Hello Gator Nation! My name is Tangerine Wiggs and I am a redshirt junior on the UF volleyball team. I will be one of our team’s blog reps, sharing with you some of the experiences that make our team positively unique, and make me proud to be a Gator!

This spring season our team of eleven has grown extremely close and accustomed to seeing each other during at least some point in the day; be that workouts, class, practice, or standing in line as we grab a morning breakfast bagel. Each of us brings a collection of skills and personality traits, which largely contributes to our familial team atmosphere. My hope is that through this blog you will be able to learn about each of my teammates, as women both on and off the court. They are absolutely hilarious, involved, empowered individuals; and I love the fact that I get the privilege of channeling their personalities and sharing them with you!

Since we are currently in our spring season, I would love to share a recent experience with you; that allowed us to exercise our competitiveness, while simultaneously humbling ourselves …

As collegiate athletes it is easy to find ourselves unconsciously consumed by our sport. We can become infatuated with our intimate world of athletics thus, losing sight of the many blessings we have here as athletes at the University of Florida. On March 24, 2012 our team traveled to Orlando and participated in a spring tournament at the University of Central Florida. However, this tournament was different than most, being that it supported a nonprofit organization committed to helping families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Before we arrived we were notified that we would eventually taking a group picture, in support of the cause, with all the teams and children. However, aside from that we remained largely unaware of the ways in which this tournament would serve as a humbling blessing. In the lobby, outside of the court’s main doors, were poster presentations sharing information about being deaf and hard of hearing. Next to the posters was a group of radiating young children that came on behalf of the organization. There were playing and laughing, with fearless smiles decorating their faces.

This tournament was special because it allowed us to be apart of a cause far greater than ourselves. The children who came on behalf of the organization were altogether lively, full of joy and pleasantly energetic as they tumbled and ran around the courts. These beautiful children in no way showed that they were hindered by their disability, and were instead happy to spend time with us and watch us compete. Though the phrase is commonplace, it remains true for us in describing the experience…we really had the ‘best of both worlds’ that day, because we got another opportunity to play the sport we love, while being humbled as a result of our heightened sense of appreciation. Days like these are what make collegiate athletics a special culture to be apart of. While there remained a high spirit of competition throughout the day, as we engaged in round robin play with various other Florida schools, we couldn’t help but maintain a deep internal joyfulness.

As a college athlete it’s always rewarding to have the opportunity to be apart of competition for a greater cause. Being a Gator doesn’t simply mean excelling in the classroom and in our sport, it also means serving our community and larger society in an effort to become more socially conscious. Regardless of any statistical results of the day, any time that we can help children to live out their dreams in the midst of any challenges they face… THAT, for us, is a great day to be a Florida Gator!