Senior Spotlight: Caitie Baird on her final season and her future

Senior Spotlight: Caitie Baird on her final season and her future

Throughout her final season on the women’s volleyball team, redshirt senior Caitie Baird has proven to be a standout player and leader on and off the field as volleyball chases their tenth NCAA Championship Title.

Baird received a plethora of awards: three-time Pac-12 Champion (2019, 2022, 2023), AVCA All-America second team (2021), All America fourth team (2022), All-America honorable mention (2020) and four-time All-Pac-12 Conference (2020, 2021, 2022, 2023). Baird is also a CSC Academic All-America first team (2022) and a three-time Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll (2020, 2021, 2022). 

The Daily’s Chantal Eiwanger sat down with Baird to reflect on her time at Stanford, what she will take away from five years with the Cardinal and what her future looks like professionally.  

This interview has been slightly edited and condensed for concision and clarity.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What made you choose volleyball? Did you play any other sports growing up? 

Caitie Baird (CB): Growing up I played everything: t-ball, basketball, track, soccer. Kind of anything and everything. I did everything a kid would want to do and get to be active with. In high school, I played basketball, volleyball and track. Growing up with an older sister who branched out and tried volleyball inspired me to try it. I fell in love with the sport. I felt better equipped and better suited for it. It just fit who I was as a person better, so it took off from there. 

TSD: Did you always know you wanted to play volleyball in college? What was the process like getting to Stanford? 

CB: Starting off, it was between basketball or volleyball just because I grew up on basketball. I was five days old and I was in a basketball gym because my mom was a coach. Basketball was always there. We had a dream board in our house and I wanted to get a scholarship for basketball or volleyball. But, I think as I grew into volleyball a bit more and got more experience, it definitely was all volleyball from there on. I knew that I wanted to go to college for it. It was something I loved doing. I was investing a lot of my time and effort into it. I could really see myself going somewhere with it. 

I am from Indiana originally, so I grew up around Big-10 volleyball. Once I got really into volleyball, I wanted to go play Big-10 volleyball. I’m kind of more of a homebody and I didn’t expect myself to go very far from home. And then Stanford kind of came into the question. I didn’t really know anything about Stanford. My mom encouraged me to check it out. Once I came here and stepped on campus, I immediately fell in love with it. It was a home away from home for me. It hits all the boxes. Academically strong, volleyball strong. It had a good legacy here that I wanted to be a part of. 

TSD: What has been the highlight of your time here at Stanford, both on the volleyball team and off? 

CB: On the volleyball team, I feel like it’s a no brainer to say winning the National Championship my freshman year. Outside of that, I’d have to say being on this team and doing what we have done. Winning the Pac-12 back-to-back years. Winning the last Pac-12 championship ever, which is really exciting. That is what we set out to do and that was huge for us. And just being with these girls. They have made coming to practice fun because I get to be around my best friends. It’s something I always look forward to, and it’s the best part of the day. Outside of volleyball, I think meeting all the incredible people here. They have challenged me in so many ways, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person. 

TSD: What advice would you give your freshman self? 

CB: Enjoy all the little moments. The ones that you don’t think mean that much will end up meaning the world to you. Also, don’t worry about comparisons. Stay true to yourself. It’s okay to struggle and go through some hard times, but you’re never alone. You have a support system and there are people who have your back. 

TSD: What does the volleyball team mean to you? 

CB: They’re basically my sisters. On a game day, we pretty much spend 12 hours together. It’s a long day so you lean on them a lot. They really are family. We joke at the beginning of pre-season, ‘Your family doesn’t exist anymore.’ This is your family, and it is kinda true. We go through so many ups and downs that there is no one else I would rather have by my side going through all of that. 

TSD: How have your teammates and coaches shaped your experience at Stanford? 

CB: Teammate-wise, they’ve definitely gotten me out of my shell. They’ve pushed me and challenged me in so many ways. I am so much more comfortable with who I am as a person. Part of that goes to them for getting me to be my true self. Coaching-wise, they’ve always told me to lean into it, lean into the pressure and lean into the mistakes. Their patience is something I value so much. They have believed in me since day one, so I am just so grateful for them. 

TSD: In your time here, you and the team have been quite successful, starting off your freshman year winning the NCAA tournament, what do you credit that success to? 

CB: I think it is everyone’s work ethic. We are all bought in and shooting for the same goals. We all want to go to the same places. When you have a united front on that, I think anything is possible. Our coaching staff gets the best out of us. They come up with new drills and push us a lot. Without that, we wouldn’t be as good or as strong as we are. 

TSD: What made you decide to take your fifth year? Was that ever not on the table? 

CB: I was always going to take my fifth year. I knew coming in my freshman year I wasn’t going to play, so I redshirted and I knew I wanted to take that extra year. Seeing what group I had with me and who was around me, I knew we had the capability of going far and doing some incredible things. So, I wanted to be a part of that. I do have a sixth year because of COVID, but I probably won’t take that. I think it’s time for me to close a chapter and move on. I am really thankful that I had that fifth year to do what we have done. 

TSD: Do you see yourself being involved in volleyball in the future? 

CB: Yeah. I am looking to play pro after the season — finish off my degree first and then look at professional opportunities both inside the United States and outside. After that, I don’t know what I want to do but I want to stay connected to the sport. Whether it’s coaching or not. 

TSD: What are you going to miss most about being on the Stanford volleyball team? 

CB: I think the community: the coaching staff, the girls and the fans. There is no one like them. They are incredible, and I am getting emotional thinking about saying goodbye because I don’t want it to be over yet. 

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