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Ex-Eastern volleyball star raising children, running business

As a record-breaking setter on Eastern Washington University’s volleyball team in the late 1980s, Suzanne Vick Paulsen was a focused, goal-driven and immensely energetic student athlete.

And she retains that same locked-in personality today as she deals with a hectic, but highly gratifying, lifestyle that includes home-schooling her three young sons, running a highly successful direct-sales business out of her Tacoma-area home and staying involved with NBC Camps in any way possible.

“It’s a lot like it was in college, when I was taking between 21 and 23 credits each quarter,” said Paulsen who was a member of EWU’s 1989 volleyball team that was inducted into the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this fall. “I’m just mellowed out a bit, I guess.”

During her four-year stay in Cheney, Paulsen not only helped Eastern to three 20-win volleyball seasons and a collective 77-57 overall record, but also served as the team’s student trainer for three seasons, taping her own ankles, as well as those of her teammates.

“I can’t say for sure,” she said of her unusual dual role, “but I’m guessing Eastern’s feeling was, ‘Why would we need another mouth to feed on the road, when she’s already going?’ ”

As a player, she was voted her team’s most valuable player as a junior in 1988, when she finished with 902 assists, 32 aces and 230 digs. The following year, she set a single-season school record – which stood for 10 seasons – by handing out 1,367 assists, as the Eagles went 25-7 overall and won the Big Sky Conference Tournament to earn the school’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament.

But it was in her role as a student trainer, traveling with Eastern’s now-defunct baseball team, that she made her most lasting impression on former Eagles coach Jim Wasem, by helping save the life of one of his players.

Much of what happened that day remains a blur to Paulsen, who had traveled with the team to Ellensburg for a game against Central Washington. She does recall, however, watching EWU’s pitcher get hit on the side of the head with a batted ball that struck him so hard it bounced all the way back to home plate, where the catcher caught it.

As the student trainer, she rushed to the injured player’s aid.

“But to be honest, I don’t remember exactly what I did,” she said. “I’m sure I just went on auto pilot – you know, stabilized the head and applied the ice.”

The general consensus among the coaches and players at that time was to get the injured player, who was conscious, off the field and have him checked out further when the team returned to Cheney. But Paulsen remembers thinking something wasn’t right with the way he was responding, so she persuaded those around her to have the player airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was diagnosed with swelling of the brain, which could have been fatal had it not been treated so promptly.

“It was a very scary day,” recalled Paulsen, who went on to earn her degree from EWU, with a double major in education and athletic training, and marry her husband of 17 years, Tim, a Mead High School graduate, who also received his education degree from Eastern.

After leaving college, Paulsen and her husband both taught in the Tacoma area, where she had been a four-sport standout at Wilson High School. Paulsen also coached volleyball for several years and spent six years working as an athletic trainer and running volleyball camps for NBC Camps throughout the Pacific Northwest.

She started attended NBC camps when she was 12 years old and has been involved with the Spokane-based organization in some manner for the past 29 years. She used to work as a site director for NBC in Alaska each summer and still helps with registration for camps held in the Auburn, Wash., area.

Paulsen got out of education shortly after giving birth to her first child, Jase, who is now 10 years old.

In order to help with family finances, she became involved as an independent sales consultant for The Pampered Chef, a company that deals in the direct selling of high-quality kitchen tools.

And as a result of her success in staging “selling parties,” where a host invites friends to a social event at which Pampered Chef products are demonstrated and sold, Paulsen has been able to take vacations to such dream destinations as the Caribbean, the Bahamas, London and Mexico on incentive-driven getaways.

“The story on the whole (Pampered Chef) thing is that it probably should have never been the job for me,” Paulsen said, “because back then I didn’t cook, and I didn’t go to parties.”

But in the end, Paulsen figured out how to make the 16-20 hours she spends on her in-home sales business profitable beyond most expectations.

“Am I surprised I’ve been so successful? No,” Paulsen said. “But I know my mom is. And I just love the vacations. It’s been a pretty good gig.”

Good enough to allow her to meet her financial goals by staging two or three selling parties a week, while still finding time to home-school Jase and his two younger brothers, Zack, 8, and Tyce, 5. She also attends most their youth sporting events and even coaches her youngest son’s kindergarten basketball team.

“So I guess you could say I’m still involved with coaching,” she said. “But I’m not sure that counts.”

Which begs the question: Why would Suzanne Vick Paulsen need anything else on her crowded résumé?