Team Holloman olympian reflects, mentors local athletes

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erin Dorrance
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
When Team USA walked out of the tunnel and into a roaring crowd at the Olympic stadium in Sochi, Russia, during the Olympic Games opening ceremony Feb. 7, one
Team Holloman member remembers what that overwhelming, proud moment feels like.

Tayyiba Haneef-Park is the wife of a pilot assigned at Holloman Air Force Base. She is a retired indoor volleyball olympian who won two silver medals in Beijing, China in 2008 and London, England in 2012. Haneef-Park watched the Sochi 2014 opening ceremony at home with her husband and two children; AJ, 3 years old; and Tayani, 6 months old.

"There are few moments in life that can truly take your breath away," she said. "One of those is walking through the tunnel to the world cheering you on in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It's an honor to represent [the] United States of America and words cannot express the emotions you feel when you realize your dreams have come true."

It is hard to miss Haneef-Park who stands at 6 feet 7 inches tall. The only women she has met who are taller than her are Olympic volleyball players from Russia and Brazil. She tells young girls who are taller than average to stand tall and be proud.

"The older I get, the more I appreciate my height," she said. "I am proud to stand tall and I actually get compliments on my posture."

The southern California native grew up playing basketball and running track. It wasn't until her sophomore year of high school that she started playing volleyball.

"I was fortunate that I had some raw talent and a few great coaches who believed in me. I put in a lot of extra hours training so that I could catch up," she said. "Some people think that things come easy to me because I am tall. That is just not true. It is because I work very hard at it. Everyone has a chance if they put in the work."

Haneef-Park inspires local athletes to "put in the work" by offering clinics and teaching lessons at Holloman middle and high schools, also at local surrounding schools.

"I love getting out into the community and coaching," she said. "There are always a few athletes who adhere to my advice and improve. It feels great to give back."

"It was really cool that she came to work with us," said 13 year old Kayesli Westwood who plays volleyball at Mountain View Middle School in Alamogordo. "I loved seeing her two silver medals. She even let us hold them and she signed my knee pads."

Haneef-Park's advice to aspiring athletes is to follow their dreams and stick with it. In fact, she was told that she would not get one of the 12 spots on the indoor volleyball team for the 2012 Olympics because she had just taken off for maternity leave and the team was already assembled. She worked harder than ever to get back into shape and fight for her spot on the 2012 London Olympics team where she won her second silver medal.

The volleyball olympian has been recognized by President Barak Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. She has also met presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 2008, Haneef-Park found herself in Chicago on the Oprah Show talking about the Beijing silver medal win.

Haneef-Park doesn't currently play volleyball competitively as her two children keep her busy at home. She is using her Team USA Olympic scholarship to get a Master of Business Association. She also spends time sewing and would like to start a clothing fashion line for tall women.

Editor's Note: If you would like to request Tayyiba Haneef-Park to give a volleyball lesson or clinic, you can contact her by email at