Megan Hodge, 23, a St. Thomas native, is a professional volleyball player who competes in Europe and will represent Team USA at the Games. She graduated from Penn State University in 2010 with a degree in business management and that was after she was named to the NCAA All-American Team four years in a row. Hodge was named the Most Valuable Player of the FIVB World Grand Prix earlier this month after leading Team USA to a 14-0 record and a gold medal. This will be her first appearance at the Olympics.
How did you get into volleyball?
Both of my parents played, so I grew up around the sport. I didn't really get into it until middle school, when most people start playing for their school team, and was playing both basketball and volleyball. As I got to high school, I stuck with volleyball, just because, and I've stuck with it ever since.
Now, I understand that you were also a competitive jump roper as a young girl. How did that evolve into volleyball and did it help your leaping ability?
I was. And I don't think there was any plan for the two to be correlated. As I got older I couldn't really make time for both so I had to choose. I chose volleyball, but I will give some credit for my jumping ability to jumping rope at a high level. It definitely impacted that.
What is your favorite thing about playing outside hitter?
The ability to do it all. In this position, at this level, you have to have all the skills, a generalized specialist if you will. You don't get that in other positions. It always gives me something to work on.
Your parents - Michael and Carmen Hodge - each played for the USVI senior volleyball teams. How did they influence your life and early volleyball development?
My parents were, and still are, awesome. They did everything they could to support me. Never forced me to play. They did always make it clear that they didn't want to waste time or money if I wasn't serious about the game. So, in retrospect, they taught me some major lessons on decision-making and commitment as a teenager. I'm so glad to have parents like them.
You won three straight NCAA national titles while at Penn State. How is the college game different from the professional game?
The only way to compare it, and I don't think this even does it justice, is to compare it to moving from a high school level to college level. Everyone's better, faster, stronger. The major difference though is the mental game. It's more intense, the level of focus and concentration, the ability to be consistent at a high level.
You've been working with Team USA since 2010, describe the relationship you have with your teammates?
I think we have a really good group. Our chemistry is very functional. We have a lot of wonderful pieces and we know how to make each other better. It wasn't always this way, but we've all put in a lot of time and effort to get to this point. I think it's exactly what we need for London.
It must be a comfortable relationship because the team was featured in ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue last month. What was that like?
It wasn't the whole team. Just a few of us. It was a good experience for me, personally. We have received a lot of mixed feedback on the magazine, but at the end of the day, for me, it was tasteful. We got to show the feminine side of women's sports. My biggest supporters - my family and loved ones - liked it so I'm happy with it.
Team USA is ranked No. 1 in the world and the favorite to win the gold medal in London. Is there any added pressure with those expectations?
I don't think so. I think most of our team have been in situations where they're "supposed to win" or something like that, but we know that all we can worry about is our performance; doing everything we can to win each point. Our coach has really harped on that this quadrennial so we understand. The No. 1 ranking is a distraction that we all are aware of but not concerned with.
Why and how is Team USA going to win the gold?
By playing USA Volleyball. We've put in the work and we have the right mental game to go in there and bring the gold back for USA.