The moment I knew this endeavor would be a trip of a lifetime was when I arrived in Los Angeles and met my first teammate at the airport. Both of us were so excited for what was ahead. When all 12 of our teamates got together before practice to hang out and chat, I quickly learned that the whole group was ready and eager to get things started. We immediately took to each other and bonded all throughout our first practice on Loyola Marymount’s campus and dinner that night before our redeye to Hong Kong. I couldn’t have imagined 11 better people or more talented athletes that I would’ve rather traveled the world and played volleyball with!
Guest post by Naya Crittenden, University of Illinois Class of 2016
I do not know the exact percentage of women playing professional volleyball right now, but I can tell you that the number is very small. I am one of the few post-collegiate American women, that is lucky enough to be able to play this game at the next level.
My story is not unlike many other women who have been able to experience the professional volleyball life, but everyone’s story is unique.
The beginning of my journey happened very fast and it felt like a dream. After the end of my 2016 senior season as an Illini, I was looking ahead to becoming a regular student (for the first time in my life) and being able to put my full focus in to broadcast journalism for the spring semester. I had a great internship lined up at one of the main news stations near my campus and I was planning on being a part of the social media team for our University’s newspaper. I was also going to be able to cheer on my boyfriend (who’s also an athlete at Illinois) during his 2017 Track and Field season. It seemed nothing could get more perfect. Until it did. [Read more…] about Cali Girl Overseas
Guest post by Victoria Dennis, UC Irvine Class of 2016
As Fall Quarter came to an end with my collegiate athletic career at UC Irvine, I was looking for the next step in my life. Professional volleyball was most definitely an option I considered, and I am happy that I did. My personal story happened very fast. Within a week of engaging Bring It Promotions (BIP), I was on a 3-day journey around the world from California to Surabaya, Indonesia. [Read more…] about Around the World in a Week
When choosing a destination for volleyball travel, why compromise? As the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona not only provides an exciting source of endless adventure, but is also home to a rich history, enticingly good food, and a seemingly endless coastline to advance your beach volleyball skills.
In the year 1992, beach volleyball was thrust into the world’s spotlight thanks to the summer Olympic Games held in Barcelona. After a successful demonstration of the athleticism, grit, and excitement that that kept beach volleyball spectators on their toes throughout the tournament, men’s and women’s beach volleyball was named an official Olympic spot for the following summer games held in 1996. Fast forward to the present, where Kiraly, Walsh, and May have become household names, all thanks to the institution of beach volleyball propelled by Barcelona. [Read more…] about Discovering Barcelona Through Volleyball
My senior year of high school I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with Northern Lights Volleyball Club. We spent an unforgettable ten days sight-seeing around the country from Rome to Falconara and San Marino to Venice.
Our tournament was located in Falconara where we stayed in bungalows besides the Adriatic Sea (what we lovingly nicknamed our own Olympic Village). The competition was fierce, we placed third overall, and it was the first time I gained exposure to the world of international volleyball. I could go on and on about the amazing places we visited, people we met, and sights we saw, but those are the aspects of the trip that you’d expect. I gained much more than just great pictures to post on Instagram. I can truly say that the person who boarded the flight to Italy was not the same person who landed back in the States.
Here are the three non-tangible lessons I learned abroad:
1. The art of soaking in a moment of time.
During the trip I only used my phone for taking pictures. I didn’t want to come home to furious parents who had been billed thousands of dollars for international phone usage. No phone meant no distractions. I was only going to be in Italy for ten days so I made a conscious decision to soak it all in – the sights, sounds, points of each match, and each bite of gelato (which was too many to count). I can remember the chill of the breeze when we watched the sunrise on the beach in Falconara, the tantalizing smell of authentic margherita pizza, and the beaming smiles of my teammates when we stepped on the podium to receive our medals. Even when the photographs fade and the computer crashes, these are the moments that can never be taken away from me.
2. The value of introversion…and how to put myself out there when needed.
I’ve always been a shy person – the type to be more reserved rather than overly outgoing. I’m the Rory Gilmore, not the Paris Geller. I found this to be incredibly valuably as I soaked in the sights. I’m content with simply absorbing rather than discussing. Yet, there were times when I needed to put myself out there and speak up. During my tour in Italy I was stretched beyond my confort zone and learned to be comfortable engaging with foreign strangers.
Figuring out the metro? You bet I had to ask questions. Translating a menu? I was clueless. Using dramatic hand gestures in an attempt to communicate with those who spoke very little English or none at all? Not really my forte, but it had to be done.
Throughout the trip, I became confident in myself as I learned how to respond to uncomfortable situations for introverts.
3. Barriers are manmade.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was a scrimmage with a few different Italian teams while in Rome. Despite our difficulties with communication and subtle cultural differences, I discovered that we were much more alike than we were different. I grew up hundreds of thousands of miles away from the Italian players, but we connected right away with our love of music, movies, and of course volleyball. We spent the afternoon laughing and swapping stories over pieces of pizza and cannolis. Instead of focusing on our differences, my perspective changed and I shifted my attention to the similarities that bind us together.
Years later when I reflect upon my trip, I still regard it as one of the most influential experiences I’ve ever had. The exposure to European volleyball was invaluable and the historical significance of it was imeasurable. The volleyball tour with my Northern Lights club team molded me into the person I am today. As soon as I got off the plane in Minnesota, a countdown started in anticipation of the day that I’ll finally be able to return to Europe.
-Post Authored by Lauren Miller