Erin Fairs celebrates a point.

Erin Fairs excited to bring AU Volleyball to Louisville

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Bruce Miles
Mar 30, 2023

For Erin Fairs, the reasons she’s excited about the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball Exhibition Tour are almost too numerous to list.

But since we need both a jumping-off point and a landing spot, the University of Louisville provides both. 

Fairs, who played her senior season of college volleyball at Louisville, will join her fellow pros in bringing the Athletes Unlimited brand of volleyball to familiar turf on March 31. 

“Really excited to spread the word about Athletes Unlimited,” she said. “I think it’s gotten out there but not as much on the college scene, so this will be awesome to go around and show the colleges what we do and how we play. But also, my old stomping grounds in Louisville, it will be awesome to be back. They’ve changed a lot since I left, a new coaching staff, which I got to meet at the Final Four this year and talk with the girls. It will be nice to be there.”

Like most female volleyball pros, Fairs has plied her trade around the world, playing in Sweden, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Romania, Italy and Greece in addition to her time so far in the United States with Athletes Unlimited. 

She hopes the Exhibition Tour will be another step in growing the sport in the U.S. by bringing it to college towns.

“Extremely important, especially since pro (volleyball) in the States, it’s happened a couple times in the past, but we want to go out there and tell them, ‘We’re here to stay; this is what we’re doing; this is the process,’” she said. “I think it’s vital that we go out and show our faces in different cities since we are playing in one city most of the time (during AU’s Championship season).”

Being able to play at home is one of the reasons Fairs was attracted to AU in the first place.

“In the pro world, everybody has their thing of why they play overseas,” she said. “My thing is I love it, it’s volleyball, it’s something that I know. But also, I’m really close with my family, and I’m a homebody for the most part. I love to travel, but it’s a difference when you’re out of the country for eight months out of the year. It was always my dream to start playing in the States. When this started, I was ecstatic. It was like, ‘This is all I’ve ever wanted,’ so it was a no-brainer. So I wanted to reach out and see if I could be a part of it.”

Those who regularly watch any or all of Athletes Unlimited’s sports – volleyball, softball, lacrosse and basketball – know that interesting dynamics have formed organically: new teams are drafted each week, and chemistry tends to develop quickly; the unique points-scoring methods across all sports rewards individual achievement and team play.

“Oh, I love the system,” Fairs said. “It’s so intriguing, honestly. We have a group of girls who literally have their own draft before the draft. We’re so excited to see who will go where. I don’t think it takes from the team aspect. If anything, it shows the true colors or what somebody can bring to the game. That’s the cool part of being able to look at the draft board and being like, ‘Yeah, she can kill it, but sometimes these two players just don’t mix well.’

“I just think there’s more of the mental aspect of the game, everything somebody can bring other than just the stats they put up. So I love, love, love that part of AU and how we do the scoring system.”

As passionately as the players compete on the floor or on the field, they display a remarkable compassion for each other once the final play is made.

“We love to even make fun of ourselves, like, ‘I can’t believe you got me on this point,’” Fairs said.” But even on the court, through the net, there’s always, ‘I bet you can’t score.’ We’ve all known each other from a distance or played against each other, knew each other from college. So there’s always some connection somewhere. We are definitely cool off the court, and love to bring that fire out of each other.”

That leads to other reasons for Fairs to be excited about returning to Louisville: She will be taking the floor with players from the Cardinals’ arch rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats. That no doubt will add some spice to the proceedings, especially with the spectators. 

“I’m not the only person with the Louisville connection,” she said. “Deja (McClendon) is from there. We’re also rivals with Kentucky.

“We always make jokes about it, but it will be fun to see Louisville and Kentucky playing together and seeing how it is.”

Off the court, Fairs says she loves the opportunity Athletes Unlimited has given her to play for a cause, in her case, We Serve First. It’s all part of not only giving back to the community, but being involved in greater causes in society. 

“The athletes’ causes was literally one of the biggest things that I was just so impressed with,” she said. “As a human, at least me, I’ve always wanted to give back. I do that with coaching or doing a free clinic when I can, but to actually to be able to help monetarily is something that was unimaginable for me until AU.

“It’s hand in hand with what I believe in and what I would always hope for from an organization – on top of everything I’ve always wanted. They stand for so many things I stand for and fight for – all different things we’re struggling with in the world. I couldn’t ask to be with a better organization and to really stand up for what I believe in.

“I just love this organization as a whole. I just feel that a lot of times when you play professionally, you’re under some (league) president you have no idea about and you just kind of do things how they do it and shut your mouth and do that. I think Athletes Unlimited is the total opposite. They care about what you have to say and your voice. It’s somewhere I want to be.”


Bruce Miles has covered sports in the Chicago area for more than 40 years, covering baseball, hockey, football, college and high school sports, and Athletes Unlimited Softball. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.

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