It’s crazy to me that a professional season can seem like it’s crawling by when you're in the moment… but looking back it can be fully described in a few short sentences when you’re home. How was your season this year? “It was good – started off in Italy but switched to a German team in January due to some financial issues with the club. But yeah, it was good!” Good is the describing word used to represent my time overseas for the past seven months. Good. That’s it. Half of my entire year is represented in one word. It’s super surreal and just goes to show how the overseas life is totally removed than the one I live here.
Because I am more or less in one spot these days (at least one country... for now) I can go into describing the word “good” in a bit more detail. As mentioned in a past blog, I switched clubs halfway through the year, a decision my past-self would have never thought my present-self would make. That took a lot of courage and balls (sorry for the articulate word choice) and quite frankly, I’m pretty proud of myself for doing it. The Three Hundred and Sixty blog post describes the whole move and my first month of whirlwind games I was having with my new German club. We breezed through the last couple of league and pre-playoffs games but ended up losing to Dresden in the first round of playoffs. In our second match against them we came out guns-blazing and I thought we were going to take it.. we had the opportunity to finish it off in four sets but couldn’t capitalize on the moment and eventually lost the match. We also lost 2-0 to the Turkish Club Bursa (who in the end ended up winning the European Challenge Cup) but it was a cool experience to travel back to Turkey to play a game there!
One thing I’m really thankful for is all the traveling I was able to do throughout this entire year. From hiking the Cinque Terre and exploring some Italian cities with my parents (such as Bologna) after World Championships, driving up to Lugano, Switzerland for New Years Eve with an American teammate to ring in the new year with some fellow volleyballers (TJ Saunders, Steve Gotch, and Marisa Field), road tripping to Prague with Dani (Smith) and meeting some of my Urbino teammates there for the long weekend, and my post season travels which consisted of a week in France, then Cyprus, and then back to Rome, before I made the long trek back to the motherland. The trip home was extremely unfortunate (all 24 hours of it) as I flew from Munich to Istanbul with a four hour layover, Istanbul to Toronto with another three hour layover, and then finally to Vancouver. That last plane ride I was so cross-eyed and delirious after not sleeping at all on the flights before. I was definitely in “crazy-land” for most of the flight and only half-conscious when we hit terrible turbulence and didn't seem to be phased at all.
Rome was actually my first real solo travel experience. Of course, everything starts off as a solo-trip when you’re heading to your new professional team and exploring the city and it’s surroundings for the first time. But this definitely felt different. My Urbino teammate, Jess, who I actually went to Rome with back in January before I made the switch, was supposed to meet me there. But due to more and more problems with Urbino's finances (who knew….) she wasn’t able to come down. Now, I know I’ve touched up on the fact that I’m a mega-nerd when I travel but I think I took this little jaunt to a whole new level. Perhaps it wasn’t as embarrassing as it usually is but it was still pretty absurd. The few days I had with Jess exploring Rome back in January was amazing, but that city is totally ridiculous and it stole my heart the first time I set foot there. This time, I had a pretty good idea of where things were and already had a few favourite hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and restaurants and secret spots that I needed to hit up again. I had my ipad with me which had the app ROME downloaded which actually proved to be the greatest thing. Ever. There was a virtual map that showed in real time where I was and the BEST part was that it also showed all the churches, ruins, roads, museums, etc. AAAANDDDD after clicking on such monument on the map it would take you to a little Wikipedia write up page. I was in travel heaven. There were a bunch of things on my initial list that I knew I needed to see but with this map I was finding a million and one things more. Both a blessing and a curse. Over the three days I was there, I think I just about walked every street in Rome and the last full day I had to explore, I walked for twelve straight hours with a 30min lunch break in between. Slightly excessive but so fantastic.
When I was at home a few weeks ago, I found myself splitting time in Vancouver and at home in Roberts Creek (which is totally normal). Our U14 Sunshine Coast team competed in provincials on one of those weekends placing 10th and 13th in tier one. I went to a few practices leading up to the competition just to try and increase the motivation in the group… and what better way to do that then to throw a few tshirts from national team and old professional teams their way. I try to get out as much as I can because I know first hand how great a positive role model can affect you, especially as an athlete. Spread the inspiration! I was also able to attend U17 & U18 provincials at the Richmond Oval for an afternoon. Great to watch the young talent coming through the grassroots these days in B.C. as well as catch up with all my old coaches such as Joanne Ross, Chris Densmore, Beathan Thomas, Doug Reimier, Ryan Hoffer, to name a few. Just head to any big volleyball event and it’s always a mass reunion.
