Before coming to Europe I had a lot to learn about professional volleyball, and I’m still learning more and more every day. However, already being over here for about eight months, I can definitely shed some light on the differences I’ve noticed in my transition from collegiate to professional volleyball…
Your mind and body are your job…treat them well.
When volleyball is the only thing you have to focus on, you need to take care of two major things that can affect many aspects of your performance.
BODY…LISTEN TO IT! Aches and pains are normal with the amount of training and games you have, so you need to make sure you’re doing all you can to keep yourself fit during the season. I definitely learned the importance of this when coming back from injury.
In college, most players are accustomed to walking into the athletic training room before or after practice and having any pain tended to by the team trainer. However, that’s not always the case when you play overseas. Thankfully our team has physical therapists and doctors that help us maintain our bodies the whole season, but it’s still the player’s responsibility to be smart about their own recovery. As a result you need to make sure you’re doing all the stretching, biking and rolling before practice, to get your body ready, and after practice to cool your body down. There are times where I’ve stayed in the gym a little longer or laid out a yoga mat in my apartment to do extra stretching and rolling when I feel like my body needs it, and there are times where I’ve felt a huge different the next morning. Of course after heavy lifting days, or long practice weeks, your body will be more tired and sore, but keeping it loose and mobile is beneficial in the long run.
Another thing I personally had to get accustomed to was letting our coach know if there was pain that would prevent me from practicing. In my opinion this stemmed from two different things:
1) It’s been engrained in my mind to “play through pain” or just be tough. I guarantee I’m not the only athlete with this mindset at times, and I now know that this isn’t the best mindset to have when your pain becomes serious. It’s okay to not be okay, that’s the natural of sports and that’s the price you’ll pay sometimes.
2) I felt guilty for being injured or hurting at times. Even when you do all you can do, your body will still heal at its own pace. You may get frustrated because you’re not able to be as explosive as you want, or may feel restricted when moving, but you’ll actually make it worse for yourself if you continue to sweep pain under the rug when it actually becomes serious. So communicate how you feel!
Staying hydrated and eating healthy is extremely important as well. My mom has told me this all my life so now she can officially say, “I told you so”. The way you eat and the amount of water you drink can make a drastic difference in the way your body feels. My body tells me immediately when I haven’t downed enough water in between trainings, before/after games, etc. It also tells me when I’ve eaten too much, too little, or not the right things!
The food you eat can transform your body and also give you more energy. As I’ve started learning more and more about nutrition I definitely make an effort to incorporate a lot of whole foods and super foods into my diet. Of course I have my cheat days, and anyone who knows me well knows that I have a weakness for potatoes, mac and cheese, and Reese’s, so I definitely won’t sit her and claim I have the most perfect diet in the world, but trust me I try!
(If you’re interested in any meals I’ve made this season, I’ll be posting a section soon!)
PLEASE REMEMBER your nutrition is very important whether or not you’re an athlete. You only have one body, treat it well!
MIND…CENTER IT AND KEEP IT SHARP! Volleyball will definitely consume you during the season…because that’s all you’re here to do haha. So you need to find ways to escape and re-center your mind when you may get a bit stressed or fatigued. I struggled with this midway through the season when my mind and body had been so accustomed to a four-month collegiate season for five years. So to help me get through it, I received advice from my agent, friends and teammates, I read more books, did more bible study, wrote more, experimented with different recipes, and did everything to disengage when I didn’t have to be fully engaged.
(Check out this video session hosted by Ryan Owens for more advice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijICfTXhlGs)
Trust me, you’re not always going to feel 100 percent mentally and physically, but taking the steps to stay close to it are definitely beneficial. Every day you go into your training sessions, accept it as a challenge to be as focused as you can, practice hard, learn from mistakes and still remember to enjoy playing the game.
Your training schedule will more than likely consist of two practices and day. The morning session will be some sort of individual position practice with weights, while the night session will be a full-team practice (and in some cases the two training sessions will be switched). Depending on the point of season you’re in and the amount of games you have, there may even be weekends, full weeks and afternoons off. Of course every team and league is different, so wherever you play, you will probably need some time to adjust to the schedule. After that, you’ll have your own daily routine that will allow you to get into your rhythm as the season goes on.
In Europe your season will last about 9 months (essentially like playing two college seasons in a row), while in a few other countries you only play 4-6 months.
Distance from home.
While in college, it’s one thing to be across the country or a few states away, but when you have to be an entire ocean plus a major time difference away, it makes it a bit more difficult. As a result I’ve sacrificed some sleep to talk to people from home, or some of my off days consist of catching up on a backlog of FaceTime calls. As the season progresses and as you get more and more busy with volleyball, you get used to the distance.
While in college you get used to being around a lot of newness and a mixture of different people. However, the game changes when you move to a country where you don’t speak the language or have to live a different lifestyle. Yes, you may experience culture shock, have awkward moments, and even have translation/communication issues. But eventually you’ll learn how to embrace all the newness and laugh at the awkward situations that may even happen on the daily. Thinking back to when I first arrived, I’m proud to say that I adjusted well and can speak German better than before. Even though I still don’t fully understand it and sometimes just have to smile and laugh or look at my teammates to help me translate, I’ve tried to embrace everything I possibly can while I’ve been over here.
I encourage any athlete who has the desire to play overseas to do it! You’ll be uncomfortable at times and challenged in ways you may have never imagined both on and off the court, but the experience is very fulfilling. Like I said earlier, I’m still working on many aspects of my life as a pro athlete from how well I take care of my body to being more and more mentally tough. I don’t know if this will be my profession for years to come, or for only this year, but I do know that I will continue to learn all that I can about myself and face every situation that will help me grow while living this lifestyle.
Feel free to reach out to me on social media , ask questions or share your experiences about playing overseas. I hope this finds anyone who needed to gain more insight!