Brodie, played for the San Francisco 49ers and followed that up by joining the PGA Tour.
“I think I got my competitive spirit and athleticism from my dad,” Chandler noted of her sporty lineage. “It’s funny, because my mother has always said she didn’t think in a million years I’d be athletic, because during youth soccer games all I’d do is sit down, pick grass, and do cartwheels.”
Chandler can still do all the cartwheels when she gets to UCLA, but they’ll have to be in the middle of volleyball matches.
“I feel like I’m the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Chandler said. “I’m a little nervous to get back into super-high-level volleyball, but I’m up for the challenge.”