Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
There’s something about the easiness in the way Chantale Riddle moves as she commands the attention of all the campers at the New Mexico Military Institute’s Godfrey Center on Wednesday morning. The campers have a glazed look in their eyes like many of Riddle’s former volleyball opponents had.
Four years ago, Riddle needed 20 kills to become the all-time leader in kills in the Mountain West Conference. Much like today, everyone was pulling for her. As Riddle glides around the court, the campers follow her with their eyes, many are too young to know that Riddle moves with the grace of a gazelle and is able to get her 6-foot frame to leap so high from her right side of the court in an attacking position that when she brings her left-hand down and strikes the ball in a whip-like motion, the force of the impact she delivers on the ball kills it instantly into a flat spot on the court — as she did to set the record against Air Force Academy on Nov. 25, 2014, on Senior Night.
In the excitement of the moment, her teammate Hannah Johnson grabbed Riddle as if she had just saved her life after breaking the record. “It was so fun,” Riddle said, after breaking the all-time kills record. “It’s amazing to see hundreds of your fans out there and hear people say you’re my favorite. It’s great to play one more time in this gym. I love this gym and I love the Lobos.”
On Wednesday morning, Riddle talked about returning serves, but afterward, she reflected on why she comes back and gives back to Roswell and the kids. It was 15 years ago that she sat in the Yucca Recreation Center and listened as coaches and volunteers made an impact on her life, even though it wouldn’t manifest until later years. She shudders to think where she would be if it had not been for her grandmother, Shirley Williams, working at the Yucca Recreation Center and investing time in her as well.
“I was always at the Yucca Center and around sports,” Riddle said. “I always wanted to be in the next sport no matter what it was.”
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Riddle gives back because she knows that she wouldn’t be where she is now in her life if someone hadn’t poured into her life as a young child. That’s why returning to do the volleyball camp is a must. If not for camps like these when she was growing up, Riddle might not have turned into a professional volleyball player playing overseas.
Riddle knows that anything is possible if you believe, work hard enough and are willing to go after your dreams and not listen to the naysayers. That’s why she is hosting her four-day camp. Riddle would like to reach the young kids and teach them there is a big world out there and that anything is possible if you have the right foundation and work ethic.
This is Riddle’s three-year anniversary hosting the camp and she wanted to switch it up a bit and do some different things that she had done her first two years. In this camp, Riddle wanted to make sure all the campers were alert and eager to participate. She accomplished this by bringing snacks and water for the campers to keep them hydrated.
Riddle and her sister, Deja, was raised by their single mother, Laura Riddle. She developed as an athlete at the Yucca Recreation Center where her grandmother, Shirley Williams worked. Grandfather, Larry Williams influenced her as well. Riddle got her start in fifth-grade playing volleyball. Riddle shined in other sports at Roswell High and helped lead them to a state title in volleyball, runner-up in basketball and she set a Class 4A record in the long jump.
Riddle’s excellent senior year at state allowed her to be recruited late in volleyball her senior year. She was thinking more along the lines of basketball and track, but two coaches from CSU and UNM saw her play at state and started recruiting her. The reason she chose UNM is that she liked it better.
Riddle overcomes obstacles
Riddle’s path to the University of New Mexico was not without stress, delays or interruptions. Her grades were good enough to graduate high school, but her credits and standardized test score fell short of the standard for the Mountain West Conference. She had to retake classes and tests. Riddle came back to Roswell and helped coach in 2009 and was admitted to UNM on a waiver by the Mountain West faculty athletics representative for the next spring. Riddle showed it’s not how you start but how you finish. She stuck it out and became the first person in her family to graduate college earning a degree in family studies. Riddle’s mom, Laura battled breast and brain cancer before passing away.
Riddle practices on her own
While admitted and unable to play, Riddle redshirted for another year. All she did that year was work out on her own three times a week and lift weights with the team, which allowed her to get comfortable in her environment academically, athletically.
She made her debut in the spring of 2011, and would eventually set the Mountain West kills record with 1,623 and holds the New Mexico record for kills with (1,623) on Nov. 25, 2014. She scored (1,910) points and had a total of (3,288) attempts. She is second all-time in block assists with (382) and total blocks (435) and she scored 1,818 career points, passing UNM Olympian Tania Gooley.
