Three Hundred And Sixty

Sometimes I remind myself that I almost skipped the party, that I almost went to a different college, that the whim of a minute could have changed everything and everyone. Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance.

Oh the adventures continue. It’s pretty clear that this life is the most unpredictable one I could have chosen for myself. One moment I’m waking up in Trasanni (aka Urbino, aka Italy) with little baby Zeus and the next day I am in Germany practicing with a brand new team. A casual three hundred and sixty degree change. Whaaaaaat????

The decision to leave Italy did not come easily, let me tell you, and I appreciate all the patient people that were able to give me advice during this whirlwind of a time. Whew. For a terrible decision-maker such as myself, that was a pretty crazy one to make. I wish that the club’s financial situation in Urbino was different and I was able to play out the next two months with the team I had become so close with. However, since day one there had been a lot of problems for me personally and for the team. From our first coach getting fired early in the season, to having our assistant coach take over the team for 2 weeks, and then our trainer taking over the team for another week after that, talk of the club folding in many team meetings, not getting paid, and just overall chaos… it was a lot to deal with. The biggest issue was payments and it became clear to me the last week I was in Urbino, the situation wouldn't be getting any better. I hope that the club can somehow find the money to pay the girls that are currently there training; this is our job and I just can’t believe that in a lot of places, it’s this difficult for us to get our paychecks. But alas, that’s professional volleyball in Europe and it’s a very harsh reality, especially in the Italian league due to the downfall of the economy. After we took Conegliano to five sets on my last Sunday in Italy, we had a free day on Monday where I planned to make a final decision on whether or not staying in Urbino was best choice for me. Woke up late (traveling through the night was not going to allow me to have an early start to the day), went on a run, played with Zeusy and then met my current coach, Jan, for coffee later in the afternoon. I wanted to let him know that this Germany offer was still on the table, so in case I decided to make the switch, he wouldn’t be completely blindsided at the decision.

 One last stroll through Urbino. 

One last stroll through Urbino. 

Ironically, he had just been fired from the exact club I was deciding whether or not to join - Vilsbiburg so it was really good to chat with him. Although we spoke more about his National Team experiences (he is the ex-coach of the Belgian National team and current coach of the Hungarian National team so he knows Rita = my saving grace on my team last year in Turkey), it was still really good to bounce my thoughts and ideas off him. Even though he was only here for two weeks it was pretty incredible to watch him transform our team. In the Italian league, it is basically unheard of for a foreign coach to make it in. Their mentality is very straight and narrow and so by not letting outside coaches in, they are protecting their coaches within Italy (as there are a lot) which makes it’s easier to get fired and get picked up by another team the following week. I was told that a lot of coaches are switching from A1 and A2 and from assistant to head coach, all the time. So it was interesting he was able to get in in the first place, although it was proving difficult from the get go. The first game we played with him he wasn’t able to be on our bench and had to sit with our stats guy, shouting instructions and tips from the end line. But we ended up winning – a major, major win for us, as it was crucial to get three points from this team in order to stay afloat. The following week we also had success against Conegliano but again, Jan wasn’t able to be head coach, but at least this time he was allowed on the bench. We’ll see if the Italian Federation actually processes the transfer or whether he will be pulled along for the rest of the season. I loved working with him, even if it was for such a short time. It was amazing to me how my mentality and performance changed playing under a national team coach. I got to see first hand the undeniable differences between a professional coach and a national team coach. The flow of practice is different, the mindset is different, and the drills we do every practice are very, very different. I was able to flourish and felt more like myself as a player than I had since the first day I arrived in Urbino. Since October, I was continuously ready to get on to the court and prove myself but was denied the chance. Repeatedly. With Jan, he understood that every player has strengthens and weaknesses and it’s just about finding the perfect flow and equation between the players in order to make the best team possible. I admire him for that. He came into a club where politics ruled all and last names were placed more heavily on day-in and day-out performance in the gym. I saw my teammates’ attitudes change from complacency to urgency. Players became alive again. A few Italian players completely changed their attitudes and began to work hard for this new coach with his new international ideas; ones that they had never seen in their years playing volleyball and especially not in the Italian league. Major kudos. He supported me throughout my decision to switch clubs even if he didn’t want me to leave, which I also appreciated. The last time I spoke with him he told me that he was sure we would work together again – that sometimes you meet a person and you just have a feeling that your paths will cross again in the future. So I have that to look forward to. I wish him and the girls the best of luck in the next couple of months! I hope things get better for everyone. But back to the switch…

One of my last evenings with the team. 

