Diggin’ life

Watch five minutes of a U volleyball match and it’s not hard to see where the Utes get a large portion of their energy from. Just look for the player in the different-colored shirt.

Whether it’s diving for another dig, leading a foot-stomping cheer after every Utah ace, or doing her patented hop after her teammates polish off another kill, Connie Dangerfield is the energetic pulse of the U volleyball team.

But her effort on the volleyball court is just small example of the energy Dangerfield has for life.

“Outgoing and crazy” are the words Leigha Dangerfield used to sum up her sister’s personality.

“She is always trying to find random crazy things to do,” Leigha said. “But when it is time to work, she does it. She is chill.”

Considering her career aspirations, Connie has a lot of work ahead of her.

Since the age of seven, the U libero has wanted to be a doctor. Although many people inevitably have that aspiration at some point in his-or-her life, Dangerfield has taken the proper steps to walk down that path by completing the pre-medical requirements.

Dangerfield doesn’t just want to be any doctor, either. Her dream would to be a pediatrician in Africa fighting the AIDS epidemic.

“AIDS is such a horrible disease,” Dangerfield said. “I know not one person can change it, but one person can help it.”

This isn’t just a clichd dream job either. Dangerfield’s interest in helping those in need the most, stems from her love of volunteer work. From organizing and participating in Sub-4-Santa projects as a member of the volleyball team to visiting the homeless shelter with her dad when she was younger, Connie finds the feeling she gets from helping others one of the most fulfilling experiences of her life.

“If I can help people experience the opportunities that I’ve had through volunteering, then I want to do that,” Dangerfield said. “I just get a sense of happiness from when I volunteer…it touches your heart.”

The desire to help children in Africa can be largely attributed to the touching and vivid photography of photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado — who has made a career documenting the economic situation of under-developed countries with a photo lens.

The length of Dangerfield’s hair is also a measure of her heart. Part of the reason Dangerfield is growing her hair — which almost stretches the length of her back — is so she can donate it to Locks of Love.

“I want to grow it three more inches and then donate it,” Dangerfield said.

For Dangerfield, becoming a doctor isn’t just a pipe dream either. The senior anthropology major is a closet science nut. In high school Dangerfield took all the AP science classes she could, and even attended a summer chemistry program with renowned U chemistry professor Ronald Ragsdale before becoming a U student.

Her self-admitted “nerdiness” comes in handy, because she actually likes studying the information she hopes to put to practical use in the future.

“When I was in sixth grade, I won the science fair and I thought that was the coolest thing ever,” Dangerfield said. “I took two science classes my ninth grade year just because I like science.”

It was her determination, however, that came in handy when she tore her labrum — a cartilage cuff in the shoulder — after her sophomore season resulted in the 2004 MWC Libero of the Year award.

“I think my mom my mom did a really good job showing (me) what hard work and dedication was,” Dangerfield said.

Initially, Dangerfield considered ignoring her own pain and playing in 2005 because she didn’t want to let down her teammates, especially the seniors. But after being assured by those same upperclassmen that she needed to do what was best for her, Dangerfield decided to redshirt her way to recovery.

“You’re not exactly part of the team, even though you are,” said Emillie Toone, who is currently redshirting for a knee injury. “I just kind of had to help her keep the drive and the motivation to keep working hard. She knew she had a lot on her plate.”

The result of that redshirt year is that the Utes benefited from an extra year of having a proven leader on the court.

“She’s the type of leader that leads by example,” U volleyball head coach Beth Launiere said. “She’s always going to be there working hard.”

One example is how calm Dangerfield is under pressure. Even on game point, Dangerfield has a slight semblance of a smile on her face. But when push comes to shove, Dangerfield flips her laid-back personality into determination mode once the ball comes into play.

“She’s been through a lot of battles so these things don’t phase her anymore,” Launiere said. “I think she’s really enjoying this year more.”

This wasn’t always the case for Dangerfield.

As a freshman, Dangerfield was not shy about wearing her emotion — or her energy — on her sleeve. Once she was able to harness her emotion, her energy became an intrinsic part of her team’s chemistry. That energy also helped her break the Utes’ all-time dig record of 1,313 that was once held by Brenda Barton-Whicker.

But with the same humility that is tugging at Dangerfield to be a pediatrician, the Ute senior dismisses the record as being unimportant and puts the focus on her teammates and credits them for their part in her personal accomplishments.

“I think it’s really cool to have that record and other people are helping me to realize it,” Dangerfield said. “I honestly want this team doing so well that I’m not trying to think about the record so much.”

As for wearing her energy on her sleeve, that hasn’t subsided. Interestingly enough, she’ll wear testaments of that sentiment for the rest of her life.

The self-drawn sun that is tattooed between her shoulder blades, and the energy it represents, is a symbol of her personality. The cluster of flowers she has on tattoed on her hip, which she got before becoming a freshman at the U, signifies new beginnings. Once Dangerfield finishes her journey as a U volleyball player, she will happily take on a new journey that she hopes will spell new beginnings for others.

[email protected]