Down, Set, DEFENSE!

Breaking it down for defense. Poised and ready for action.  Holding that position this afternoon for 3 hours was a grueling workout on the legs.  Thank goodness for squat days in the weight room.  Getting down and dirty digging every ball in pursuit of running the offense.  That’s what defense is all about.  Plenty of ball control drills to warm us up, followed by intense offense vs. defense drills.

Had a hearty dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and the biggest salad I could fit on my plate….since salad is my favorite food (yes, weird I know).  Another day of training in the books, but I’m looking forward to “game night” team bonding activities tonight.

Getting to know your coaches, staff and teammates outside the lines of the court is just as important the dynamic relationship while you play.  The true built off the court can almost be more important as knowing, without communicating, that your teammates are there for you.  Discovering character and personality lead to a tight bond that no opponent can break down.  Teams crack from what Mike Hebert calls “The Triangle of Doom,” involving 3 key elements: Lying, Drama, and Whining.  Take a step back and look at your team as a whole and yourself individually.  Where is the trust?  Do you speak using “hey you” or do you genuinely converse on a first name basis.  It’s the purpose with which one communicates that makes the ultimate difference.  Secondly, beyond the communication, is it effective?  Meaning, are we gossiping about who should and shouldn’t see playing time, whining about the tough drill the coach is drawing on the board, or lying about the number of punishment reps we had to do simply because we think team punishment when and individual commits a wrong is stupid?  Think about your mentality and what you bring to the table: do you break the triangle of doom, or do you break down your team?

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USA on 3; 1, 2, 3….

Did you say “USA!” in your mind as you finished reading the title for this post? I hope you did.

Get engaged, follow along and explore the world of USA volleyball.  Foster growth and love for the game that is taking the hearts of young girls and boys across the globe.  There’s a million people and events I could think of right now that wouldn’t have been possible without my connection to the sport of volleyball.  Spanning from friends, to relationships, to academics, to job opportunities, the networking world of volleyball has opened wondrous doors of success for me as I’ve grown to love the game more each day, many I would have never dreamed of possible.

June 23rd, today, our first full day of training.  Picking up our intensity from where it was left at last night, this morning’s session focus was serving and passing.  Crafting a serve so unique and powerful, only you are the master of your team’s first attack against the opponent.  Starting 20 feet back from the service line, taking a deep breath, checking your body to get everything abalone in place.  The toss, the contact, ripping the leather off the ball as it careens over the net.  That’s the mentality, focus and attitude we have when it comes to serving.  Such a simple for of attack against a team, but the quickest ways to score points 30 feet back.

Round of serve-receive competition for nearly 3 hours this morning consumed the practice agenda.  Outsides and Liberos passing with each other, as many player combinations as possible.  Hundreds of opportunities to score points for yourself and make your jersey known as something more than just a stat in the book.  Key words from the session concerning passing: simple movements, balanced, relaxed and setter feedback.  All just for one skill: PASSING!

The game of volleyball is hundreds of mini games within itself.  The server versus the passer, the blocker against the hitter.  If you view the game from this perspective, the most successful teams win the min games and let the actual match take care of itself and fall into place.  A calming perspective I’ll have to carry with myself as I prepare for our evening session in an hour.

Not sure what tonight’s practice entails, but there will be a team bonding activity as well as a laundry fest (as I’d call it) later tonight.  We are working hard, the gym is hot, and I’m loving every second of it.

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The Land of Lakes (post for June 22nd)

Landed in beautiful Minnesota! Quite a bumpy ride our last 20 minutes in from Chicago, but I made it! Jacqueline Napper, a libero from Kentucky, was also on my flight, so it was nice to rendezvous with a fellow teammate at the airport.

Our 2 hour night session was an intro to the USA program in the gym, followed by a team meeting to cover policy and the schedule for the training. Practice consisted of round robin tournaments spread across 3 courts, each person playing with everyone and against everyone twice (there’s a numerical system created to accomplish this).

The team meeting involved several coaches, Mike Hebert included, talking about the “National Team Mentality.” Mike actually worked with my team back at OSU during last preseason, pushing us to focus on playing the game as a whole instead of focusing on individual positions and specializations. He emphasized that the mentally toughest athletes that commit to a purpose bigger than themselves, keeping their eye on a bigger prize, work their butts off to get into that national team gym. It’s a process that takes years of development, thousands of reps, hours in the gym, late nights analyzing film, and expanding one’s opportunities into the unknown to develop into an adverse athlete at the highest level.

About 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll be back to the grind!

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-view in the window seat, just before landing

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The Night Before

Leave it fate to always throw a curve ball my way: a cancelled flight and some travel readjustments.  But now I’m all squared away for tomorrow’s journey.  I haven’t packed yet, I usually pack the night before and set a time limit so I don’t wander off distracted or forget anything.  At least I’ve got a list for starters…and it includes as much USA gear I can possibly wear over a span of 10 days.  Not to mention, Old Glory is in there too, I’ll be carrying her with me to wave proudly.

This is not the first time I don the red, white and blue, nor do I intend for it to be anywhere near my last. My trip brings back memories of my 2010 experience with the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.  We came home silver medalists, losing to Belgium in 4 tough sets.  Hopefully a gold is in store for me this trip, we’ll have to see how the training and competitions go, but regardless, it’s the experience, the thrill and rush of proudly representing the Red, White and Blue.

I’m so excited to represent my country at the Girl’s Junior National Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We’ll be competing against a group of USA Teams and potentially international groups as well.  More to come tomorrow as I make my way to Minnie!

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