15 | How Penn St. Dominated The NCAA 4X In A Row with Arielle WILSON

#15 How Penn St. Dominated The NCAA 4X In A Row with Arielle WILSON

Athlete Case Study: USA 4x NCAA Champion, Pro & Recent National Team Volleyball Player 

Dec 20, 2014

Photo Credit: 

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I had to have Arie on because she's a selfless soul that gives and gives and gives... Reminds me of another midwesterner and my "adopted" sister Therese Crawford of Team USA too. My point is that the midwest produces some of the friendliest people in the USA. I had to present her to others so they can learn from a truly humble champion and hear where she came from to understand why that is such a huge thing!

Arie and I go back because: 

A; We both grew up in Chicago. She grew up in the suburb next to my super safe and super clean and super enriching neighborhood.. haha. No, really. I have so much respect for anyone that makes it out of the rough areas of big cities because the odd are COMPLETELY against it.
B: She's a baddass volleyball player and is a middle which was my first position.
C: We both played for Team USA national team...
D. We both played in Indonesia together...


Born, Arielle Dwan WILSON, from Maywood, IL on January 3rd, 1989.

She is an only child but has two half-sisters she's close to still.

Went to Proviso East high school known for the production of basketball players.

Was the first volleyball player to get her jersey retired. Attended Penn State, where she started as a freshman and won four NCAA National Championships.

After college she begin her overseas career in Poland (Impel Wroclaw - Champion;s League Team) where she won MVP for a tournament and then spent 2 years in Baku, Azerbaijan, a short stint in Indonesia and now playing in Italy for Nordmecchanica Piacenza in Champion's League.

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Her life and being able to play the sport she loves aborad.


Everything happens for a reason. -Anon.



Key Discussion Points:

  • What’s her story and how she got into sports?
  • When did she have a big failure?
  • What was it like being on a 4x championship team?
  • Why did she choose her pro teams?
  • What is she most excited about?

Key Lessons:

  • Sometimes you just got to be present...

"I’m just here to play…"

  • Being on a dominant team takes heart & passion/ & The Struggle!
  • Focusing on the moment is most important
  • Find a way to just get it done is how to succeed...
Listen here now or go to iTunes/Sticher (55m:46s)


What was holding her back from becoming better?
Fear of 

How She gets rid of negative thoughts:

Sleep & Morning ritual: 

How does she adjust to a new city and/or team?

Recommended App:

Name THE person you feel has been MOST influential in your life to reach higher and be better?
My boyfriend Terrill

A learning resource you love to use...
I love being in Cali with the USA national team

Give a tool/habit you love to use to stay healthy:
Overseas i find that i eat healthier and I also use my family to motivate me to continue to be healthy

A useful tool or tip for eating on the go -OR- for traveling in general?
Grab a piece of fruit. It has been the most healthiest and helpful tip I can think of 

Most Grateful For:

Key Person In Her Life:


Charity/Organizations They Add Value to:
I give or help with camps at the local high schools and volunteer with colleges to also make sure I'm spreading knowledge

Pro Volleyball

Past/Current Teams: 
Nordmechanica Piacenza (ITALY)

Recommended Guest:

Follow Athlete Here:
FacebookInstagram | Twitter

Definition of Beyond Athletic?






13 | The Only Way To Make Yourself Happy with Ning "Nikki" Zhao

Listen to the FULL EPISODE NOW (32m:19s)

Ning Zhao doesn't mess around when it comes to strangers approaching her online but after a thorough background check on who I am (Ryan Jay Owens) with her former NCAA D1 coach, Chris POOLE, and a big thumbs up that I was not some crazy person she agreed to this interview with a lot of excitement!

She's been waiting a long time to tell someone her story to hopefully inspire other athletes to be goal oriented and not just think sports can offer them everything. Sometimes you must also drastically change your surroundings, like she did moving from China as an 18 year old to the USA, to play at a strong school so her education would be strong as well as volleyball.


