Spotlight: Tom Dempsey – Do The Work

Western Australian athlete, Tom Dempsey tells his story about moving to the USA to pursue his volleyball dreams. Read about his volleyball journey and his life highlights from taking on new opportunities as they come. 

I began playing volleyball at Aquinas College after being encouraged by my father (Volleyball WA Life Member, Michael Dempsey). I found an early love for both codes of the sport, beach and indoor volleyball. I had the opportunity to represent WA in beach and indoor State Teams, as well as represent Aquinas College at the Australian Volleyball Schools Cup, which were the highlights of my early volleyball years. As I grew up I started training and playing beach volleyball with some Western Australian volleyball legends, including winning my first ever Alcohol.Think Again Beach State Tour event with former Australian Beach Volleyroo, Josh Court.

After graduation, I moved to Canberra to become a full-time athlete as part of the Australian Volleyball Academy, but had no real clarity on where I wanted to go in my future. I began actively looking for college volleyball opportunities in Canada and the USA, which opened the door to my first offer to play indoor volleyball at Benedictine University in Arizona, USA for the 2022/2023 season. I was lucky to be part of a very strong and successful squad at Benedictine, with the team eventually finishing 2nd at the National Championships, but unfortunately I didn’t see much court time.

Before the start of the 2023/2024 season, I received another offer from a different college, Westcliff University in California to play both indoor and beach volleyball. I jumped at the opportunity to go back to my WA routes of competing in both codes of the sport, in the amazing state of California. I was extremely lucky to join a strong beach and indoor squad that included players from all over the world.  Our beach squad won the National Championships in November, and our indoor squad took out the Conference Championships for the first time, booking a ticket to the National Championships in April where we finished top-8 in the country.

The best part about living in the USA is meeting new people and experiencing new things. The Americans love the Aussies, so I am treated really well here and have been surrounded by great people who have shown me so much about the USA. I get to travel, train and compete with my team everyday. I also have been able to visit some cool landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Times Square.

Right now I am living in Orange County, California, which is just 45 minutes south of Los Angeles and Hollywood. Orange County is just a much larger version of Perth with the same beach vibes, solid weather and wicked people. I’m on summer break currently, so most days I will be heading to the beach, playing volleyball, and staying active in the off season.

One of the biggest challenges so far was deciding to take the huge leap and move across the world, only to find myself not getting court time. Unfortunately, I was quick to give up there and didn’t train as hard as I knew I could have. Luckily, with the opportunity to transfer I felt like I was given a fresh start. Once I transferred to Westcliff, it was my goal to give the season my all, regardless of the outcome.


For anyone considering this journey my advice is to put your head down and do the work. As I’ve learnt and am still learning every day, nothing just happens on its own and hard work goes a long way. Ask questions, stay fit, work on your skills, play without worrying about mistakes, and trust the process.


Written by Tom Dempsey