After living in a state where every sunset is possibly better than the last, moving across the globe was quite the change. I had just finished an amazing collegiate career playing volleyball and I only sought out for more. I wanted to play professional volleyball abroad, and at the time I had no idea what that entailed. All I understand, or wanted to understand, was that I had an opportunity to travel the world and live somewhere I had never been. Now mind you, during college I had spent two weeks traveling to Italy and another two weeks traveling to China, not consecutively, but I was playing volleyball. I had seen both the best and the worst of what I could have in store for me in my future career. Italy being ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, and China being a huge let down. So I didn’t have much faith on where I would be headed and if I would absolutely enjoy it or loath it. I first decided that it was best I have an agent.
My agent could help me make any decisions and judgement calls that I had no idea how to handle. I went with Bring It Promotions agency, known notoriously amongst the volleyball community and also having a wide range of volleyball players. I was given my first offer to play in France and I know what you’re thinking, “France, the eiffel tower and the louvre!!” Yeah, me too. So my overzealous self immediately said yes! It was a decent offer, a good opportunity and stepping stone for my newfound career. A month goes by and its now August 2011 and time to start packing my bags.
I’ll say this now, I like to think I’m very independent and I go about life at my own pace and in my own pattern. Living abroad did not even remotely scare me, nor did I cry at the terminal gate before I left my parents behind me waving goodbye. I love being on my own and exploring. With that being said, I arrive in Terville, France. Nowhere near Paris or Cannes or any other beautiful French monumental towns. I was North East in the tiniest town, not having learned much French and completely clueless. I was excited! I met my new coach and teammates and everything seemed to be great.
However, learning French proved to be very difficult and I didn’t pick up the language as quickly as I’d hoped and, even when willing to try despite how little I knew, the people weren’t too helpful. I got along with maybe 3 of my teammates pretty well but no real and hard lasting connections. I began to feel alone, something I have never experienced. My roommate didn’t speak any english so we never spoke and we would hide away in our rooms all day whenever we weren’t training. Slowly but surely, I started to resent this tiny town. Nowhere to go, no places to see, and we hardly had time off so not much traveling. I was trapped in my tiny two bedroom apartment and emotionally alone. The only upside to this place was that I taught myself how to drive a manual car and I was able to discover the wonderful country that is Luxembourg, just 30 min away.
The resentment for the town and the experience made me sad and depressed. I hated going to training day in and day out, knowing I just wasn’t in love with it anymore and wasn’t happy. I started to believe I just didn’t want to play volleyball. After 2 months I asked the club to release me. There were serious problems on going at home with my niece in the hospital and I plain just hated it there. Just before I left around christmas time, I spent 2 days traveling and sight seeing Paris. I had to see the amazing beauties I had sought after at least once before I went back home. I know a lot of American athletes leave half way during their first pro season and I understand why. It’s difficult and lonely when you are going in with little information and very high expectations. It can be dream crushing.
For about a few months after, I thought I was done with volleyball and I believed that it just wasn’t for me anymore. When I returned home I went back to college and finished my bachelors over winter and spring, so it wasn’t a total lost cause. Had I stayed all of the 8 month season then who knows when I would have returned to school. After playing here and there recreationally during summer, I thought that maybe I did miss it, and I got back in contact with my agent. I sent him some game video from France, and he started a new search for me. I had no idea if I wanted to do this again, but I realized I do love playing, and I’d be wasting my talents if I just gave up. I am grateful for that first horrible experience because it taught me everything I wanted and needed to know about pursuing another professional season abroad.
The first year is a learning year and its rough, and I discovered that location matters to me, and to others it doesn’t. I need to know about the city I’m living in and the players I’m going to be surrounded with day in and day out. Do they speak English? Are there other Americans? Do I get a car? etc…There are so many important factors to living abroad that vary from player to player and your first professional year defines most of that for you. No matter how rough it may seem, there is always a benefit to it and to your future if you decide to continue a professional volleyball career abroad. I always tell players I meet that hate their season, to always give it a second chance if they are willing to. Mine turned out to be well worth my while! My next blog post will be for first time professional athletes and helping them discover what they want out of their first experience. Something I wish I would’ve had. And to foreshadow on future posts… I did go back for another season to another country and am now playing in the same country for a second consecutive season and couldn’t be more happy! Thanks for reading my first post! 🙂