Ning Zhao or "NIkki" as many refer to her was born Aug 20, 1976 in Beijing, China. 
She started to play volleyball as a nine (9) year old (!!!!)...

She made the Chinese junior national team which was only 12 of the best young players in China (1.39 Billion people populate China! 4x more than the USA) before quickly deciding at 18 years old to not pursue the Olympics...

She decided to pursue making sure her future after volleyball would be happy, healthy and full of opportunity and accepted a full scholarship to study & play in the USA.

She started at Central Connecticut State university but quickly changed to Barton Community College for 2 years where she was a 2x All American. In her final 2 years of school at U of Arkansas -Fayetteville they were ranked 15th & 8th in the nation as a team.. making the Sweet 16 the 2nd Round of the NCAA tournament.

She was ranked the 9th best setter in NCAA D1 volleyball her senior year & is one of only 3 players to hold the record of 3000 assists. She was honored with SEC 1st Team & AVCA All American,

Now she's "a full time mommy" of a 9yr old boy and 2year old daughter after benign off and on assistant coach for a few years after her collegiate volleyball career. She plans on possibly coaching in the future and/or assisting young Chinese players to get to USA schools to play sports.

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Listen to the FULL EPISODE NOW (32m:19s)

Most Grateful For:

The chance to study & play in the USA!

Personal Motto:

"Smile! I don't own all the problems in the world!"
Read: The 7 Rules Of Life

Most Influential Person In Her Life: 

Former Syracuse Coach Jing Ju. He scouted & brought her to the USA but left her 3 months later to switch schools... "Without him I wouldn't be the strong person I am today!"

Key Discussion Points:

  • What’s her story and how she got into sports?
  • Who is she today after her volleyball career?
  • What was her biggest failure?
  • Why was it important that she go to a school in the USA?
  • What's her proudest moment?
  • What are her future goals?
  • What was the moment she decided to study in the USA?
  • How does she add value to people?
  • What's her next goal?

Key Lessons:

  • She must think about her future

"What am I going to do after I retire from volleyball? We needed to get some education...I needed other life skills other than volleyball."

  • Studying and playing volleyball in the USA is a huge opportunity.

"I saw the opportunities getting a good education besides volleyball... so I decided to come."

  • How graduating from a USA college is why she is a happily married mother of two.
  • Failing can make you stronger.

"First you have to have a strong mind. You have to believe in yourself and be strong. I don't need (the coach). I don't need anyone (to do it for me)."

"Just believe in yourself and there's always nice people around you."

  • Do what you love on a daily basis to be happy

"Cooking is AWESOME but so is volleyball!"

  • She is interested in coaching and also helping young players come the study & play in the USA.
  • Some little things can make people feel much better
  • She should be more goal oriented.
Listen to the FULL EPISODE NOW (32m:19s)


Sleep & Morning ritual: 
Drinking a glass of water every morning & SMILE!

One personal habit to contributes to athlete's health:
Cooking and playing volleyball

Athlete's Learning Resource:

Most grateful for:
The opportunity to study & play for a USA school.

How athlete add's value to others:
Smiling. Tapping them on the shoulder and just giving them a high five when they are stressed.
Believes something little can make someone feel "much better"

Athlete's travel tools:
Phone & Passport

Advice to 16yr old self:
"Be MORE goal oriented!"


Charity/Organizations They Add Value to:
Helping young student athletes come to study in the USA

Full time mom

Past/Current Teams: 
Central Connecticut State University
Barton Community College
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville 

Recommended Guest:

Follow Athlete Here:
Facebook | E-mail Ryan | Pinterest

Definition of Beyond Athletic?

"Sports is NOT the only way to make a person happy! You can't play forever, you must find other passions. There's a whole other world besides the sport you're in..." For example "Family.. Cooking.. Traveling..."