Of course it would be too easy for me to leave without some kind of conflict. First off, I wasn’t even sure if the president of the club would sign my release. I decided Monday evening after talking with Jan and my National Team coach Lupo, via Skype, that I wanted to switch clubs and informed my agent immediately so he could start the process. However, I had to wait until that paper was physically signed. Until then, I was technically still on the team. Had to go to weights in the morning and practice in the evening on Tuesday (which ended up only being a really large team meeting touching on some pretty big, important things…). I got a message from my agent halfway through that meeting (yes I had my phone out because everyone was rage-yelling in Italian and I had to keep myself entertained somehow) and he said that the president signed and I would be heading out as soon as possible. The next two days were filled with packing, errands, and dinners (the last Italian feast!) with my teammates, who in the end almost killed me. I cried saying goodbye to every person and staff member. Holy dehydration. I'm too soft. Looking back on my time in Urbino I can say that I really enjoyed it because of the girls. I really met some incredible friends this season and I was pretty devastated to leave them. Luckily, I have this coming weekend off where I will be meeting three of them in Prague, as well as heading back to Italy after my season here is complete before flying back to the motherland. Let the good times roll.  

A little map two of my teammates made for me to ensure I wouldn't get lost. 

Moving day was interesting, of course. I had to drive myself to a nearby town to pick up someone from the club, who would then come with me to the airport and drive my car back to Urbino. First, I almost forgot my passport and a few chargers in my bedside-table drawer. Completely forget to empty that out. Great. Second, as I was leaving and doing a mental check, I realized my wallet wasn’t in my purse. Cue panic and cursing. I eventually remembered that I had it the night before when I was getting gas… sure enough, it was sitting on the passenger seat in my car. Just testing the limits and good-will of my neighbours. I also had to leave mega early to go grab the webpocket (portable wifi) from my teammate, Jess, as I just didn’t feel totally comfortable driving to this other town to pick up some random men without any form of communication. Early early early. Rush rush rush. “I will NOT cry at 6:30 in the morning..,!” – Thank you Kiesh and Jess. Found the two dudes without problems and arrived earlier than normal at the airport (you could say I have learned my lesson from previous experiences). When I finally get to check in, the lady is baffled that I have three massively large bags. Yes that’s real life… please don’t weigh them and just let me go through in peace. Check check check. The classic security lineup struggles are more real than ever and leave me in a more slightly flustered mood than before. My overflowing bags have been meticulously packed in a tetris-style-like-puzzle. I also hate the fact that I have to take out my computer… it ruins everything and I struggle with this every single time I fly, which is a lot. Then of course they ask to sift through said tetris-packed-bags. Don’t mess with me. Wearing hightops and having to take them off thru security is also a fun added bonus. Especially trying to get them back on while the bins are taking up the entire space, overflowing, with angry-rushed people behind me, simultaneous with the fact that I'm watching them search thru my stuff as I wrestle my shoes on and proceed to fall over. I look goooooood right now. Flight was super fast and surprisingly pain-free, but coming off the plane I actually forgot where I was. Where did I just come from? What country am I in? I literally stood there staring at the baggage claim board like a dummy trying to rack my brain and remember what city I just flew out of. Jeeeebussss Kyla, get more sleep. Before I knew it I was on my way to Vilsbiburg in a pretty siiiick car that only needed to start up with a push of a button. Magic. Unfortunately, my pick-er-upper didn’t speak English but no problem because I’m on my best behaviour smiling as sweet as possible to make up for the lack of communication. I’m told it will snow tomorrow and I believe it because it's cold as balls. Yesterday I was running around Urbino in leggings, a sweater, and sneakers. What is this thing called snow?

My new home - Vilsbiburg. 

The next hour and a bit I sit in comfortable silence with a folder of things to sign and a to-do list on top. We head to city hall to sign some papers and then to the team’s office to sign more things and try on a million articles of clothing that they will order for me next week. Christmas. Germans know how to get stuff done. The most hilarious (and slightly frightening thing) was the huge binder we got, filled with information and well, rules. Best: after each home game you are to head up to the VIP lounge to eat, drink (water), and mingle with the sponsors. Wet hair is not allowed. It better be blow-dried out and it better be pretty. I’ve been straight slumming it the last few months so that was an interesting one. Photo shoot would be completed next week for media-purposes... including a few shots of me in bavarian outfits. MMhmmm. No words. Also the fact that team cars need to go through the car wash before each home game and then parked all in a row at the back of the gym (side note: each car has a photo of the player on the outside of the car. Privacy? Ciao). Sign sign sign my life away, then straight to the gym to meet my teammates who are just about to practice – “Hey. Welcome. Are you able to practice?” “Uhhhh…. Yessss….” “Okay go get changed.” Don’t panic. Breathe. I have to haul all three of my MASSIVE suitcases out of the car into the parking lot and sift through it a lllllll in order to find the various things I need for practice. Of course everything is spread out between the three bags. 30 minutes into practice I also realize that we are indeed practicing with the Mikasa ball… not the Molten which I have been playing with for the last million months. It took me a good week or so to get used to that one. After that first evening practice I head home. The awesome thing about this move is that I get to live with one of our National Team setters, Dani Smith, who is playing on the club’s second team here (but practicing with us a few days in the week… and should really be on our team but fine…). Unfortunately the visit with her was short-lived because we had practice bright and early the next morning and then my team and I were off to Hamburg – the longest road trip of the season. I was actually so pleased to be forced to sit in one spot for eight hours. The last week was just way too crazy and emotional so actually having the opportunity to sit down and rest for an extended period of time was pretty lovely. Hamburg also meant the largest hugs from Jennifer and Lucifer… also very needed after this past week.

