You Are Not Alone
“I always knew I was going to be tall, so I embraced it. Other people had more of a problem than I did. I remember being 5-feet, 11 ½ inches in sixth grade. It was at that point I knew I could take several opportunities to play basketball, volleyball, or modeling. Being tall was what you make of it,” she told Dr. Phil in 2009. Haneef (the third tallest volleyball player at the 2008 Olympic games) and fellow teammate, Jennifer Joines Tamas, of the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team, were asked to appear on the show for an episode titled “Parents’ Biggest Fears,” dealing with children’s heights. At 6-foot 7 inches she went on to a successful career as an indoor volleyball Olympian.
She comes from a tall family: Her father, Mobarik, was also 6-foot 7 inches, her mother, Patricia, is 5-foot 9 inches, and her brother is 6-foot 3 inches. Her paternal grandparents had converted to Islam when they were in their 20s. Her father, who was African-American, and was born in New York and moved to California for the Navy. Though he was not a practicing Muslim himself, her father continued the family tradition of giving his children Arabic names. Tayyiba, the Arabic word for pleasant/well mannered, was born in Upland, California and raised in Orange County, California.
She excelled in volleyball, basketball and track and field in high school, winning CIF California State Championships in basketball and high jump in 1997. At Long Beach State she was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All American Team in 2001. During her summers, she was chosen for the Collegiate National Women’s Volleyball team practicing with 12-30 players at the training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After graduation, she was invited to train with the Senior National Women's Volleyball team, earning a starting position in 2002. As a part of the Team USA indoor volleyball team she participated in the Olympics in 2004 in Athens, Greece earning 5th place; and 2008 in Beijing, China, where her team won a silver medal.
In 2007 she married U.S. Air Force pilot Anthony Park. In 2009 she announced her pregnancy through Facebook, with the baby due in March 2010. The USA team had moved to Anaheim to train, and with her 6-month son in tow, she relocated and resumed training in the summer of 2010. Her husband was still stationed in Las Vegas so she moved in with her brother and his wife (who ran a daycare center and took care of her son when she was at practice). She went to the 2012 games in London, where her team once again won a silver medal.
“In 2012 I decided to retire and spend more time with my family. Then my husband was transferred to New Mexico and all of a sudden everything changed—I went from being a highly competitive athlete to a full-time mom with a 2-year-old son in a small town with not a lot of activities available. During my second pregnancy, with my daughter, I had terrible morning sickness for 39 weeks. After she was born, I felt depressed, but at the time I didn’t know it was postpartum depression. During my athletic career, we were trained to ‘suck it up—and told to play through pain,’ so I hid how I was feeling. I felt tired and ashamed, and in the middle of trying to navigate my emotions, I suffered more blows that only deepened my depression. My dad passed away, and a month later I had a miscarriage. I carried the guilt of both episodes for a long time.”
In 2014 she was offered a full-time coaching job for the women’s Sand Volleyball team at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Her husband was still in the Air Force stationedin New Mexico, so she moved to Arizona with the kids. “We were living in different states again, and I hadn’t acknowledged my depression, but I knew I had to talk to someone about it.” She earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship while in Arizona. “The distance put a lot of stress on our marriage, and it was rocky for some time, but when my husband retired from the Air Force, and we moved to Orange County, we began to focus more on our relationship and now it is stronger than ever.”
“Being tall made it difficult to find clothes that fit me properly growing up, so I started researching fashion with the idea of starting my own clothing line, 79 and Park, for women 6’0” and over. I designed a line of nine dresses and jumpsuits and had a soft launch featuring one dress, The Nellie, in 2017. I’ve put that idea on hold for now as I tend to my family and my relationship with God, but hope to get back to my business in the near future. After Thanksgiving of 2018, I started a job at the University of California Irvine as the Director of Business Administration for Women’s Basketball.” She still makes time as a head coach for a high school girls’ volleyball team and an assistant coach for a high school boys’ volleyball team.
“In 2018, Lindsey Berg, a former teammate, told me about MVP. She sent me some information, and I joined soon after. I still wasn’t sure what the program was about, but I went to a meeting with her, and I really enjoyed it. I love working out with a bunch of motivated people who push you to be better through exercise. The chats afterward help you to know that you are not alone as you navigate through the transitions in your life. I’ve met people who are going through the same experiences.”
“Growing up I would see other tall adults who were slouched over when walking and now they are hunched over and in pain. I learned from them to stand tall and to be confident. To this day I still get compliments on my posture. Growing up as a tall woman is cause for celebration, and shouldn’t be subjected to the painful ridicule that often is associated with being different.”
Her husband, who is 6-feet, is seven inches shorter than his wife and has supported her significant height advantage. “I think her height is awesome. I encourage her to wear heels, and I want to see how tall she can be. I think it’s beautiful.”