It is just minutes before the onset of the Pottstown Rumble. Hundreds of players gather 'round, as they have done every year for the previous 30 years. It is a mundane routine, one in which everyone is all-too-familiar: here are your pools, here are your courts, don’t miss your reffing assignments, go play.
Except Aurora Davis has a question.
"What," she wonders, "are the rules?" Her partner, Lydia Smith, laughs.
"You showed up to Pottstown and didn't know the rules?" Smith recalls thinking that morning. Yes, Aurora Davis showed up to Pottstown without knowing the rules. She showed up without having ever played doubles on the grass. Didn't know if a block touch counted, if the scoring was side out or rally, if it were matches or single sets.
She showed up, really, without knowing much of anything about grass volleyball.
And then she won the dang thing.
Just Aurora being Aurora.
If there is one thing you must know about Aurora Davis, it is this: She loves volleyball. Any kind of volleyball. On a beach. In a gym. On grass. She loves it in wind and rain and sun and, should she get the opportunity, it would not be surprising to see her compete on the snow.
Volleyball has been the drumbeat of her life, for all 30 years of it. She was raised playing the game, competing in her first AVP as a teenager in 2010. Despite standing just 5-foot-8, in her lone season at the State College of Florida, she led the nation in kills and was the Suncoast Conference Player of the Year.
In her first year on the beach at Florida State, the inaugural year in which beach volleyball was a collegiate sport, she was named All-America and went 22-2-1 on court one alongside Brittany Tiegs. She has won tournaments in Florida and tournaments in Thailand and tournaments in Bulgaria and tournaments in far-out places you have never heard of, say a pinprick of a map dot named Bonaire, where she claimed a gold medal in a NORCECA with Allie Wheeler.
So if you're at all surprised that Aurora Davis could show up to the Pottstown Rumble, to play a tournament in which she didn't know the rules, the biggest grass tournament of the year, no less, in a format that was novel for her at the time, well, by this point, you shouldn't be.
"I just love playing," Davis said. "It's so hard to not play."
Most remarkable, perhaps, about all of Davis' success, is that she's been able to do it while having three children. She was just seven weeks out of pregnancy with her first when she began competing again.
"I think I've learned throughout each pregnancy, but I remember thinking that, especially after my first, that it was taking so long, especially not knowing what I can do," Davis said. "I didn't want to hurt my baby. But I've been learning throughout, so with this last pregnancy, I was practicing three or four days a week up until giving birth. That helped me to bounce back quicker. I've definitely learned a lot with each one."
They're a traveling troupe of volleyball enthusiasts, the Davises. Her mother loves volleyball as much as Aurora, and her husband, Josh, is the personification of the supportive spouse. There you'll see them, the full Davis clan, at every tournament, three kids, a husband, and a grandmother, watching mom win tournaments. They traveled to Bulgaria and Sochi, Russia, to Bonaire and Pottstown, and everywhere in between.
Davis wonders, sometimes, how different her career could have been, had she waited to have kids. How much more could she have accomplished Tournaments played and won? Could she have achieved AVP glory, climbed the international ranks?
But all it takes is one look at her kids and she knows: There is no accomplishment greater than that.
"The fact that I have three kids still blows my mind. I love it. Coming into it, a lot of the people who are at the top of the sport now have so many more achievements than me," Davis said. "I'm having to build myself back up after each pregnancy, and I would have liked to have achieved so much more by now, but then I look at all of their little faces. They're better than any achievement I could have at this point."
They're wonderful parents, the Davises, truly. And already, you can see the next generation of them perfecting their platforms, bumping balls around, living the volleyball life that has been such a blessing to Aurora and her family.
"My mom loves volleyball as much as we do so they love spending the day with her," Davis said. "It's been our life since our first was born so they're just used to it and they do so well. It's impressive how well they do."
And they’ll continue doing well because Davis will keep on playing in any country or state or surface in which volleyball is being played. Because Aurora Davis plays volleyball, whether she knows the rules or not.
~ Travis Mewhirter: @trammew