Driven: Hallie Christopher on Volleyball, Health, Social Media, and Going Big in Life

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Senior student-athlete Hallie Christopher (middle) with mother, Brigitte (left) and father, Michael

Hallie Christopher was born into a driven family.

“My mom’s mom and dad are the most driven, hard-working people I’ve ever met,” Christopher said. “My grandma is 69 and she owns a multi-million dollar company in Minnesota and still works every day, which carries over into my mom. My dad grew up in a small part of Tonawanda without much money, and he worked so hard to make the money that he does now. I think I get that drive doubly from both of them.”

This is the story of how Christopher brings that drive to her life as a senior student-athlete on the Fredonia women’s volleyball team:

Jon-Ryan Maloney: Tell me about your background, and you can take that in whatever direction you want.

Hallie Christopher: Thinking back to when I was little, my mom would never let me say the word “can’t.” I would say, “I can’t do this,” and she’d say, “No. You can.” I think I live by that. My mom put me in Girl Scouts, lacrosse, track, basketball, volleyball; I danced, I did swimming, I was in karate, I took tennis lessons, I took golf lessons, I played instruments, I was in chorus, I was in show choir. Honestly, I did everything. It’s helped me to be able to balance everything in college.

Maloney: So what was it like when it was time to go to college?

Christopher: I loved high school. I woke up every day at 7 a.m. excited to go to school. It might be the social aspect–I loved seeing everyone. I was really involved in high school– volleyball and band were huge parts of my life and I felt like I had to start over when I left that. I’ve realized that maybe the transition was hard because I wasn’t at the right school (Geneseo). I didn’t like my first year. It just wasn’t for me.

Maloney: Why did you pick it then?

Christopher: I first came to Fredonia on a visit and I loved it, but Coach called me and said they didn’t need any setters. In that moment I was like, “Wow, I really want to play volleyball in college.” Then it started adding up and I was like, “Alright, maybe I should just go to Geneseo.” I talked to the coach and she was really pumped about having me. I went through volleyball season at Geneseo and when it ended I wasn’t doing anything–it was boring. I wasn’t making that many friends and I wasn’t as involved as I was in high school. I think that hurt me.

Maloney: Were you trying to study the same thing there as you are here?

Christopher: No. They didn’t have music industry there. I was studying business and I took some music classes because I was going to do a music minor, but it was theory. It wasn’t the same. So by November it just didn’t feel right, and in January I applied here. I talked to my coach and told her I really wanted to play at Fredonia if I go there. So she talked to Coach and he let me try out. I thought to myself, “If I can play volleyball and study music industry and actually do what I want to do, I feel like that’s the place I should have been in the beginning.” Coming here was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Maloney: Is there anything you took from Geneseo that you’re grateful for, or was it just one big waste of time?

Christopher: I learned so much there. It was hard being away from home but I definitely think I had to go there because if I came here first maybe I wouldn’t have played volleyball. I had to have gone there to realize that that’s not what I wanted. I think I’m more grateful for this experience at Fredonia because I went to Geneseo for a year.

Maloney: And so what was it like when you transferred? Were you wondering if you were even going to make the team?

Christopher: Yes, honestly. I thought I could make it but it was still scary. So I came here, and during the first few days I felt like I could keep up but at the same time I was like, “I don’t know,” because there was already a setter. But it all worked out.

Maloney: So let’s fast forward. You made a big jump from sophomore to junior year. You physically looked different at the start of junior year. What happened over that summer?

Christopher: After my sophomore season I wanted that starting position so bad. It all comes back to my mom saying, “You can do it,” so I was going to do it. That summer I trained my butt off: I worked out twice-a-day, got a personal trainer, I ate differently. I wanted it so bad and that’s what drove me to come in right off the bat and get all the (preseason fitness) challenges. That was the most important thing: I wanted it.

Maloney: Why so much though? Why is this so important to you?

Christopher: I love the sport. There’s something about passing a ball, setting it, and putting a kill away. The energy you feel on the court isn’t something you feel in other sports. I wanted to be on the court and feel that all the time. Sitting on the bench my sophomore year–and freshman year at Geneseo–I didn’t get to feel that.

