Lake Region State College sophomore Precious Rawlins has allowed volleyball to see how big the world is outside of her native Hawaiian home.
Back on August 16, the Lake Region State College volleyball team posted a video onto Facebook a symbolism of love that was unlike the usual social media memes. It was a dance — more specifically — a Hula dance.
“Songs have particular dances,” said sophomore Precious Rawlins, who performed the dance in front of her teammates that particular August night. “That song makes you comfortable.
It showed love.” It was just a slice of who Rawlins is … of where she’s from.
Rawlins is from the island of Moloka’i, the center most island of the Hawaiian Island Chain. Moloka’i is where the Makahiki, native Hawaiian version of the Olympic Games, originated. Makahiki is one of the unique culture identities of Moloka’i.
“Our language is dying but we ended up bring it,” Rawlins said. “We speak Hawaiian (a form of the Polynesian language) but with just a little modification so our language changed a little.”
Another culture festival is the Merrie Monarch, where hālau, or dancing groups, come together to showcase the culture represented. It was in a hālau where Rawlins was groomed as a dancer, where she learned how to be the physical embodiment of the story the music is telling.
“I started when I was six were you’re just learning the basics at that age,” Rawlins said. “When I finally moved up, I joined a hālau that would go away and perform.”
Rawlins never got the chance to travel beyond the island border with her hālau, (“I was too young then”), but something else gave her that opportunity — volleyball.
Rawlins began playing after school and summer club volleyball as a middle schooler. Those programs developed her enough that once she was nearing the conclusion of her high school education, her counselor pulled her to the side.
“He was like, ‘there is a school that’s looking for a setter and if you really want to go into sports, you have to think about it.’ I never really thought about playing college ball until that then,” Rawlins said. “I told my mom and she was like, ‘it’s your choice.’
“I love playing volleyball so I decided to come (to Lake Region State College).”
Moloka’i is a 15 hour flight (plus connections) from Devils Lake so a recruiting trip was impossible. Rawlins told of how video of her matches helped Royals head coach Brigitte Greywater in deciding upon bringing Rawlins into her program. Greywater has a different take.
“The film was so slow because it went through the email instead of having a hyperlink to it that I could barely watch it,”said Greywater. “But talking to her on the phone, she was very receptive, communicated well and that was the thing for me that said that this kid really wants it.
“Just as how we are as coach and player, she’s always given me her best effort and I’ve always appreciate that about her,” Greywater said.
“She’s a Royal through and through,” continued Greywater. “I know that she’s 100 percent sold on this program and this school. She’s been a great addition and I really love her to death.”
Volleyball has given Rawlins so much beyond wins, losses and the number hittable balls she delivers on the court. Volleyball has — given her the world.
“I never really noticed how big the world was. Like, it’s really big. When you travel to different colleges, and you play against different teams you get to experience more,” Rawlins said. “After my two years here, I could probably transfer to another school that we’ve just been at and get more experience from that school.
“I do love the sport of volleyball but I feel like after (this year) can take a pause in volleyball and focus more on my education.”
Volleyball has also given Rawlins’ family something to cherish.
“I’m the first one from my family to go to college and finish the first two years. So being the first to graduate with an associates degree and graduate from college, I do know that I make my family proud,” Rawlins said. “They’ll able to understand that there is so much more than just being stuck in Hawaii.”
Rawlins wants to major in biology, a subject that she picked up back in Hawaii while taking it as a college credit in high school.
But from there?
“I don’t know what the future holds for me. Maybe even down the line I’ll be coaching or something.”
She has a world of time to figure it out.
Chris Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