Dockery Building Professional Career in Puerto Rico
By Shelby Blankenbaker, Kansas Communications
You never know who might cross your path and how they may impact your life. That could not be truer for former Kansas volleyball standout, Tiana Dockery.
During Dockery’s senior season at Kansas she helped the Jayhawks advance to the program’s first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance while becoming the first Jayhawk to play in four-straight NCAA tournaments.
After KU’s unprecedented run, teammate Patricia Montero had an idea for Dockery’s post-collegiate career. Montero is originally from Puerto Rico and had a strong ties with the San Juan Capitalinas, a professional volleyball club named after the capital of the commonwealth.
What originally was a four-day visit to try out for the team quickly turned into a perfect fit and a three-year contract. The decision to play professionally after college had been a long-time dream for Dockery.
“I thought to myself, okay you have an opportunity, either you take it or you don’t take it and regret it. So I decided to take it,” Dockery said. “Still to this day I don’t know if I have actually soaked it all in yet or believe that this is actually happening. It all happened very fast.”
Dockery landed in Puerto Rico in early January and spent four days practicing with the Capitalinas, where she got the chance to showcase her talents in an exhibition tournament with the team. The team’s front office asked if she could stay another week, to which she was only concerned about the amount of clothing she didn’t pack. She stayed for the next week and played in the team’s first game on January 13.
“It is a really nice area, the weather is great every single day, the coaches and owners are really nice and personable and the girls on the team have been welcoming. It’s just a very cool family environment. It was pretty easy deciding, they won me over really fast,” Dockery said of her decision to play for San Juan.
But this opportunity hasn’t come without a set of challenges. The language barrier was difficult to breakthrough for Dockery – the only player on Capitalinas who did not grow up in Puerto Rico. Spanish is solely spoken during practices and in the locker room. She relies on her teammates for support and instruction. Dockery and her coaches even made a pact that she’ll teach them English if they return the favor and give her some Spanish-speaking tips.
Dockery’s experiences as a KU student-athlete are paying dividends during her early professional career. The structured team workouts and practice regiment at KU molded Dockery’s work ethic for the freedom that professional volleyball players are given. The Capitalinas team is accountable for their own individual progress. The team trainer may assist in creating a workout, but the players are responsible for completing them.
In a way she said that the freedom of playing professionally has helped her grow up. She realizes that she has to make her own business decisions and market herself now. Dockery is figuring it all out on her own during her rookie season.
The league that the Capitalinas play in, the Puerto Rican Volleyball Federation, began in January and continues until mid-April. After the season is over, typically players will look for opportunities to play abroad in Europe or Asia, or take the summer and fall off.
After the season, Dockery plans to finish her degree in the summer and then look to Europe or Asia for any playing opportunities abroad. As for right now, Dockery is doing the best she can to soak up the experience she has right in front of her, and she couldn’t be happier with how things are going.
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