Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Callie Rivers had it rough growing up in a household full of boys, but she's reaping the rewards now.

"Our players that we've had in the past who have been the only female in a family of all boys have been some of our most competitive players," UF coach Mary Wise said. "If I could write a script on how to raise a volleyball player, I'd put them in a family with lots of boys that pick on her."

The freshman outside hitter is right up Wise's alley.

Rivers said she never wanted to play volleyball because it was simply "too girly" for her.

She preferred a sport with more physical play. She wanted to hit people, to knock them down.

As the only daughter in her family, that comes as no surprise.

Rivers' three brothers certainly influenced the sports she played, as did her father, Glenn "Doc" Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics and former NBA point guard.

Rivers grew watching her father take the court and following her brothers around to their basketball and soccer games, two of her own favorite sports.

When she shifted to volleyball, however, she discovered her own talent.

"Once I started playing it, I just started loving it," Rivers said.

Now, she's part of a freshman class that was ranked 10th in the nation by Volleyball Magazine.

But she would not be the athlete she is today if it wasn't for her family.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

Big Shoes to Fill

A major motivating factor in Rivers' athletic career has been her father.

Early on, the family moved where Doc played and coached.

In all, Rivers has lived in five states and 15 houses.

Rivers was exposed to professional athletes early on, and she has plenty of stories about meeting NBA players.

"I'm sure she saw some good examples and some bad examples, and I bet all that helped," Doc said of his daughter's early encounters with pros.

She used to try on former San Antonio Spurs center Will Perdue's shoes, and she marveled that her entire foot would fit into the heel of the sneaker.

Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson and former Spurs forward Sean Elliott are close family friends.

But the only time she was truly star struck, she said, was when she met center Shaquille O'Neal in seventh grade.

"I was shorter then, so it seemed like he was twice the size of me," Rivers said. "I felt so small."

Doc said he speaks to his daughter at least once a day via text message or e-mail.

Near or far, her father's career certainly influences Rivers' life. She loves watching professional basketball (though she'll admit to enjoying college sports more), she played basketball in high school and, of course, there's still that last name to live up to.

"I don't mind if there is [pressure]," Doc said. "But to me, pressure equals opportunity. If you want to achieve something, be very good at it. There should be pressure that comes along with it."

Rivers, however, doesn't feel the pressure from outsiders as much as she does from family.

"I don't want to let anyone in my family down," Rivers said. "I don't really feel any extra pressure except for I want to make sure I'm playing the best I'm able to play. If I'm not playing my hardest, then I am letting my family down."

Like Father, Like Sons

Rivers was surrounded by basketball from the day she was born.

"My whole family plays basketball, so I basically have to like basketball," she said. "Basketball's probably my favorite sport to watch."

Rivers learned the value of hard work from her older brother Jeremiah, now a sophomore guard for Georgetown. She said Jeremiah practices more than anyone she has ever known.

"If he's not sleeping or eating, he's playing basketball or watching basketball … or playing video games with basketball," Rivers said.

Despite how far apart they are now, they communicate at least once a day.

The admiration and love goes both ways.

Jeremiah said Rivers would have been great at any sport she put her mind to.

"Athletically, she's more blessed than any girl I personally know," he said. "The sky's the limit for my sister."

When Rivers reached seventh grade, Jeremiah noticed just how fast she had become. He immediately started training to increase his speed.

"I was like, 'I need to get my butt faster,'" he said.

Rivers also has two younger brothers, Austin, 15, and Spencer, 12. They both play basketball and Spencer also plays football.

Austin is on the Orlando Winter Park High basketball team and has already been recruited and offered a scholarship by UF, Rivers said.

And as if the basketball pedigree in the family didn't run deep enough, Rivers' uncle Jim Brewer played in the NBA. He won the 1982 NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ken Singleton, Rivers' cousin, spent 15 seasons playing baseball and won the 1983 World Series with the Baltimore Orioles.

Her mother, Kris, was an athlete as well. She ran cross-country in high school.

Another Kind of Athlete

In eighth grade, Rivers received her first recruitment letter from LSU.

It wasn't a big deal, she said, and "everyone" got those first letters asking young athletes to come to camps. At that time, she was not sure she wanted to play volleyball.

She was still playing soccer in eighth grade and even left her club volleyball team to focus more on the sport.

But in 10th grade, the Gators started recruiting her hard, and her position on volleyball changed.

"I loved playing volleyball more than I loved playing basketball and soccer," she said.

By her sophomore year of high school, she had dropped soccer entirely and she was no longer on the basketball team for her junior year.

She committed to UF early that year.

In her senior year of high school, she focused entirely on volleyball to avoid injury elsewhere. Two of her best friends tore their anterior cruciate ligaments playing basketball.

Doc and Jeremiah loved the change.

Doc said Rivers asked him for his opinion, and he advised her to choose volleyball over his own sport.

He said Rivers playing volleyball allowed him to step back and just be a parent as opposed to a coach.

"I've always liked volleyball," Doc said. "I thought for her it was a better sport. For whatever reason, I saw her in the volleyball world better than the basketball world."

New to the Pod

Now that she's in Gainesville, Rivers is adapting to not being the best player on her team anymore.

At one point this season, she had the fewest games played of any freshman on the team.

"I knew basically that every single person on our team has to earn any playing time that they get," she said.

In recent weeks, however, Rivers has turned up her level of play.

She had a career-high 13 kills and 10 digs on Sept. 30 against Alabama, earning her first career double-double.

"I was just happy that our team played really well, and it was great to be a part of it," Rivers said.

Wise said Rivers needs to bulk up in order to play at a higher level, but strength coach Matt DeLancey is helping that progress along.

Rivers is sure to get better in the coming years. With her father and brothers providing support and advice and a team that contends for a national title every year, Rivers knows she's in the right place to raise her game.

Doc agrees.

"Florida was a great choice - a great program," he said. "I love the coach, love what she stands for. The Texases, the Nebraskas, the Washingtons all wanted her to visit, and she just point blank told them, 'I'll go on a visit if you want me to, but I know where I want to go.'"

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.