Week 3 - Buenes Aires, Argentina

Change is the only thing that stays the same. It is our response to that change that dictates our success.

And just like that, Grand Prix (and our break) is over! It seems like so long ago when we first touched down in Lima, Peru to start this crazy adventure. Leaving Winnipeg I didn’t feel totally prepared and I actually thought the past three weeks were going to be a lot more difficult than they actually were. I assumed the jet lag would be unbearable (and it was a few times… but flying from South America to Europe back to South America seemed slightly impossible anyway) and that I would be struggling mentally to get through so many training sessions, meetings/scouting sessions, and straight up matches. Turns out, we can do a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. Although at the end of our last game I DID almost collapse due to fatigue - the brain just knew it was over! We will probably all get sick on our days off after not allowing any barriers to come down before we had finished the tournament. We really did push through.

We had a long layover in Madrid and when we finally arrived in Argentina we were pretty beat up. We had a baby nap once we got to our hotel (which was in the middle of nowhere) but also had video and an easier practice just to get the flight out of our legs and move around. No sleeping during the day to try and get back on South American time. After a few days of hanging out and making the long trek back and forth to our mafia-run hotel to the gym (that was about an hour away), Friday came around and we were ready to play! Going into the weekend we had a few meetings about what our goals were going to be and we had it down to win every game. We certainly have the skill to do so; we just needed to perform. The Friday night game, however, was off to a pretty sticky start from the get-go. Because we were the very first game of the weekend the volunteers and referees were not used to the protocol. The gym was absolutely FREEZING and our sweats had to be taken off early for whatever reason {we had been practicing in 3-4 layers because the gym was always just so cold). After we did a few lengths of dynamic stretches we were kicked off the court and a few of us had to do what we could off to the side. To top it off, we had no partner warm-up because they wanted us right into hitting warm up. Not being able to wear your sweats in a freezing cold gym with no warm up doesn’t bode too well for anyone. Regardless, we should’ve just gone with it but we couldn’t establish our game and ended up losing to Cuba 3-0. Super frustrating because we should be beating this team every time we play them - we have to. Lupo’s comment about the game was:

When you pass like we did today and serve like we did today it’s very hard to get a win. On the other hand, Cuba served and passed well, they were very strong in the first ball and also their blocks were strong.

The next evening we wanted to turn it around and come out hard against Argentina. We had taken them down the weekend before in Belgium, 15-13 in the 5th set, and so we knew they were going to come out with energy and vengeance, especially with their home crowd behind them. We definitely played better than the night before but we were still were not satisfied with our performance. Our passing struggled a bit due to their dropping-serves, which we haven’t worked on too much in practice – something to note before we head to Worlds. Personally I had a solid game in attack and ended up getting 18 kills but because of subs throughout the entire game, it was hard for the team to find a rhythm with who was on the court. We battled but ended up falling short to Argentina and lost in 4 sets. We didn’t have a great vibe after the game, on the bus, or in the hotel. It was clear everyone was disappointed but if we wanted to get a win this weekend we were going to have to come together as a team. We didn’t end up having a serve and pass the next morning but we did have a video session about our performance the night before; difficult to see and difficult to get ready for our last game. After lunch I had a spontaneous private conversation with our sports psychologist, Adrienne, and we discussed a few things that could be helpful to the team to get everyone pumped up for the evening. I sent some new goals out to the girls via our message on whatsapp (gracias, technology) and we started rallying together for the last game. I think my new goals for the group were:

  • The best celebration after any given point wins our team MVP hat. 
  • Support your teammates throughout the entire game. 
  • Play for each other.

We definitely had each other’s backs going into this game and we played a lot more carefree. I felt totally at ease the entire game and played with a huge smile on my face (personal goal was to just love every second of this final game of Grand Prix) and I think that had a positive translation to my play. I just knew we were going to win without any doubt in my mind and even when Peru started tightening up the lead, I wasn’t worried. Watching the game again once I got home, you could definitely see that everyone was just playing for each other and enjoying the moment. The commentators (shout-out to Charles and Emily who did a great job) kept saying that there were so many smiles throughout the entire game. Classic nice-Canadians! But honestly, I think we can take that entire weekend and learn so much just from those 3 games and how different we played in each match. Our last game vs. Peru we weren’t letting any outside factors negatively affect us and really just played for each other and it totally showed; 3-0 done with style. It was a really great way to end off the tournament even if we didn’t consistently perform the way we wanted to do. Our original goal coming in to Grand Prix was to qualify for Poland (which would have been the round after the last week in Argentina) and we unfortunately fell short. We need to make sure we are consistently winning against teams like Argentina, Cuba, and Peru (to add to that list would be Puerto Rico who we didn’t get a chance to play); these are the teams we are going to have to beat in order to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