12 | Why You Should Get Out Of Bed To Fail Everyday with Mia JERKOV

Athlete Case Study: Croatian Pro & National Team Volleyball Player 

Dec 5, 2014

Listen Now (1h:01m:21s)

Back in 2011 we met in South Korea as players in their V-League. While in Croatia on a mini-vacay with two puppies three young girls & a husband/wife staying in a cute village near Split named the Kaštela's.

She invited me to check out the city a few times during my mnth stay and we got to know eachother a bit better. She got that stern look but she a softie for sure!

Brief Bio 

She grew up in Split, Croatia (one of the most beautiful areas of th southern Croatian coast....) as a daughter of a mother whose rules are never broken, a famous basketball player father and two brothers the focus was on being a complete person & well educated. Worked a bit at the family pizzeria as a kid. Learned to respect money and keep herself & her home tidy.

Was a really skinny and weak kid but fast... picked up tennis & swimming.... through constant boring & lonely without friends travel with her parents a change had to made...

A coach wouldn' t stop calling her even though she had reservations and relaly no idea of what volleyball was like...

She had to live 12hrs away from her family to pursue volleyball and that was the toughest decision of her life at 15yrs old.

  • Played for Split, Kastela then OK Istarska Banka, Pula Croatia ending in 2nd or 3rd every year for 4 years...
  • University in USA @ UC Berkeley for 3 years.
  • Russia half season 1st place in championship & cup…& ¼ finals of CL
  • A1 Italy a couple seasons.
  • UC Berkeley for last year & degree. Couldn’t play… WHY?
  • Italy w/ 2nd place in A2 trophy, Korea (picking up a cup title & 2nd place in championship) & Turkey for 2 seasons selected Best Scorer 2x of Turkish league… Now Japan! 
  • National team since 1995 w/ Multiple European  & World Championship & World Cup experiences…
Listen Now (1h:01m:21s)

Guest's Quote: 
"Believe in your dreams" -Her Mother

RJO's Quote:
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” -Anatole France

Most Influential Person in Life:  

Mother.. not because she pushed her to reach higher... Mia pushed herself.  It's because she made her have courage to pursue her dreams, so she would always have strength to reach higher and do better. 



Listen Now (1h:01m:21s)


✓    How long to do sleep & What’s your morning ritual? 

  • 7hrs minimum but tries for 8!
  • Brush teeth, coffee, stretch, eat & arrive to training 40 minutes early.

✓    A book or learning resource you love to use to learn new things
Flipboard News App, books & the Bible.

✓    A tool (item/product or action) you love to use to stay healthy or improve yourself in someway:
Foam Roller & Stretching

✓    Something you must take when traveling?

  1. travel roller 
  2. laptop /phone
  3. books

✓    What book would you give away to an athlete as a gift & why?
Zlatanov Ibrahimovic Biography

✓    A cause or thing/action you like to do to add value to other peoples lives that you either know or dont know at all:
Always be kind & polite regardless of people's behavior. "Can move mountains!"

✓    What advice would you give to your 15 year old self? Your 20 year old self?
15yr: "Have courage & go in direction of your heart!"
20yr: "Have confidence!"

✓    Your social media accounts @username on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc) 
Twitter:  @miaj55 | Instagram: @miaj5 | Facebook: Mia Jerkov

Definition of Beyond Athletic?

"Day by Day be a better person & athlete while maintaining moral values... Build something of quality and maintain it!"

People who put excellence in the first place have the patience to end up with success. An additional burden for the victim of the success mentality is that he is threatened by the success of others and he resents real excellence. In contrast, the person that is fascinated by quality is excited when he sees it in others.
— Joe Paterno (Penn St. Nittany Lions Football)

11 | Don't Be Afraid To Change Your Life Before Going Pro with Milica KUBURA (Part 2)

Listen NOW to the FULL EPISODE! (30m:26s)

How many 14 years old leave their country to study abroad? Well Milica KUBURA is one of them…

She contact me through my sports agency Elite Volley Agency & non-profit Elite Sport Students project.

