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Former Arizona volleyball star Whitney Dosty went from dancer to Paralympic gold medalist

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Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio, athletic director Dave Heeke, and members of the cheer squad with Whitney Dosty and her family as she was inducted into the Ring of Honor on Oct. 28, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Doing things differently started early for former Arizona volleyball star Whitney Dosty. Her family was made up of great basketball players, including her father Robbie and her sister Sybil. Robbie played for Arizona during the Fred Snowden era while Sybil played for Pat Summitt at Tennessee and Charli Turner Thorne at ASU. But for Whitney, it was all about ballet and volleyball.

“With dance, [my family] would go to my performances,” Dosty said. “With volleyball, they didn’t know what to say as far as how I hit or how I played.”

Her love of dance started early. She said her mom got her involved when she was about five after watching her daughter dance around the house.

“I love dance,” Dosty said. “I think that’s the first thing I really got involved in as a young child as far as athletics in any way, and I did it for so long. I got to go to New York. Trained with Alvin Ailey summer program, the American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem.”

The process of seeing herself get better at her craft was appealing.

“It’s such a challenge as far as seeing small things,” Dosty said. “It’s something you can see your progress and I think fairly quickly if you go continuously.”

Volleyball didn’t become her thing until she was halfway through high school. Dosty said that she wanted to be more involved in high school activities as she was heading into her junior year at Salpointe Catholic High School.

“I was never involved with high school,” she aid. “I thought, let me try something new. I want to have friends.”

When she changed her focus to volleyball beginning in 11th grade, she was able to take things she learned from her years of dance to her second love. The discipline was especially important.

“There’s certain things about dance and I think the way you behave and what we put up with as far as being a student,” Dosty said. “You couldn’t be late to class. You didn’t show up not ready to go. So I think as far as discipline in that respect, dance really helped me become more of an on-time player and wanting to be a leader. I think what I took from physically it was a lot of balance. My range of motion and just body awareness, it helped me a lot. I was a very new player to volleyball when I started, so I think just having the body mechanics and then I just had to learn how to play, like actual skills.”

That discipline and willingness to learn new things helped Dosty when she could no longer play standing volleyball. After her college career, she went overseas to play professionally. She was injured while playing standing volleyball in Turkey. Despite trying to rehab her ankle injury, she was not able to return to the game she loved.

“I said, surely there’s something that I can do still with volleyball, and I just started googling it,” Dosty said. “I just emailed everybody I could find on like the USA sitting volleyball team, coaches, staff members, everybody. And the first time I went out to try it, I was like, this does not feel natural.”

Now, Dosty is a resident athlete with Team USA’s sitting volleyball team. She lives in Oklahoma and trains full-time. Once a month, the team members who live elsewhere fly in and the team trains together.

Her desire to stay involved in the sport she loves led her to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. She and her teammates won the gold medal. While the experience was different because of the pandemic, Dosty was able to fulfill another dream.

“For me, it was my first time,” she said. “It was so cool to have the dream of wanting to be a gold medalists my entire life and then see it happen in a way I never imagined. Such a good experience.”

That great experience led to another achievement. Dosty said that when it didn’t happen shortly after her college career was over, she didn’t think she would ever be in the Arizona Volleyball Ring of Honor. Becoming a gold medalist changed all that.

On Oct. 28, Dosty returned to the arena where both she and her dad played their college sports to be inducted into the Arizona Volleyball Ring of Honor during the match between the Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks. She became the ninth former player to receive the honor.

The one person who couldn’t be there was her dad, who passed away in 2021.

“It’s hard, because I know how much this really meant to him, but it’s like he’s here with me,” Dosty said. “He started this for the Dosty family at Arizona, and I feel like such a big part of him with this award.”