Maloney: Say you didn’t have the starting spot this year. What would your reaction be? What if you lost the starting spot right now?

Christopher: I think about that all the time, and that’s why I can’t let up in practice. I have to keep working out; I can’t lose what I did over the summer. I’m going to run interval sprints to keep me in shape so I could run a 7:25 mile if I wanted to. I still do heavy weight on split squats so that I can jump high. I don’t know what my reaction would be if I lost that spot.

Maloney: Do you worry about that when you get pulled out of a match?

Christopher: All the time–even when I make a bad set. It is a lot of pressure. It’s scary. It really is.

Maloney: Your whole life seems like a lot of pressure.

Christopher: It definitely is.

Maloney: Are you happy with that?

Christopher: I like the pressure. I think it forces me to do better. I want to be so successful in life; I literally want to be the CEO of the next huge company like Starbucks. I want to be that big. I want to make that much money and be that successful. I think if I keep this pressure on myself I can be that successful.

Maloney: Do you think much about after college?

Christopher: All the time. It’s so scary.

Maloney: It’s a different ball game. It’s not a set path.

Christopher: In March I want to apply for jobs in Los Angeles and see where that takes me. Having this internship on my resume and having that connection with Warner Music is huge.

Maloney: So you’re all set on music?

Christopher: Yes, but say I apply for all these jobs and I don’t get one. I still want to go to LA–there’s so much opportunity for other things too, like entrepreneurial opportunities in creating brands. Enactus has helped me a lot with that.

Maloney: How so?

Christopher: Enactus is a lot of independence and doing your own thing. It’s throwing ideas out. It gets me thinking.

Maloney: Like what? A lot of people don’t think about that.

Christopher: I see Starbucks and I think it’s so cool how their marketing creates this drink–that’s something that I could go into with music. Seeing an artist’s potential, marketing that artist, and knowing they can be big.

Maloney: There’s a book I just read called Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday. His job is to market artists. I could see you doing that.

Christopher: That’s really cool–just having that ear and eye for knowing what’s going to be big.

Maloney: Is that why you like pop music so much?

Christopher: Yes.

Maloney: You probably get this from time to time: there’s people who might say that the top 40 is generic and stupid. What do you say to that?

Christopher: It’s not though–everyone listens to it. Why is it the top 40 if it’s so stupid? People like it, that’s why. It’s catchy. It makes money. It’s good. Maybe it’s not in your own niche, but it’s popular. Why wouldn’t it be good if everyone listens to it?

Maloney: Is it just a part of you that has to be so grand and big?

Christopher: Yes, I think so. I can’t be content going to a job from 8-5 putting numbers into a computer. I can’t do that. You only have one life, so I want to go big.

Maloney: So you’re probably going to come to several points in your life that are pretty scary.

Christopher: I think I’ve already hit some. When I looking for this internship I got denied from one. Having a big internship in a big city was really important to get into the music industry; you’re not going to get into the music industry without an internship and without connections. So when I got denied it scared me so much. Then I found this internship because my dad knew the guy who runs A.D.A. in Warner Music. That’s how I got it, but that’s how everyone gets things in the music industry.

Maloney: Why are you so health-conscious?

Christopher: All that I’m learning about right now–fasting, working out, being healthy– all that stuff is so interesting to me.

Maloney: Tell me about fasting.

Christopher: I started my sophomore year of college when my mom brought it up. She said, “You should try eating only from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.” I did and I lost so much weight and felt better. It was so cool. This summer I wanted to try to do more so I did some research and started not eating until 12 p.m. This year I have no calories until at least 1 p.m., and I’ve gone until 3 p.m. You just feel better, and when you do eat you don’t feel like you need to eat again. I’ll eat something at 2 p.m., and again at 4, and then after practice, but I still have a fourteen-hour window between eating dinner and breakfast, sometimes sixteen.

Maloney: That’s pretty extreme.

Christopher: My trainer wants me to try a dinner-to-dinner fast. I want to try it but I don’t want to do with with volleyball practice.

Maloney: When you say fasting makes you feel better, what do you mean by that?