Riddle’s name is hung in the rafters of the Johnson Center. While playing for UNM, she was the first volleyball player to be named All-American three times.
“I needed that time,” Riddle said. “It worked to my benefit that I could transition into playing. I could lift, practice and go to school. So when I joined the team, I was really developed and I knew what I was doing. I think everyone should redshirt if they don’t have the opportunity to play. You’re an 18-year-old, you have a job and you’re going to school. It is a job, you just don’t get a free scholarship. You have to do things to make your money. It’s hard — the girls are bigger and stronger and you have to develop; it’s not high school anymore.”
Sport turns to business
Riddle feels like one of the problems with athletes going to a bigger school is, for the most part, the only competition they know is New Mexico. There are 49 other states out there, so when Riddle got to UNM, she was shocked to know that other athletes were as good or better than she was. Riddle understands what Jaedyn De La Cerda is going through. She stresses the bad times will make De La Cerda get better as an athlete and grow.
“People told me I was lucky,” Riddle said. “People don’t understand how much harder it is at the next level going from high school to college, especially Division I. After a while, I quit worrying about what other people thought. I worked hard. I did this for myself and my family.”
“I just want to teach the kids to work hard,” Riddle said. “I want them to learn what it takes to get to the next level if that’s what they want to do. We try to make it fun and it seems like every day we make it more fun. Today’s going to be a hard day for us, we’ve been with these girls all week and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to them.”
Riddle suffered an injury this season and is taking her career year by year. She was injured in a middle season game running and tore a muscle in her foot. It was the first time she had been injured in her career.
“Being injured is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in my volleyball career,” Riddle said. “I was going from being a full-time volleyball player for six months to being injured. I had surgery, that’s why I’m taking my rehab a little slower.”
She believes that everything with her injury is good. She can do controlled running and jumping and is working toward getting back to playing long periods of time.
Riddle has thought about the end of her career since she was injured and she feels if it’s the end of her volleyball career, she’s OK with that. Riddle has thought about coaching in Switzerland, or about becoming a social worker and helping people if this is the end of her career. If her foot holds up, she would like to possibly play another five years.
Riddle wants to give back to Roswell
“I like to give back,” Riddle said. “I think the athleticism and volleyball in New Mexico and Roswell need to get better and better. I like to come back and do this for them (kids). I think we need to grow and teach coaches the correct way to coach. That’s why I have the people come and they get to learn the stuff I learned from the UNM camps. I think coaching has made me a better player.”
Coaching at the camps will be former Roswell High volleyball coach Dora DeGroot, Kaitlyn Holl, Cheyenne Sandoval, Nayelli Morales, Jessica Sanders who coaches at Berrendo and Tracey Coates.
Riddle wants to open nonprofit
When Riddle is done playing volleyball, she wants to open up a nonprofit one day in Roswell. Traveling the world has changed her perspective on life. Giving back has a different meaning than hosting a volleyball clinic.
“I would like to have a community center and have it be related to volleyball,” Riddle said. “I would like to have a career center where high school kids can go hang out and chill. Where they can be athletes and learn how to build a resume, work on how to apply for a job and work on getting an internship. I don’t think athletes realize how hard it is to be a professional athlete.”
Riddle thinks the reason some of their kids are shocked when they move up in competition at the college level is they rarely travel and play against different competition from other states. A big reason for that is it takes money and sponsorship to be able to play and travel. Riddle is hoping one day to have a sports/community/career center, which will allow kids to be exposed to other opportunities at a younger age.
“I think for this to be successful,” Riddle said, “the kids have to get the money and support. That’s the only way they can see better competition in different states. Eventually, I want to build a center like that, because I want the kids to be more.”
Volleyball allows Riddle to travel
Going from Roswell to Albuquerque, the sport has allowed Riddle to travel the world with volleyball. She has played volleyball in six different countries while learning different languages and cultures. It was playing for the Lobos when she took her first flight as a sophomore.
As the young campers listened on how to hit a serve back, there may be one in the future that will remember Riddle and the impact she made on their lives and inspired them to play volleyball.
In 10 years, Riddle hopes to give back with her nonprofit that gives kids a chance to travel, get an education and experience playing against better competition while acquiring life skills to be competitive.