A bit of a random side note, we realized on one of our many many bus rides that this August is/was a pretty cool month. There were 5 Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in August. This is the only month to do that for the next 825 years. EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE YEARS!! Scout Koskie also let our team know that our weekend in Argentina was “Lion Weekend” according to National Geographic. We decided earlier that our team was going to act like caged lioness (lionessi… lionesses?) so that was pretty perfect and fitting. Lucifer (aka Lucille June, aka Lucy, aka Rucy, aka Julia) was born August 13th 1989, 25 wonderful years ago… so that was a very special day. AND one of the Sunday’s we were in Argentina, there was a super moon, which means it was 12% bigger (I got a hilarious text from my father informing me of this…Becky also got a message from her Dad as well… highfive to nerdy Dads!).

Back on track… someone told me during one of our layovers, after I was complaining all about the travel schedule and how tired I was (shocker...) that it's all about perspective. Make it positive. So I looked around and was surrounded by a few of my best friends. We were all on our second Starbucks of the hour. At this point, we were headed to week 3 of Grand Prix, a tournament Team Canada hasn't played in a very long time. How lucky am I?? I've had a lot of these feelings this summer actually. My coach recently told me that he has seen me mature a lot as a player and athlete and it's really showing - and that it could be contributed to what I went through last year. He said I view things on a different level now, on and off the court, which is a pretty cool comment to hear. At Pan Am Cup I was rooming with my dear fried Lucille (aka Lucifer aka Rucy aka Julia aka Lucy). We were chatting at how excited we were for this tournament to start, which isn't always a common thing that is said at this particular competition. Pan Am is usually really long and a pretty big grind to make it through to the end. So how come this year things seem to be much easier and more enjoyable? I guess it IS all about the perspective. If you're going to do something, why not go all in? As a professional athlete we dedicate our entire year to getting better at volleyball and are often in some far off corner of the earth... If you're sacrificing that much it'll be “aheckofalot” easier if you love what you're doing. Bring out the sap: I am really loving what I do. Looking around at my teammates, we all connect so well (and we get more weird every day which could be contributed to jet lag, deliriousness, lack of sleep, etc. or just that we're getting so comfortable with each other) and these friendships I've formed with my teammates are going to last way outside of this team. Friends for life!! So cute! :)

Coming to a close, I don’t think our win-loss record is a direct reflection of the success we did have at Grand Prix. Many people are pretty quick to judge the program and players on how many wins you get at a tournament and I’m pretty over-protective about it. Overall we didn’t do as well as we were hoping, as our goal was to qualify for Poland after we finished off the third week in Argentina. We had a pretty slow start to Peru and felt like we were just trying to get our feet settled in underneath us. However, we really turned it around in Belgium where we played some pretty amazing volleyball. Belgium was our last team we played in Peru and our first team we played in Belgium. After getting blown out a bit in Peru we re-grouped and despite losing in 3 straight I thought we performed a lot better. Beating Argentina 15-13 in the 5th set was so awesome and then we took Netherlands to 5 the following night (unreal!). The next weekend was a bit tougher but we learned some valuable lessons going into World Championships and despite 2 losses, we finished off the tournament with a dominating win. Going into the next 2 and a half weeks of training (back to Winnipeg!) we have some really intense and focused practices ahead. Clearly we were all disappointed with our overall performance at Grand Prix and not reaching our goal of qualifying for the next round, so everyone has a few ideas on what we’re needing going into Worlds. Britt and I will be having a meeting with Lupo soon to discuss a few things we can do in training and practices that will make us absolutely ready for the tournament. We head to Slovenia first for a week of exhibition matches to get us game-ready and then we head back to Trieste for pool play. Stay tuned for more World Championship banter in the upcoming weeks. You can check out what days and times we are playing under Schedule and I’ll be sure to post any coverage links once I find out what those are!

Are you on this team for something to do, or are you on this team to do something.

