Flo Hyman - One of America's Best

USA Volleyball

Quick Info:

Born: July 31, 1954
Died: January 24, 1986 (at age 31)
Height: 6'5"
Position: Outside Hitter
College: University of Houston
USA Olympic Teams: 1976 (DNQ), 1980 (Boycott), 1984 (Silver)
Professional Teams: Daiei (Japan)

Early Life:

Flora "Flo" Hyman was born in Inglewood, CA, the second of eight children. Her father was a railroad janitor and her mother owned a cafe. Both of her parents were tall - her mother was 5'11 and her father was 6'1 - but she would outgrow them both to a height of 6'5".

Flo graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood where she participated in basketball and track. She played volleyball on the beach but was discovered by Ruth Nelson of the University of Houston while playing on a club team.

On the Court - College:

Flo Hyman was awarded the first female athletic scholarship at the University of Houston. She was named All-America three times during her college career while majoring in mathematics and physical education.

Hyman left college in 1974, one year prior to graduating, to join the national team. She claimed that she could always finish her education, but that playing volleyball was something she could only do for a finite period of time.

On the Court - Olympics:

Flo was best known for her powerful attacks and her graceful leadership by example. When she joined the USA team in 1974, it was in a state of disarray.

The women had played poorly in 1964 and 1968 and had failed to qualify in 1972.

The team went without a coach for three months of 1975 before coach Arie Selinger took over and provided stability. Still, the team failed to qualify for the 1976 games.

When they finally qualified in 1980, the U.S. boycotted the games in Russia. USA's women qualified again in 1984, but lost to China in the gold medal match to grab the silver, the first medal ever for women's volleyball.

Off the Court:

After the Olympics, Flo joined Coretta Scott-King, Geraldine Ferraro and Sally Ride in fighting for the Civil Rights Restoration Act. She also testified on Capitol Hill to ask the government to strengthen Title IX, the important 1972 legislation that prohibits sex discrimination by athletic programs at universities that receive federal funding.

Death:

Hyman moved to Japan to play professionally for a team called Daiei. In two years she raised the team up two divisions, but had planned on returning to the States after the 1986 season, She would never get the chance. While sitting on the bench cheering for her team, she collapsed and was later pronounced dead.

An autopsy back in Los Angeles revealed that she had suffered from an rare heart condition called Marfan Syndrome which caused an aortic rupture. If detected, the disease is treatable with surgery. After her death, Hyman's brother was tested and diagnosed with the same disease. He was treated in time.

Memorial Award:

The Women's Sports Foundation dedicated an award in her honor called the Flo Hyman Memorial Sports Award. The award is given annually "to a female athlete who captures Hyman's dignity, spirit and commitment to excellence." Past recipients of the award have included Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Monica Seles, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Evelyn Ashford, Bonnie Blair, Kristi Yamaguchi and Lisa Leslie.

Flo Hyman Quote:

"To be true to oneself is the ultimate test in life. To have the courage and sensitivity to follow your hidden dreams and stand tall against the odds that are bound to fall in your path. Life is too short and precious to be dealt with in any other fashion. This thought I hold dear to my heart, and I always try to be true to myself and others that I encounter along the way."