Instead of signing with another professional team after finishing sixth in Athletes Unlimited’s inaugural volleyball season last year, McClendon has been working on combining the best aspects of being a pro athlete, having a full-time job and finding enough time for a personal life.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, McClendon was separated from her Polish fiance for months due to border restrictions in both the U.S. and Europe. Finally, the two were able to meet and get married in Croatia, but now McClendon is planning a wedding to take place later this summer in the US so her family and friends can attend.
On top of planning her wedding and building her life in Poland with her husband, McClendon has been working full-time at her sister’s company, Timeout. Timeout is an app that acts as a mental health platform for college athletes to work with their administrators and directly connects them to mental health tools. It also connects them to other athletes who are experiencing the same feelings and concerns.
At Timeout, McClendon is the Head of Player Engagement and focuses on growing the app’s community, finding athlete ambassadors and creating safe spaces for athletes to talk about mental health and break down the stigma surrounding it.
“I love being able to work in athlete mental health. I think it’s really a calling for me right now,” McClendon said.
McClendon commented that COVID had a major impact on how she viewed her volleyball career, and it influenced her to begin thinking about what passions she could pursue outside of her sport.
“I kind of learned through COVID what it means to lose your sport in a sense. My identity is really deeply rooted in that, and I wanted to do a lot to grow myself outside of volleyball,” McClendon said. “So I focused a lot on other things, specifically athlete mental health, growing my skills with my family and friends, and on growing my relationships this off-season.”
Despite spending more time on the professional and personal aspects of her life, McClendon has still been training whenever she has the chance. Her husband is a physical therapist, so she has access to his gym at work and lifts there on a regular basis.
“I’m kind of the gym’s poster child,” McClendon joked.
McClendon also tries to practice with pro European teams when she has the chance, but strict COVID restrictions put in place by the teams have made it more of a challenge.
In addition to her physical training, McClendon has been mentally preparing for her second season at AU by trying to find the perfect balance between her work at the office and her work at the gym.
“Time management has never been my strong suit,” McClendon said while laughing.
Yet, McClendon emphasized that one of the things she enjoys most about playing for AU is how the company prioritizes personal growth. On top of attending practices (and online work meetings), McClendon commented that she would be attending every AU-led development workshop that she can fit into her schedule. She mentioned that the organization even has fluid practice schedules to help working players manage all of their priorities.
“With AU, I think I’m really lucky because the company has been so flexible. Once again, this is a testament to AU and how they created this for us – the players.”
With AU, I think I’m really lucky because the company has been so flexible. Once again, this is a testament to AU and how they created this for us - the players.Deja McClendon
Recap: Team Apuzzo sweeps win points with 13-6 victory against Team Glynn
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jonathan Louie
Recap: Taylor Edwards earns 160 points with late heroics for Team Eberle
Team Eberle © Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2022 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Recap: O'Toole earns 230 points in Team Fischer's second win of the day
Danielle O'Toole © Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2022 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
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