Preseason: Take 5

Currently in McDonalds again as my wifi is really making the Netflix and blogging life difficult! Side note: this picture was taken 2 and a half hours after practice in a gym with no AC, so be kind with your judgements. I wrote this yesterday:
Moi! It has been an awesome two days as practices have finally started here in Finland! (and the stories just keep getting better)
So, Monday the team met at 15 (which is 3 as I checked on multiple internet websites.. I was a little nervous), and we had a team meeting with the new coaches, Bruno and Luca, who are both from Italy. This was one of the most entertaining/confusing team meetings I have ever been in. Bruno, the head coach, starts off the meeting by saying that his English is not that great (but his italian is great). It is “mas important” that we communicate with him if we do not “comprenti” what is going on. Luca speaks good English, so he is constantly translating if we need him too, but he is more of a quieter person, so sometimes you have to focus really hard to get the two or three words in English that will help you in the current drill. In this meeting Bruno is explaining to us that the first week and a half will only be technical training to get everyone on the same page with his standard, but he did not say any of that in English. He is just talking, looking at us, and will say “you understand?” All of the girls look around at each other, and we are trying so hard not to laugh because we never seem to understand.
Then, after the meeting we head to the gym to get started. Here, everything is different for me: the warm up, the lingo, everything, but I always am one of the last to go and have to really focus (if you have ever coached or played with me, my attention span has never been the longest or greatest) on what is about to happen. Everyone is expecting to get a ball and a partner, warm up, and then do some drills putting all the skills together, but that was not the case. Bruno tells everyone to get a ball and go to the wall. For the past 2 days, all we have done is wall work and ball control. If you don’t know the volleyball lingo, setting against a wall is like holding an object above your head for almost 2 hours. We alternate that with passing against the wall, which is like holding a half squat and hitting the ball in the same place on the wall for the next practice. A funny side note, this sounds horrible for the shoulder muscles (my traps are growing, boys!), and I can attest to that, but what is so sore is my jaw. I guess when I set against the wall, I completely forget to relax my face muscles and lock my jaw out. I am sure it looks sexy.

So while we are doing all of these crazy wall drills, the coach is pacing yelling out Italian/English phrases that are hard to understand sometimes. Some funny ones: 1. When you get tired, it is tendency to start letting your shoulders drop closer to your head when you are setting against the wall, but Bruno always reminds you by yelling (imagine the Italian accent): NOA DOWNA BALLA! KEEPA DA BALLA UPA IN DA AIR! 2. He calls passing bague (which sounds like bag-ay, but also sometimes bagel). So he will say things like: “move your feet and bag-ay right, move your feet and lateral bag-ay, shoulders out and bag-ay! Lexi this is not good bag-ay, bag-ay must be perfect!” This sometimes makes me hungry. 3. Today, he confused feet and arms, so he kept saying pass with your feet out and to target. Even Luca laughed a little.
I honestly feel for the guy, because he is working really hard so everyone can understand what is going on as well as trying to push us, and it can’t be easy with a group who does not speak his language. (We are catching on tho!) I have loved practice so far and am really thankful for the multiple hours struggled in the Michigan gym doing serve receive. Leis, all those passing movement drills are really paying off. These goofy ball control drills here make me see two of the ball sometimes, and I get nervous I will hit the wrong one. It is like looking at a computer for too long and my eyes water up.
A final note: I want to give you a comparison of Michigan to HPK. Some things are a ton better, but some things I miss terribly from my Michigan team. 1) I miss the laundry loops and Becky and Sean and Kevin and Connor. They always made sure our stuff was washed and ready for the next day, but here I have two pairs of spandex and we have two practices a day so I am getting really good at understanding the European laundry machine! 2) During water breaks we can sit! It is encouraged! (Recubre your leks -my coach) Sitting at Michigan was a sin. 3) I can’t believe I am saying this, but I miss Cliff Keens air. I never thought it was possible, but it is hotter here than it is there. If you ever were at the wrestling centre, it is like practicing in there when they have those heaters on. 4) The (new) locker room here will be amazing! Once we move (to the new gym with AC) I will take pictures (In September). It has a Sauna, massage table, snacks, protein shakes… IT IS HEAVEN ON EARTH! 5) Tim. Tim, if you read this, I miss having a trainer who makes the water bottles, a man who deals with my little cuts and gives me the appropriate medicine. Here you have to tape yourself, so if I ever have to, I will have to google how to do this.
I am very thankful to be here! It has been amazing so far! I will add pictures of Hameenlinna tomorrow, as my teammates are taking me around before practice tomorrow! Moi!

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