She asked for help getting to a US college. I told her she shouldn’t have to pay an agent OR ANYONE for doing any of this because her education is MOST important. We put together a CV with her transcripts & all other documents. I sent it off to my network in the USA of over 1400 coaches and she received in the next weeks a TON of interest. JACKPOT! 

Well what made her decide to go to the US? Why did she live alone in Italy as a Serbian girl at the age of 14? Find out in this episode. 

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Listen NOW to the FULL EPISODE! (30m:26s)

About Milica KUBURA

This is the 2nd part of episode 7 with Milica KUBURA of Florida State University Seminole women's sand & indoor teams.

She is a 19 year old from Serbia who lived in Italy alone at 14 years old for school... and now again in the USA.

She is a former Serbian Junior National Team player.

Talks about her reasons for leaving Serbia for her education and more opportunities than Serbia can provide for her.Give tips and advice about how to do what she did, what makes her successful and daily routines.

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Listen NOW to the FULL EPISODE! (30m:26s)

Key Discussion Points:

Part 1: 

Part 2:

  • What were your fears/worries before going to the USA?
  • What was a lightbulb moment that changed your life?
  • What's a typical day & week @ school in the USA?
  • What level is Division 1 NCAA school volleyball in the USA?
  • What's your advice for student-athletes?
  • How do you add value to people?
  • What's your next goal?

Key Lessons:

Part 1:

Part 2:

  • America offered more than she ever imagined.

"I had no idea of the US... where I would go... how things work... will i fit in the team?"

  • The best opportunity is always recognized publicly by others.

"When I decided to come to completely changed my life!"

  • Routines are important to her success.
  • Watching video of herself playing is "extremely helpful."
  • The level of play in US D1 NCAA volleyball is much higher than expected

"Lots of people (in Serbia) think school (in America) is a joke but that's NOT it at all... It's just BETTER ORGANIZED... So things seem easier"

  • Many players go from US schools into top professional clubs
  • Make changes if you want to live a great life that you want

"I think everybody should believe in ourselves... and follow our minds & hearts. I know that lots of people are afraid to make changes in their lives BUT THEY SHOULDN'T. "

"Don't be afraid to change your life!"

  • Find people that do what you're interested in and talk with them about it.

"I encourage people to talk to people that are already (in the US) because that helps a lot!"

Listen NOW to the FULL EPISODE! (30m:26s)


One personal habit to contributes to athlete's health:
Drinking a glass of hot water every morning.

Overcomes fear of failure by:
Taking "centering breaths" 

  • 6-7 second breath in thru your nose & 8-10 seconds out through your mouth.
    "I tried it and it REALLY helps!" - Milica Kubura
  • Smiling
  • Singing in her head

Athlete's advice:
Not To Stress about anything. "Everything happens for a reason... & since I started thinking of that everything is much easier."

Best Advice ever received:
"If you work hard nobody can stop you & there are people who are gonna hate you because you're successful.. or people are gonna talk bad about you BUT at the end of the day the MOST important thing is YOUR opinion of about yourself & what YOU are doing... How much effort are you putting in your work... and EVERY SINGLE THING IS GOING TO PAY OFF!"

Athlete's Learning Resource: (Mental Training & More by Former Olympic Serbian)

Most grateful for:
Support from her family.

How athlete add's value to others:
Community Service
Talking to people everyday & getting to know them

Athlete's favorite hobby:


Charity/Organizations They Add Value to:
Schools & Children's Hospitals by visiting and talking to young children

None. Student-Athlete

Past/Current Teams: 
Red Star (Crvena Zvezda, Belgrade, Serbia), Serbian JR National Team & Florida State University (Indoor & Sand Teams)

Past Schools:

Recommended Guest:

Follow Athlete Here:
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Florida State University Profile


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