Christopher: I have more energy, I feel better, I don’t get sick. I was sick a lot growing up–I would get pneumonia every year. I don’t want to feel like that ever again, and maybe that’s why I’m so health-conscious. I used to get sick more often than most people, but now I think I get sick less than anyone else does. People are like, “I’ve got the Fredonia plague again,” but I’m fine.

Maloney: Was it hard to adjust to the fasting?

Christopher: I started with the 11-7 and then decreased it more and more, so it wasn’t a bad adjustment.

Maloney: So are you eating larger meals than most people during that window?

Christopher: Larger than I used to. Today I had coffee in the morning, then I ate at 1:15 p.m. because I woke up at 8:30 a.m., so I’m hungry around 1. I had two eggs with peppers, three protein bites, raspberries, and an apple-cider vinegar drink. So it’s not a huge meal, but last year I would just eat two eggs and then space it out more.

Maloney: So what are some other things that you do?

Christopher: I eat gluten-free.

Maloney: Why?

Christopher: I started in January of my senior year of high school and did it for four months. I thought it was fun. I have more energy. That’s the main thing: I feel like I can do more. I love being busy, so I want to do as much as I can. Then I went to college my freshman year and I just threw that out the window; I wanted mozzarella sticks at 11 p.m. I was sick my entire spring semester of freshman year. I was stressed and not liking school and not being as healthy as I was. I wasn’t having home-cooked meals, I didn’t have my mom to say, “Don’t eat that.” So I came back that summer after my freshman year and my mom said, “Let’s do Orange Theory.” I started working out a lot more and a lot harder. Then I started eating better and I lost 15 pounds, which effected my life so much. I was like, “Wow, this can have an effect on how I feel every day.” That was cool.

Maloney: What kinds of things were you doing at Orange Theory?

Christopher: A lot of interval training (HIIT training) on the treadmill and rower. It’s not as much weights as I would like–I want to lift heavier than they do there. They don’t have squat racks or any free weights. I liked it but I would also like to work out by myself and lift heavier. I would like both.

Maloney: And you’re not interested in CrossFit?

Christopher: I’ve never thought about it to be honest.

Maloney: It seems like what you just described: an Orange Theory with weights.

Christopher: I just never got into it. I’m not opposed to it though.

Maloney: Is there anything else you do that’s unique?

Christopher: I have a very positive outlook on life and I feel like a lot of people don’t have that. If you believe you can do something, you can do it. A lot of people don’t believe in that positive imaging. My mom always says, “If you want something to happen, think about it in your head and see it happening and it will happen.” I think like that, but I feel like a lot of people don’t.

Maloney: Do you think you’re so health-conscious because you’re so driven and you want to maximize how much you can do in your life?

Christopher: Yes. I want to live to be 100. That’s my goal.

Maloney: Why?

Christopher: Life is so great. It really is. Yes I struggle, and sometimes it sucks, but then something good happens and you’re like, “This is why I live. This is why life is so cool.” You struggle and then you get something better out of it, every time.

Maloney: Can you talk to me about social media? It seems like something you need to be good at for the career you want.

Christopher: Everyone is on social media–at least my generation and younger. When I was in fifth grade I didn’t have social media, but now you see all these fifth-graders and they all have social media. It’s just getting younger and younger and everyone is getting it. If you want to market a product it had better be on social media or you’re not going to get the audience that you want.

Maloney: But isn’t it stressful?

Christopher: It’s so stressful. I think with social media–especially Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter–you want certain people to see what you’re doing. Whether or not someone ‘likes’ your picture sends a message. It’s stressful when you’re trying to get someone to see your picture and they’re not ‘liking’ it.

Maloney: Couldn’t it just be random? Couldn’t they have just not seen it?

Christopher: That’s the thing–you don’t know. I don’t like that I don’t know. Maybe they did see it and they didn’t like it, or maybe they didn’t see it.

Maloney: I can understand that if you have a product to sell that you think is going to change the world, but why bother being so worried about it right now?

Christopher: I guess I shouldn’t be, but as a person I want people to see what I put out. That probably sounds shallow, but I just like communicating. I love showing people what I’m doing. I like seeing other peoples’ stuff and talking about it.

