May 24, 2024

Bound by love and volleyball: Brooke Van Sickle draws strength, inspiration from ever-supportive parents

Bound by love and volleyball: Brooke Van Sickle draws strength, inspiration from ever-supportive parents
Brooke Van Sickle has nothing but love for her parents. | Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports

Months before Brooke Van Sickle opened a new chapter of her career in the Philippines, she spent a sojourn in Limassol, Cyprus.

Van Sickle, who hails from Hawaii in the US, navigated the unfamiliar terrain of playing in a country far away from her homeland as she suited up for Cypriot club team AEL Limassol.

Her passion for the sport simply transcends borders, but it also meant living thousands of miles away from her parents, Lisa Bragado-Van Sickle and Gary Van Sickle.

So, despite the excitement over her overseas escapade, the Filipina-American stalwart could not shake off the feeling of homesickness.

“You know, when I was in Cyprus the last four months before this, I missed them so much," Brooke said, talking about her parents.

"It's just different when you finally leave home for the first time, especially in a foreign country. It can be hard sometimes,” she bared.

Just as Van Sickle was settling into her life in Cyprus, a conflict erupted in Israel, mere miles away from where she resided.

The distant rumblings of the Israel-Hamas war cast a pall over the Mediterranean island, and the peaceful days of training and competition were pervaded by fear and uncertainty.

“Cyprus is like a 30-minute flight from Israel. So I was there when the whole Gaza war started… It was like, just being really close, it was scary, for sure. I can't imagine what those families feel and everything, it's very sad and devastating,” Van Sickle shared.

Feeling adrift in a sea of apprehension, Van Sickle kept the principles instilled by her parents close to heart.

After all, she always carries with her courage and perseverance, values that had been woven into the fabric of her being since childhood.

“She’s gone a long way. We coached her, she started at eight, she was a little girl. Seeing her now, it’s been a good journey for her,” said Gary, who notably played for the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team in the NCAA Division I back in the day.

“I think what impresses me the most about her is her fearlessness. Like, she doesn’t get very rattled,” expressed Lisa, who also had collegiate and professional stints as a volleyball athlete in the past, when asked about her daughter’s growth over the years.

As the very people who taught Brooke to be brave, Lisa and Gary also faced uncertainty head-on, finding a way to reunite with their daughter in such a time of distress.

“It kinda was like a sticky situation to where they were supposed to come for Christmas break and then everything that's going on happened,” Brooke recounted. “I still got to see them for Christmas, you know, so it wasn't too bad.”

Shortly thereafter, Van Sickle embarked on yet another journey, this time taking her act to the Philippines, where she would fulfill a cherished family dream.

“My mom, she lived here when she was younger. I can’t believe that this experience is happening. I’m so grateful to even be here,” shared Van Sickle. whose mother hails from San Emilio, Ilocos Sur.

“It was my dream to play here.”

[RELATED: PVL: How Kalei Mau, Lindsey Vander Weide led Brooke Van Sickle to Petro Gazz]

Upon arriving in the country, Van Sickle wasted no time playing to her heart’s content.

The prolific outside hitter steered the Petro Gazz Angels to the 2024 PNVF Champions League title last February, even emerging as the tournament’s MVP.

Van Sickle continues her stellar showing in the ongoing PVL All-Filipino Conference, keeping Petro Gazz in the thick of the Final Four race with a 5-2 record, while emerging as the conference’s leading scorer to date.

To make things sweeter for Van Sickle, her family recently went out of their way to come see her in action.

Van Sickle’s parents flew in to support her and the rest of the Angels. Their first PVL experience happened in the fabled Smart Araneta Coliseum, where Brooke delivered a 27-point performance that unfortunately resulted in a five-set loss to the Chery Tiggo Crossovers.

Still, it marked a significant milestone for the Van Sickles as it came a day before Brooke’s 26th birthday last March 22.

“It's been so much fun watching her blossom into the player that she is today,” Lisa remarked.

“I'm very happy that they were able to make it out with their schedule and everything. Just to be able to have them come out on their break is just amazing,” Brooke gushed.

Several days later, members of the extended Bragado family traveled hundreds of kilometers from San Emilio, Ilocos Sur to Pasig, watching Brooke put on a 19-point showing in a rousing Petro Gazz win over Capital1 at the PhilSports Arena. 

"I'm so grateful. Actually, some of the family members I haven’t gotten to meet yet but I had dinner with them, and I didn't realize that my family's very big. It's like a whole clan and it was so cool that they actually drove down from San Emilio. I think they said it was an eight-hour (drive),” Brooke cheerily said.

She then continued, "Just to have a family that's willing to do that and even though I haven't met some of them, and for them to make that journey and come out to see me play here and my mom is just unreal and I couldn't be more grateful with the family that I was given and I'm just so happy to be able to finally connect with them and it's just so much love, and I'm so happy.”

With such a support system, Van Sickle has gained a strong and reliable wind underneath her wings as she looks to continue leading the Angels deep into the season-opening conference.

“Since I've been here I never really felt alone. I would say that my teammates have been fantastic, and I do feel like they're like my second family here basically. I do have my real family here, too,” she said.

“Just to be surrounded by so much love and support is amazing. I'm really happy to be here.”