By RICK PETERSON
Kaylee Manns loves playing volleyball.
But the former Washburn Rural state champion and multi-time Iowa State All-America setter never dreamed she'd still be playing professionally at 33 years old or that the sport would open the doors it has for her around the world.
"I literally remember saying to one of my really good friends that played at KU, 'I don't want to be that girl that's 30 and still playing,' and here we are,' '' Manns told TopSports.news.
But Manns, a three-sport star at Washburn Rural before concentrating on volleyball at Iowa State, has absolutely no complaints, thankful for every opportunity and experience the sport has provided.
Manns was named the Topeka Shawnee County overall senior female prep athlete of the year in 2006, is a member of the Kansas Volleyball Association Hall of Fame and has played professionally for more than a decade after finishing a record-setting career at Iowa State, with stints in Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Albania, the Phillipines and Puerto Rico.
"I didn't even know this was possible,'' Manns said. "I didn't even know you could play overseas. I went to college and I was like, 'OK, I guess I'm going to play volleyball here and I'll see how it goes.'
"The sport has grown so much that there's a lot more opportunities. I had no idea. Not even a thought in my mind.''
Most recently Manns, who now lives in Grand Rapids, Mich. after getting married to former USA National Team member Graham Mcilvaine this summer, played in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited league in February and March and has re-upped for a second season.
"I definitely still enjoy it,'' Manns said. "I'm done with the nine months, 10 months overseas for sure, but thankfully Athletes Unlimited happened and I can play in the states and it might in Kansas City this year I believe. I think it's between Kansas City and Dallas, so that would be really cool.
"I know the athletes and the season is like six weeks, which is pretty great. You just go really hard for six weeks and you play three matches a week, all over the weekend. It's so nice.''
Manns, who TopSports.news named the top volleyball athlete in Shawnee County history last month, will have another opportunity to celebrate her life in volleyball in late October when she is inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame.
Even though she was a two-time All-Big 12 first-team pick, a two-time All-American and helped the Cyclones reach the NCAA Tournament four times, Manns was caught by surprise when she got word from Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard that she had been selected for the Hall of Fame.
"Absolutely,'' Manns said. "I saw that I had a missed call from Ames and he left a voice mail and I was like, 'I have no idea what this could be about.' Normally when an AD calls you you're like, 'Oh, I'm in trouble. What did I do? Why is he calling me?'
"But then he said (on the voice message) that he had some really exciting news and I knew it had to be something good. I called him back and he said, 'These are my favorite calls to make.' It's awesome.''
While continuing her playing career, Manns is also involved on the business side of the sport, launching a company that is focused on helping young athletes improve their skills while attracting the attention of college programs.
"I'll do like recruiting events and stuff in the spring and some in the summer and then we run a ton of clinics in the summer,'' Manns said. "We did like 50 in two and a half months this year. It was crazy.
"We run like three-hour clinics before tournaments and I pay college coaches to be on court with the kids. I'm really passionate about the D-II, D-III, NAIA kid because that's the majority and there's so many kids playing volleyball now that it's hard to be seen or noticed or recruited. It's just really difficult.''
While volleyball is her focus now, Manns continues to be a fan of multi-sport athletes after earning All-City and All-Centennial League honors in volleyball, basketball and soccer at Washburn Rural.
You need to expose yourself to everything to see what you like,'' Manns said. "I still enjoyed playing basketball, I still enjoyed playing soccer, so why would I stop? It kept me in shape and I liked to compete, so there was really no point in stopping.''
Fifteen years after leaving Rural, Manns still hasn't found a reason to end her career in athletics.
"I'm more than satisfied with what I've done,'' she said. "I don't have anything left to prove really, I just still enjoy playing.''