Maloney: That makes more sense, because an older person with no social media experience might think that it’s stupid. But what you’re saying is that we’re actually interacting on social media, and this is our relationship. It’s not all of our relationship, but it’s part of it. I see now.

Christopher: Especially when you go to college and leave your friends from home, if they ‘like’ your Instagram picture you’re still friends. It’s a thing in the new era that you have to account for. If you erase all that and you don’t have that friendship over social media, do you really have that friendship? It’s cool way to stay connected.

Maloney: So what do you do with the stress? It’s rampant with everybody.

Christopher: Honestly, right now it’s hard. I talked to you about Snapchat and how for a while they took away your ability to see all the people who look at your Story. It stressed me out when they did that–I couldn’t see everyone that looked at it. What if I want this person to see it? If I don’t know if they saw it or not, that puts stress on me. It’s a little scary.

Maloney: But it’s still worth it?

Christopher: Yes. That’s a good way to put it, because it is worth it. Posting that picture and getting so many ‘likes’ is a good feeling. Once you get to a certain amount of ‘likes’–say I get to 100 ‘likes’ on a picture–you’re not going to get that same feeling until you get 110 ‘likes’ on a picture. It keeps going up, which is an addicting part of it. If I erased social media I honestly think I would go a little crazy.

Maloney: There’s part of me that understands, but there’s part of me that also thinks that’s unsustainable, because how many people can you know?

Christopher: You can always keep knowing people. Think about it. . .

Maloney: But you can’t keep having better relationships with all of them.

Christopher: I know what you mean, but I think I still have relationships with those people that I only talked to two years ago–they still ‘liked’ my Instagram picture. I’m still meeting more people. Yes, it might not be as good of a relationship, but I guess it just filters through.

Maloney: What do you mean, “filters through?”

Christopher: You’re not talking to those people anymore–you’re talking to other people–but those people are still ‘liking’ your pictures. On my Instagram for example, my number of ‘likes’ has gone up overall as an average trend.

Maloney: And that makes your life better?

Christopher: See, I wouldn’t necessarily say that.

Maloney: So what’s the point then? If it doesn’t make you life better then why bother?

Christopher: Because it’s fun.

Maloney: Then it does make your life better? Or no? I’m not asking because there’s a right answer.

Christopher: I guess it does for that time, but it doesn’t last that long.

Maloney: It’s a weird situation. Everyone’s trapped in it now.

Christopher: It’s scary. It’s really scary. Have you seen (Netflix series) Black Mirror? 

Maloney: I’ve seen all of them.

Christopher: Have you? The one where you swipe at people (Nosedive–Season 3, Epidsode 1)? And every time you see a person you have to rate them out of five? I feel like that’s where we’re headed. That’s not good, and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon. It makes too much money.

Maloney: How do you think you’ve changed over the last four years?

Christopher: I think this past summer was the biggest change. I got this internship in New York City and I was so stressed about going. I didn’t know a single person, I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t know how the subway worked. I knew nothing. I remember I was working out in the gym and suddenly I couldn’t breathe and started crying for no reason. I didn’t know what was going on, but now I realize that I wasn’t thinking about the stress. I wasn’t thinking about how I was living alone and I wasn’t thinking about my future. It just all hit me at once, but in that moment I calmed myself down and said “I’m fine.” I called my mom and she said, “I think you’re really stressed out and you’re not dealing with it. You’re just putting it in the back of your head.” From that moment forward I was like, “Alright, I can do this. I’m okay.” And through the summer I grew up so much. I came back and I felt different. I feel like I can talk to people better, my public speaking skills are better. I went up to an A&R (artists and repertoire) woman that worked for Atlantic Records and had a fifteen-minute conversation with her. I can’t imagine doing that six months ago. But now I feel like I can do anything.

Maloney: Is there any advice you would give to a freshman coming to college for the first time?

Christopher: The biggest thing I learned my freshman year is to go with the flow. Everything will work out. It might suck right now, and you might be missing home a ton, but you’ll get through it. College is the best four years of your life. Maybe “best” isn’t the right word, but it’s the craziest, most exciting four years of your life. You learn a lot about yourself which is the coolest part, so stick with it.

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