Athletes Abroad has already had so much support and positive feedback in just our few days since launching. One supporter has been Jam the Gym, a yearly volleyball match, originally played to raise funds to help in deferring the costs of Kiski High School’s Volleyball Assistant Coach Jaime Moran’s treatment for ALL leukemia. Jamie passed away in August of 2012, but Jam the Gym lives on as they continue to raise money to fund the Jaime Moran Scholarship Fund.
Jam the Gym reached out to Athletes Abroad wanting to learn more about being a professional volleyball athlete and asked us a few questions. We asked Max Holt, professional volleyball athlete currently playing in Moscow Russia and USA Men’s National Team member, to help us answer these questions. Check out what he had to say below:
1.How many different leagues are there, and in what countries do they operate?
You would be surprised in how many leagues there are around the world. I cant give you an exact number, but I’ve had friends play in Finland, Turkey, Spain, Belarus, Bulgaria, etc. and in many of these countries there are different leagues (for example, in Italy there is a1, a2, b1, b2 and so on all the way down to d leagues I believe.
2.Is there a draft? Free agency? How does a player get signed?
There is no draft in volleyball. And for many Americans, it is quite tough to get the ball rolling simply because many players are uneducated on the subject.
For me, the day after my last collegiate match I was contacted by an agent through Bring it Promotions (an agency that many American players are currently using or have used in the past). I was one of the lucky ones; I had a contract all ready to be signed with one of the top teams in Italy, one of the best leagues in the world.
For the majority of Americans, it isn’t this easy. A lot of players have to go on “tours” with agencies like Bring it Promotions and showcase their talents in other countries to overseas clubs. It is very unfortunate that there aren’t more options out there for Americans after college.
3. Judging by the tweets I have read from many of you, it seems like accommodations are a big part of the pay. How does this work?
The majority of teams will provide the athlete with a furnished apartment, car, health insurance, and if you’re lucky a restaurant to eat at twice a day. Also, Internet is offered by many teams but unfortunately I haven’t been so lucky and have had to pay for my own internet every year I’ve been overseas. (Not a huge expense, more frustrating getting the internet actually set up)
4. Are there varying levels of leagues, minor league or feeder systems?
Answer in question one
5. Are matches well attended?
Depends where you are. I can only speak of my teams in Italy and here in Russia. I have been fortunate to play in front of good crowds. We are not talking NBA or NFL crowds here. 3 to 5 thousand maximum. But if you go to a league like Poland or Brazil where volleyball is “kind of a big deal,” you can see huge crowds.
6. Are the fans knowledgeable?
The fans are knowledgable especially in those countries where volleyball is one of the main sports (Italy, Poland, Brazil, Russia, etc.)
7. These are difficult times to travel abroad as an American. Are you comfortable and safe traveling?
I am very comfortable traveling abroad because it is my life. All of the travel with my club and the national team has gotten me quite used to it.
8. Language barriers have to be interesting, how do you communicate? Is this a big problem?
The language barrier is where it is good to be an American. I was extremely worried about the Russian language, but fortunately 3/4 of my team speaks a decent amount of English. And my strength coach is Italian so I speak Italian with him. Another perk of the life! Playing in Italy for four years, I learned Italian, which is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. (I hope)
9. As college players most of you had a “training table” or team dietitian. Is eating a big issue playing overseas?
Eating is just as important here as it is there. Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of an athlete’s life. What you are putting in your body is what should be fueling you to be the best athlete you can be.
Having said that, it can be very difficult for us sometimes over here, especially when you have a restaurant that provides meals for you. I had a trainer that was very strict on our team two years ago. Every two weeks he would perform a fat test on us and we had to be under a certain percentage. Was tough sometimes in Italy not being able to eat their amazing pasta and risotto all the time.
10. As an American fan who just can’t get enough quality volleyball, my big question is this. Why can’t we do this here? What are the major hurdles involved in an American Professional League?
Ha, this is a question that “us foreigners” ask ourselves way too often. They have tried in the past to bring pro indoor volleyball to the states but with other competing sports and financial issues it is just too difficult. However, we will continue to remain hopeful that one day we won’t have to leave our loved ones and our life in the U.S. of A to pursue our dreams of being a professional volleyball player.
Thanks, Max! And thanks Jam the Gym for your questions!
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