Park Pirate finds balance between sports and academics

“My older sister is the one who made me want to start playing volleyball,” said Natalya Nalivaiko, senior multimedia journalism and public relations major.

The two sisters would go out and play their sport together in the driveway or street during nice weather. Her older sister played for her high school’s varsity volleyball team while Nalivaiko was just starting out.

Nalivaiko enjoyed the basics her sister taught her and tried to learn all she could. Being 10 years younger than her sister, Nalivaiko knew she could learn a lot from her.

Now, at 21, Nalivaiko puts those lessons to use for the women’s beach volleyball team at Park University. While doing that, she also focuses on school and maintains a high GPA. On top of that, she also works as a recreation assistant at the Sandbox, a bar and grill with sand volleyball and pickleball courts. However, all of these responsibilities can be a lot to juggle for a college student.

Nalivaiko has always aimed for greatness. She grew up loving school.

“I was always really excited to go back to school,” said Nalivaiko.

She said enjoyed the structure, organization and was always looking forward to learning something new.

She worked hard and always did well in school, growing up. She continued this passion throughout her college years saying, “I will always put my best effort into it.”

It wasn’t just school where Nalivaiko fought to succeed; she also had to put her best effort into volleyball.

She started playing in a rec league at 8 years old. As she played more, she discovered that volleyball meant more to her than just a connection with her sister. Nalivaiko said, “I just really started to love it as I played it more.”

She played for her school throughout middle school and high school. She also played club during her school’s off-season. She enjoyed building relationships with the girls on her team and feeling a part of something while playing the sport she loved, so she decided to work toward playing in college.

She looked at multiple schools, but none seemed to fit. After hearing that a girl from her school had signed to play for Park, she began looking at the school as an option for her future. She liked the program, and they were willing to give her an athletic scholarship, so she decided to become a Park Pirate volleyball player.

Nalivaiko was very excited to begin her Park academic and athletic career on a new team. She started out on the reserve team for volleyball, and they won most of their games. She enjoyed the team and wanted to see herself improve.

“I was really excited to move up and to reach my goals,” said Nalivaiko.

One goal that she reached was in 2019, when she was named to the AMC Academic All-Conference for indoor volleyball. She also decided to switch to primarily be a beach volleyball player to reach more of her goals.

Volleyball wasn’t the only decision Nalivaiko had to make. She also had to decide on a major.

She knew that she enjoyed writing and wanted to find a major that used those talents. After taking her liberal education classes during freshman year, she decided to specialize in multimedia journalism and public relations.

This has been a challenging major for her, but she has also found it to be rewarding and enjoyable.

“I get to talk to new people and learn more about them or things that I didn’t know before,” she said.

It’s especially interesting to her to learn about why people do or think specific things. She likes finding these small details that people might not care about and giving them a purpose in her stories.

While finding her way in school, she also continues to focus on volleyball. However, doing both well at the same time has been a struggle for Nalivaiko. She said that it’s challenging to find energy for both aspects of her life. She sometimes feels like she lacks enthusiasm for the sport that she used to love. Nevertheless, she still works hard to succeed in all aspects of her life.

She said, “I try to stay as positive as possible and believe that favor will return to me later on.”

She said that she tries to be a good person while balancing both aspects so that she will have good karma as she works to achieve her goals.

Nalivaiko will graduate in May 2021 from Park University and will have played volleyball all four years of college. She plans to go into public relations where she will have to use the lessons that she learned balancing school with athletics. She knows that she would have never learned these lessons if her sister hadn’t inspired her to start volleyball all those years ago.