For sophomore club volleyball player Emma Shogren, her favorite place to be is out of her comfort zone. According to Shogren, the best thing that motto gave her was volleyball.
“Volleyball is my comfort space, it’s a safe space for me,” Shogren said. “I’ve just had a good experience, all of high school meeting new people and playing the sport, and I needed to find those people here.”
Shogren started playing volleyball her first year of high school, when she tried out and made the c-team at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington. She had moved two hours east from Sequim, Washington, for high school and was hoping to make friends on the team. What she didn’t expect was a newfound passion for a sport she had never tried.
Shogren stuck with volleyball through high school, making the junior varsity team her sophomore year and varsity her junior year while trying out with an injured ankle. She joined Washington Volleyball Academy as a sophomore and loved the relationships she had built with her coaches and teammates from other schools.
“They were just an amazing club with a really nice facility and just made me feel included,” Shogren said.
Shogren said that when she started at Gonzaga University in fall of 2021, college life was so overwhelming that the thought of playing club volleyball didn’t cross her mind. Being lab partners with last year’s club volleyball president motivated her to attend an open gym session, where she realized how much she missed it.
Shogren now has a full season at GU under her belt and is excited to get back on the court in the fall. She loves being able to enjoy the sport with other girls who have that same passion.
“I love it when my friend does an amazing kill — I want to see my teammates, my friends, play at their absolute best and just demolishing the ball,” Shogren said. “I want them to be the center of attention. I want the best for my teammates. As an athlete, I just love to motivate.”
Shogren’s teammate, sophomore nursing major Kylie Corcoran, said Shogren is always cheering the loudest and has helped Corcoran improve her skills with one-on-one attention.
“Emma is not only an amazing volleyball player because of her skill, but also because of her leadership and encouragement on and off the court,” Corcoran said. “She is by far one of the most positive and kind people I know as well as the most hardworking.”
Shogren plays the middle blocker position, which is situated in the middle of the front row. She loves the position because of the ability to do trick plays, which she wasn’t able to do as much on her high school team.
“That’s one of the things I’ve been having so much fun with in club, because all my friends are willing to do trick plays and we can trust each other to try something new or something out of our comfort zone,” Shogren said.
Shogren played tennis for nine years prior to trying out for the volleyball team, but experienced ableism from the coach at Edmonds who referred to her as “that deaf girl.” Though she had considered trying to play in a professional league, she quit tennis for good after tough discussions with her coaches from Sequim and her family, who supported her decision to prioritize herself.
Shogren was born fully deaf due to bilateral mondini malformation, a condition that occurs when there is a disruption in the development of the inner ear during the seventh week of gestation. Cochlear implants in both ears help her with sound perception, which she got when she was 2 and 4 years old. She confidently knows half of American Sign Language, but typically relies on reading lips when communicating with others in the deaf community.
COVID-19 provided a whole new challenge to Shogren, with masks blocking her ability to read lips. She adapted to the added challenge by putting her dominant ear, her left ear, to the person speaking and asked them to repeat themselves. Her family also wore clear masks so she could read their lips when needed.
“It was definitely difficult [with masks], but it also helped me grow as a person,” Shogren said. “Growing up I had a hard time advocating for myself, but during the pandemic I was more like ‘no, you’re a person with a disability, you have the right to ask for more.’ It just helped me not be afraid to speak up for myself.”
Shogren finds a lot of support from her family, and is especially close with her aunt and grandma, who live in Seattle. Shogren’s grandma emigrated from Thailand and Shogren calls her “yai,” the loose Thai translation for grandma.
Shogren has two tattoos, both of which mean a lot to her. She has a red ink elephant that matches with her aunt, honoring their Thai heritage and special relationship.
“[My aunt is] my biggest motivator right now,” Shogren said. “I go to her for advice and she’s one of the smartest, most passionate people I know.”
The second tattoo is a bouquet of flowers covering up a faded stick and poke tattoo, which she said symbolizes growth. She has plans to get a third tattoo of a bouquet of flowers in honor of her yai, who gave Shogren bouquets of flowers from her garden throughout her childhood.
Shogren also joined GU’s Alpha Kappa Psi chapter last fall, which she said has been a really fun experience. She is majoring in accounting and business with a concentration in business analytics and a minor in Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program. She is planning on staying for a fifth year at GU to become a certified public accountant.