When Sugar-Salem senior setter Camber Dodson arrived on Utah State University Eastern Campus for the first time she was greeted with a hug from head volleyball coach Danielle Jensen. Jensen’s hug ended up being one of several things that made Dodson feel like USUE was home and was where she wanted to be.
“That was massive to me,” Dodson said of the hug. “Because their whole thing is about family, which is one of the things they emphasized when I was talking on the phone with them a few days earlier.”
Throughout her visit, Dodson continued to feel like she was joining a new family. Whether it was her would be teammates introducing themselves or people she met in the halls and on the sidewalks of USUE saying hello, they all exhibited a welcoming air of kindness.
“We went to practice and their whole team gets ready in the same place,” Dodson said. “I was with them a lot. They introduced themselves and they were all super kind. Even extending to the people on the campus. Whenever they would walk by they would say hi. So it’s just a super friendly environment.”
As Jensen guided Dodson through the campus the two became comfortable with one another at an accelerated rate.
“Their coach was just massively nice the whole way, just super comfortable with me and I just felt at home there,” Dodson said.
USUE told Dodson that their program is centered around being a family on and off the court. They try and build close relationships between all players and extend those relationships out to the campus.
“They kind of make their circle of family bigger by reaching out to those others that they stay with,” Dodson said. “Their whole thing is that even the people on the bench as well as the court they all help with the winning that they do. It’s just huge because they really emphasize the point that you can’t win if you don’t have chemistry on and off of the court. So, they’re all about kindness and just involving everyone around them.”
Somewhat ironically, by playing in college Dodson is blazing a new family trail after both her mother Cami Dodson, who is also head coach of the Lady Diggers, and her older sister, Chaise, another coach, both forewent college athletics to focus on academics.
Before her junior year, Dodson thought she might follow suit but during her junior year started to feel like college volleyball was something she wanted to persue.
“I really decided that I wanted to play and I just love the sport and I thought about not doing it after high school and I really didn’t want to stop after the high school level,” Dodson said.
Later that year Dodson dislocated her ankle and though she came back quickly and helped lead her team to a second place finish, lingering questions about her ankle remained. As the year went on Dodson’s ankle got back to normal and she decided she was going to play college volleyball.
By the time Dodson decided many of the schools who might have pursued her didn’t because setter is typically a position teams pursue early. Dodson still had several teams interested including Big Bend Community College and Carroll College.
Dodson eventually narrowed it down to Snow College in Ephraim, Utah and USUE in Price and took visits to each.
The beauty of USUE’s campus stuck out to her and helped her feel at home.
“It’s gorgeous,” Dodson said. “It is small because it’s in Price, Utah. It’s a little smaller JUCO but they have phenomenal academics because they go through USU with it all. We went around to all the buildings. It kind of looks like a mini USU. It’s beautiful there. I kind of fell in love with that part of it as well, which is a big thing for me to have a great program as well as the academics there too.”
Dodson’s plan isn’t completely different from her family's plan. She wants to go into sports medicine like her mother did.
“I’m looking into becoming a trainer for a college,” Dodson said. “That’s one of my loves. I’ve always loved it because my mom she took sports medicine classes. So, she’s always the one to tape ankles and stuff on our team. So, I’ve learned from her on all of that stuff and I just fell in love with it. That’s most likely what I’m going to be majoring in.”
Dodson wants to give credit to her family and coaches for a lot of her success.
“I want to give a big shoutout to my family and my teammates,” Dodson said. “They’ve all been super supportive in everything I’m doing and I couldn’t have done any of the visits or the recruiting process without my mom especially. My whole family has been super supportive as to where I’m going whether it’s a JUCO or a D1 college.”
Dodson won three titles with the Lady Digger volleyball team and were runner up the other year. Her teammates have influenced her greatly along the way.
“My teammates have all been super excited to know where I’m going and to be involved with that process,” Dodson. “I think if I didn’t grow up here and play with the team that I have, I may very well not be moving to the next level and have fallen in love with volleyball so much.”