A Champion for Life, Houston Volleyball’s Sophie Paine will graduate this weekend with a 3.9 GPA and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Health Professions. She gave this speech after she was awarded the Cougar Lifetime Achievement Award at Monday's Senior Breakfast. Last week she was selected to compete with the Australian National Team at the Women's Volleyball Grand Prix series. In the fall, she will compete in the Australian Volleyball League on the Victorian University Blues.
When Sasha asked to make this speech today and reflect on my memories here at the University of Houston, initially I thought what an honor, but then I realized that it’s actually an impossible task to summarize everything that has happened over the past three years.
My experience as a Coog has probably been slightly unorthodox compared to many of the athletes sitting in this room. Having never even set foot in the United States and arriving in the one and only Houston, Texas; It’s fair to say I had a lot to learn. Almost everything I have done here I have never experienced before both on and off the volleyball court.
To this day I am still having first-time experiences with stuff that most have had since they were in elementary school, such as my first Dairy Queen Blizzard -- and it was delicious!
Before 2013, I had never seen or experienced a rodeo, step shows, tailgating (which means something very different in Australia), two-step dancing, football games, crawfish boils and Texas barbeques, baseball games at Minute Maid Park, Mardi Gras, homecoming and Thanksgiving, a cold Christmas (but we had to leave Houston for that one), my first pair of boots, first time driving on the opposite side of the road and opposite side of the car. I had never been in stadiums as big as those we competed in or had a locker that bore my name. I had never signed autographs or had my face on a poster.
But when I think about what I am going to miss the most about being at UH, it always comes back to the people and all the other perhaps less impressive memories we’ve made.
I’ll miss the times in the locker room after a hard workout when you look around and can’t quite believe you made it through. I’ll miss dollar tacos on Tuesdays, half-price fajitas on Wednesdays and the many other brunches, lunches, dinners and adventures exploring this great city.
I’ll miss suiting up before the games and all the jokes and impressions and reminiscing. I’ll miss bus trips and plane trips, and roommates and teammates. I’ll miss the generosity, kindness and selflessness of the people both here in this room and absent for becoming my family when I needed them the most. These are the moments, behind the scenes that truly have made my time here unforgettable. These are the times that we take for granted but mean the most when they are finished.
Playing and studying at UH has been the biggest privilege and has brought me an insane amount of joy that words cannot describe. Although I may be thousands of miles away, I will continue to fight for the red and white.
Thank you and as always GO COOGS!