Monday, 27 May 2024

1980 Olympians: An Unforgettable Legacy

The Olympic Games in Tokyo this month are significant, as they mark the 50th anniversary of volleyball’s debut in the Olympics in the same city. To qualify for the Olympics in volleyball is no easy feat. With only 12 team slots available, compared to the 24 teams allowed in the World Championships, the competition is fierce. This means that more than 200 national teams eagerly watch the tournament from home, waiting four years for their next chance.

Amidst this year’s Games, a remarkable group of athletes will gather in the scenic Colorado mountains to commemorate the Tokyo event. The 1980 Olympic Women’s Team holds a special place in history. They were the only volleyball team to qualify for the Olympics between 1968 and 1984, sadly unable to compete due to the U.S. boycott.

In this article, we shine a spotlight on these extraordinary pioneers, whose achievements should be celebrated within our volleyball family. With their 40th anniversary reunion upon us, we focus on the 1980 Women’s Team, as the men’s team did not qualify. These athletes were trailblazers, being among the first resident teams to reside in the newly established Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, starting in 1977.

Where Determination Meets Challenges

The city of Colorado Springs wholeheartedly embraced the women’s team, hosting matches against formidable opponents like East Germany and China in the City Auditorium. Their training took place in a low-ceiling Quonset hut on the former ENT Air Force Base, which the city rented to the Olympic Committee for a mere $1 per year. With just enough space for one court, the players had to adapt their digging skills as the ceiling height was a mere 18 feet.

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A Team on the Rise

Ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the world, it seemed likely that this team would become the first-ever U.S. volleyball team to secure an Olympic medal. They dedicated themselves to year-round training for three years, forging strong bonds that served as the foundation of their success. Their anthem, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” perfectly captured their unity and spirit.

A Heartbreaking Turn of Events

On March 21, 1980, their dreams were crushed when President Carter announced that the U.S. would boycott the Moscow Olympics due to the Soviet Union’s intrusion into Afghanistan in 1979. The team’s hard work and unwavering commitment were abruptly halted. Nonetheless, they were invited to the White House, where they received medals in recognition of their qualification. Many of the team members went on to win a silver medal in 1984.

Continuing the Legacy

The impact of the 1980 Women’s Team stretches far beyond their Olympic journey. Several team members have continued to contribute to the sport, either as players or coaches. Here are a few remarkable individuals from the team and their accomplishments:

  • Flo Hyman: After her time on the national team, Flo achieved stardom playing professionally in Japan. Tragically, she passed away on the court in 1986 due to undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Flo’s passing brought attention to this genetic disorder, leading to the diagnosis and subsequent withdrawal from physical activity for others with similar traits. National Girls and Women in Sport Day in February honors Flo’s memory.

  • Debbie Green: Debbie went on to become an assistant coach at Long Beach State, where she dedicated more than two decades to cultivating young talent.

  • Debbie Landreth Brown: Debbie coached at both Arizona State and Notre Dame, contributing her expertise to the development of future players.

  • Laurie Flachmeier Corbelli: Laurie’s coaching journey spanned over 20 years, including a successful tenure at Texas A & M University.

  • Rita Crockett: Currently, Rita serves as the head coach for both the indoor and beach volleyball teams at Florida International University.

  • Sue Woodstra: Sue continued her coaching career, working extensively with the 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Team.

  • Laurel Brassey: After taking a seven-year break from the national team program, Laurel returned as the starting setter for the 1988 team. She also played professionally in Italy and coached collegiately at the University of New Mexico.

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As we honor this exceptional 1980 team, we invite you to share your thoughts or email us at [email protected]. During their stay at our veteran/first responder retreat from July 26-29, we will ensure that your messages are shared with the team.


Q: What was the significance of the 1980 Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team?

The 1980 Women’s Olympic Volleyball Team holds a special place in history as the only volleyball team to qualify for the Olympics between 1968 and 1984. Unfortunately, they were unable to compete due to the U.S. boycott.

Q: Where did the 1980 Women’s Team train?

The team trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, starting in 1977. They played matches against notable opponents in the City Auditorium and trained in a Quonset hut on the former ENT Air Force Base.

Q: Did any members of the 1980 Women’s Team continue to contribute to the sport?

Yes, many team members continued to make a significant impact in volleyball. Some became successful coaches, while others played professionally or worked with later Olympic teams.


The 1980 Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, despite not being able to compete in the Olympics, left an indelible mark on the sport. Their dedication, resilience, and trailblazing spirit set an example for future generations of athletes. Today, we celebrate their achievements and honor their legacy. Join us in paying tribute to these remarkable individuals who paved the way for the sport in the United States.

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