Professional season completed, I am so so so excited to start this summer’s competition. So VERY PUMPED to be training hard with my girls again. It looks like we wont even have the chance to be training in Winnipeg for the entire month of June and July because we only have back to back to back to back… tournaments. It’s going to be insanity but this is exactly the kind of crazy schedule we need to push ourselves to the next level. The more experience the better. The cherry on top of this crazy summer schedule is we have two opportunities to play in Canada. The first is right NOW in Calgary where club nationals are being held. We’ll have a chance to run around the tournament and do some publicity stints there with the kidlettes and then play two exhibition matches vs. Puerto Rico on the 13 and 14th. Fun fact:
So great to have the chance to play in front of all these aspiring athletes! However, the most exciting tournament for me and many of my teammates is Pan Am Games, which is a competition held between athletes from the Americas every four years, occurring in the year before the Olympic Games. This summer they will be held in Toronto July 10-26. A little more information can be found here.
Our men’s national team coach explains that it’s a good tournament for Volleyball Canada because all the teams from the Americas will be attending. “It’s good preparation for the Olympic Games as far as the environment, the surroundings, and the actual competition.” He also mentions that it’s a great opportunity to promote the game in Canada in such a high-pressure situation. In fact, there was a recent article that came out from CBC sports titled “Sleeper sport will sizzle at Pan Ams.” It says that,
“On home courts in Toronto this summer both teams are expected to face fervent crowds who might be supporting other squads, which hail from countries where volleyball is much more than a sport… it's akin to a national passion play. In Brazil tickets have just gone on sale for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and volleyball is by far the biggest draw.”
It has always been an eye opener for me personally, having played for many, many years around the globe. In other countries you are treated like a celebrity. Going down to Mexico and South America the fans are absolutely crazy – often throwing their two-week-old babies at my teammates and I, clawing their way through crowds for autographs and photos. In contrast, I would say that the majority of people in Canada aren't aware with how successful our Volleyball Canada teams are, let alone naming one or more current players. My hope is that this opportunity to play in such an incredible tournament of this magnitude in Canada will give numerous individuals the opportunity to watch (in person or on TV) and come to appreciate this sport.
Currently, I am writing this post in my new place with Dana on the couch beside me. After three full days of training it honestly feels like we never left this city. The good part about that statement is that we’re all here (with the exception of three players who are just finishing up overseas) picking up where we left off at the end of last season during World Championships. I think Lupo is pleasantly surprised with how quickly we got back into the swing of things (which is necessary as these exhibition matches came up quickly)!! Our schedule so far is two 2.5 hour practices with weights 3-4 times a week. We have some fun slings/circuit workouts and agility we’re doing before every morning practice just to kick-start us into better shape. After the second day I couldn’t walk. Day three, I thought my ankles and calves were going to explode on the court. I couldn't really swing my arms around because I was so sore. Let alone to try and hit the ball. The power went out during one of our practices last week and the gym’s buzzer was going off for a solid 15 minutes before the electrician came and switched it off. We all wore earplugs. I spent every single afternoon in the physio room since we got back to Winnipeg. So overall… things are going well here... okay, so I just needed my body to adapt back to our training schedule and national team routine. I hope to see a bunch of people in Calgary – can’t wait to be able to play in front of (what I anticipate will be) a great home crowd!
Sidenote. Our friends at Volleyball Source need YOUR help. They have been an AWESOME resource for everybody watching our games overseas, giving up to date info on the athletes, covering our games/media when we play at home, and are just a really sweet support system for us. Cam & Everett are trying to raise money to head over to the 2015 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in the Netherlands to provide some one-of-a-kind coverage. SO we should probably help them out. Please please please and thank you! There are also some gift opportunities depending on how much you back them (I will personally be sporting an exclusive Volleyball Source tshirt!). Sweet swag is always a good idea. Make sure you check out their kick-starter video! We have ten days left people - and a lot of work to do!
Thanks for the support everyone! Hope to see you in Calgary!