Emily Balliviero: From Champ to Chaplain
Written by: Jazmine Cooper
Emily “Balli” Balliviero went through many trials last year. Three days into preseason of volleyball her third year, she tore her ACL, making her ineligible for the game. Through her surgeries and struggles through school, she had to lean on God and trust that He had a great reason for her going through all of this. A junior now, she decided to be the chaplain for the team after choosing to retire, guiding the players through their walk with God.
Balli has been playing volleyball for years. It is one of her favorite pass times. She came to Oklahoma Wesleyan University specifically to play for our team. And she played for her full freshman and sophomore year. It wasn’t until her third year that she felt God had different plans, which became evident when her torn ACL ultimately ended her season and possibly her career in the sport.
She went through a rough journey after corrective surgery in September 2018, while in recovery and watching the season from the sidelines. But she says she “found God faithful” and “He brought me out of that with a new perspective on the game.” Balli was able to return to the game in April 2019, trying to cope with a brace and with being out of the game for weeks. She could feel God nudging her, but she ignored Him because she wanted to follow her plan, which included playing volleyball.
This past summer, she realized that “God had a different plan for me.” She had felt Him nudging her to retire, but she wanted to play, as that was the biggest part of her coming to OKWU. But after going to different camps this past summer, she could not ignore God any longer. So, she made the decision to retire from playing. But luckily the coach had a great idea – to make her the chaplain of the team. Balli had been helping the previous chaplain before, but that student was no longer here, so Balli was able to take over the position. This position was a blessing in disguise because she is now able to mentor and help other girls out in their transition from high school to college, help the team grow, and still be a part of the team that she loves. She is now in charge of the speakers the team has come for home games, and she organizes the devotionals that the team does during practice. After finally listening to God, Balli says, “I feel peace.” Her new position is exactly where God wants her now – in a place where she can still be a part of the game she loves, but also be an active part in helping others grow in their faith.
After going through the rough journey, Balli feels even closer to God than before. She went through the valley and came back out because of God’s faithfulness. That’s what faith is, she says: “Trusting God when we don’t even know what is on the other side.” The whole experience was very humbling for her. She says, “I was really able to see God’s work firsthand in my life.” Her one piece of advice to people who are struggling with the valley they might be in is just to trust God and know that He has great plans ahead. Balli says, “The valley will end, and it will be by God’s grace that you get out of it.”