Our wonderful sports-psychologist, Adrienne, who was with us for the last 2 weeks of Grand Prix (and has been with our team since forever) devised her Top 10 Moments list - in no particular order. So I thought I would share: 

  1. Becky’s two blocks in a row to end the game with a win against Argentina.
  2. Shanice reminding us to use our strengths prior to the game against Peru. 
  3. Byron’s amazing locker room decor (and being willing to set it up every game when he had to).
  4. Tesca’s presentation of the MVP hat to the box (who got more tv time than the court action AND who got the entire gym in Argentina to cheer for Canada).
  5. The many awesome conversations I was privileged to be part of.
  6. The Rockettes debut in Belgium.
  7. Lucy’s rally call after Cuba encouraging us to figure ourselves out and to commit to bringing that to the court ALLthe time.
  8. Kyla being on fire the last 2 games and Shanice flying higher than people thought humanly possible.
  9. Sling-shot of the rocks into water to leave things behind, with Charles the dog watching calmly. And a shout-out to Britt for making her rock skip and Janie for showing us how it's done (by pelting it a million miles into the lake)!
  10. Of course, who could forget Lucy’s amazing pipe from backrow in our final game.

"We learned that we need to get better. And we will. You ladies love to work hard and push your limits. There are no shortcuts and there may be tears. But being prepared with the right habits in critical moments will be well worth it. Here is to the World Championships and living out our noble cause". 

Team Canada strives for excellence by standing confidently with our goals in mind. We make Canadians proud with our courage and resiliency in taking the next step and leaving barriers behind.

A few added favourite moments from me (specifically from Argentina):

  • The day we left Buenos Aires to fly home was August 11th – a super hard day for me regardless of where I was in the world, and it was even harder to not be with my family. We were supposed to meet outside as a team after breakfast to what I thought was some stretching and activation. Because the tournament was over, I was a bit hard to handle and decided that it was silly we were doing activation and that we weren't able to sleep instead… cool Kyla. Surprise (or not) – your teammates are the best. Dana told me that because this day was super super hard, we were going to instead celebrate my brother, Connor, and play our version of mini golf with the team. Cue instant sobbing tears. Byron had come out earlier and flagged the “holes” and got everything ready. Because we obviously didn’t have any clubs we used our legs (same thing, right?) and kicked/pelted the ball around the mini golf course. Lucille, Tesca, and Britt won the championship pineapple (which we stole from snack the previous day) and they were able to choose a team who would be responsible for cutting it up for everyone (whichever one Megan was on). Just such lovely people surrounding me on that very tough day and everyday – what would I do without them! Big thanks to Adrienne and Byron for coming out and helping us get started!! 
  • Rooming with Megan for a week in Argentina. After I eventually do her player profile you’ll get a better understanding on why that is so wonderful. The MOST hilarious person I’ve ever met in my life, hands down. 
  • Wearing socks as gloves the first few practices in the absolutely freezing Argentinian gym. Oh, and about 3 sweaters. 
  • A few of us have such a large chocolate addiction… So Byron had to actually saran-wrap some chocolate a few girls bought so we wouldn't devour it all before we got back to Canada. You can't make this stuff up. 
  • Passing the front desk and seeing a stuffed elephant to the side that looked awfully familiar. I absolutely snatched it right up - it's Dana's elephant BUMBO! They stole him from her room! I stuffed him in my sweater and he didn't leave his place (right by my face) for all of lunch. Byron told us later that he had seen "a stuffed elephant" riding the laundry cart up and down the halls. Preposterous.  
  • The mini dulce-de-leche packs we could smuggle out of the dining hall. 
  • Using the pool outside as our daily ice bath. 
  • Exploring the vast hotel territory with Megs during a little morning jog. We probably almost got shot at but that's ok… 
  • Halfway through our last game vs. Peru the fans switched over and started cheering for us. After the game we became celebrities and ran around the gym/climbed over barriers to sign things, accept people's babies, and take SELFIES with the crowd. So much fun! 

  • When a bird pooped on Beeks during morning activation… AH-MAZING. 
  • We adopted a little stray “resort dog” who I named Charles (he had about 4 other names though). He found us every time we were outside and loved coming in for cuddles and stealing our smuggled-food. 
Kicking butt (kind of…) on our own mini golf course. Celebrating my brother Connor with my team on August 11th. 

Kicking butt (kind of…) on our own mini golf course. Celebrating my brother Connor with my team on August 11th.