Humble abode; chez Daniella & Kyla. 

Lucifer and I caught snuggling post-game (I can't believe she's real!). 

There are actually photos of Lucifer and I snuggling after the match (after the first time I got in trouble for not cooling down)… friends once again and it feels so good. First match back in the Bundesliga with a 3-0 win. Winning is fun. After the match we unfortunately had to depart immediately and drive throughout the night, arriving back at my flat at some ungodly hour. Initially I thought I was locked out of my apartment. Both keys I had were extremely sticky and I didn’t know which one was for the front entrance and which one was for my front door. I tried so many times, all the while thinking “this is not happening to me right now.” Dani wasn’t home and I didn’t have wifi or a German number so my options for survival were extremely scarce. I actually went back on to the street to see if any of my teammates would drive by and rescue me. After I tried again for the fortieth time, I finally got in to the building and my flat, and just passed out. Suitcases still packed. Since then, it’s been an easy transition back into the German league and onto this team. In German especially, they pack their teams with foreigners, which is great for us (we currently have six whom I get along with really well!). Vilsbiburg has always been a top club in the Bundesliga and usually finishes in the top 3 after every season. This year, however, there have been some problems and we finished 8th place at the end of regular season, therefore having to go through pre-playoffs. In Germany, the top six automatically move on to playoffs where as the teams in seventh to tenth will play off against each other, with the two winning teams advancing (seventh plays tenth & eighth plays ninth). Due to some injuries, the club brought in me, as well as a new setter from Berlin two weeks before I arrived. We’re hoping that we can kind of reset and come together as a new team before and during playoffs. One really cool and exciting thing is the fact that we are still in Challenge Cup - the quarterfinals to be exact. The first week of March the Turkish club Bursa comes to Vilsbiburg to play us on Wednesday and the following week we head to Turkey to play them (back to the old stomping grounds), all the while somehow balancing pre-playoff games on the weekend. Preplayoffs vs. Hamburg which means I'm up against my fellow Canadians - JennyCakes, Lucifcer, and Cranny aka Smooth. It's going to be a blast.

February 18 – vs. Kopenick, 3-0

Februrary 21 – vs. Munster, 3-2

February 25 – Game 1 of pre-playoffs, best of 3 series (changed due to our Challenge Cup schedule), 3-0

March 4 – Challenge Cup vs. Bursa, Turkey

March 7 & 8 – 2nd and 3rd (if necessary) games of pre-playoffs vs. Hamburg 

March 11 – Challenge Cup game 2 IN Bursa

March 14 – First game of ¼ Final Playoffs

March 18 - Second game of 1/4 Finals (third game is March 21st and then we will see where we are!) 

Bringing Carnival to our practice. 

Super super busy but I love it. Last week we were on the road for six days; our games vs. Kopenick and Munster were away so we decided to stay at an Olympic Training Complex just outside of Berlin to train, therefore avoiding the 8hour bus ride back and forth from Vilsbiburg. Good choice. We were able to go in to Berlin on Thursday morning before our evening training session. I am so in love with that city, it was nice to be back again! After our game vs. Munster we drove the seven hours back to Vilsbiburg through the night, had two days at home to practice and repack, and the left for another eight and a half hour bus ride to Hamburg. Busy busy busy. Overall, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to change situations and when I did, that it ended up being for the best. I’m in a club that’s extremely organized (I almost died of happiness when I was given an entire day-to-day detailed month schedule) and in a situation that will allow me to play a lot more games than if I had stayed in Italy. Not to mention, living with Dani has been such a treat… I can’t believe that some of my other teammates have played full seasons with friends/Canadians! What a difference it makes! Our little town of Vilsbiburg is more like a village and is just over an hour away from Munich. It's a picturesque Bavarian town. Colourful buildings which remind me of gingerbread houses, quaint town square, countryside, and the best little bakeries and cafes. Yes it's super super small but only being here for a few months with not a lot of free time, it's been pretty perfect so far. One big change has just been the level of play; after playing in the Turkish league and most of this season in Italy, the level is definitely a bit lower here in Germany. However, I get to challenge myself every day; it’s completely on me to make sure I’m practicing at a consistent, high level, and playing well in every game I have left, for my new club. I am grateful that I get to meet and work with a whole new group of girls whom I never would have known if I didn’t take this chance. So many opportunities and things to learn from my new teammates, I love it. And I always say I love adventures and this has definitely been that. I’m proud of myself for making the switch to a new club, because in that small way, I was standing up for myself. Urbino’s season will finish at the end of March (as they unfortunately will not be making it into playoffs) and so it’s hard to believe that Vilsbiburg’s regular season ended last week. We get the opportunity to play in preplayoffs vs. some fellow Canadians (and then hopefully playoffs) including some great Challenge Cup games. After that… a little bit of exploring, R&R, and travel is calling my name before I head back to the motherland and get ready for Team Canada. TWO MONTHS and then we’re all reunited – that’s so crazy to me. Then on to the next big adventure. But for now… a couple more months in Germany to see what we can do.