Betsy Bailey - Volleyball
Hometown: Vicksburg, Michigan
Current Residence: Lyon, France
Pro/Elite since: 2006
Favorite fruit: Probably bananas, but really, I don't think I've ever had a fruit that I don't like!
Favorite veggie: Mushrooms, carrots, kale, spinach, all of them :)
Hobbies/Other sports: I love music (playing the guitar, piano and singing). I enjoy playing and watching almost any sport- soccer would have to come in 2nd after volleyball, and then basketball and tennis.
1. When and why did you choose to stop eating animal products?
To make a long story short, around the age of 15, I stopped eating red meat in an effort to be healthier. I had always been a rather health-conscious kid and began discovering the horrors of meat production in the US as far as the use of growth hormones and antibiotics go. That struck me as unnatural, and meat was gradually unappealing to me. After I fully stopped eating meat, I realized that there was no good reason to continue eating other animal products for the same reason, so I gradually cut out cheese, eggs, etc., as well. Now, I realize and support all of the other benefits of living a vegan lifestyle (reducing my negative impact on the environment, living cruelty-free, etc), and I not only stay away from eating animal products, but also from purchasing leather shoes, for example, or wool sweaters. I feel much better about myself knowing that I haven't killed living creatures for my own convenience, tastes or comfort. Fortunately, a lot of athletic shoes and even volleyballs are made from synthetic materials now. That's the subject of my blog at www.veganvolleyballer.com.
2. What has been your experience as a vegan athlete? Have you noticed any performance or health benefits or problems?
I didn't notice any big health benefits until I actually started cooking real food. When I first went vegan, I ate a lot of meals in a box and microwave stuff because I didn't really know how to cook. Eventually, I started eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and since then I hardly every get colds anymore! I have stayed quite injury free throughout most of my career. I can't really say that's a result of my diet, but I believe it helps!
3. Have teammates and other athletes been supportive or critical?
That totally depends on where I am. In college, there were a few other veggies on the team, but we were still given a hard time from our strength and conditioning coaches. However, we were the strongest on the team, so they couldn't give us too much trouble! When I played in Germany, it was quite accepted and there was one other veggie on the team. In France, most people think I'm crazy. My first season there, when my coach discovered that I was vegan, he told me I MUST eat pasta every day for energy. I told him that if I seem to be lacking energy in training or matches, then he could tell me what to eat! I do think people are slowly becoming more aware of the vegan concept in France and there is already a high demand for organic and local foods there, which is great.
4. A brief history of your athletic career.
I participated in a lot of sports growing up and played on some travel soccer and elite volleyball teams while in high school. I was then recruited to play volleyball at a junior college where we finished 9th in the nation, which led me to be recruited to play NCAA Division I volleyball. My senior year of college, I also played Division I tennis. Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no professional indoor volleyball league, so once you're finished playing in college, you either quit, play in rec leagues, or go to another country to play. Though I still wanted to play after college, I felt like I needed to get started on a "real" career, so I moved to New York City and worked for 4 years in marketing research before deciding to go on a tryout to play professionally overseas. I'm now in my 4th season playing in Europe. This past summer, I also started playing beach volleyball in the Midwest Professional Volleyball Association tournaments. I hadn't played much beach in the past and am looking forward to improving and taking my beach game to the next level in the upcoming years.
5. Most memorable results or achievements (top 5):
Wow, this is kind of hard when you play a team sport, because individual results aren't quite as measurable. I do consider giving up my life in New York City and making a team in Europe one of my biggest achievements. I had to work very hard to get back into competitive shape after only playing in rec leagues for 4 years. Getting a scholarship to play in college is also on the top of my list.
6. Why did you join OA's PRO-Activist team?
I think it's great that OA exists. One reason more and more athletes are giving the plant-based diet a shot and really thriving on it is because there are some great resources out there, such as OA, that help guide athletes in the right direction. The fact that there are so many pro athletes doing well in their fields while on a plant-based diet is really exciting and OA helps spread the word that you can be strong, powerful, focused, etc, while on this type of diet. Also, as a vegan athlete, it's great to know that I'm not alone. Though I love proving those traditionalist coaches wrong, it's also great to know there is a community of like-minded people and that I don't always have to defend my lifestyle.