Blog for U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team at FIVB World Grand Prix
Aug. 16: Rachael Adams, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team middle blocker
Click here to read Week 3 blog by Rachael Adams.
Aug. 12: Tom Black, U.S. Women's Assistant Coach
As I head home to Los Angeles to reunite with my team at Loyola Marymount, the U.s. Women’s National Team continues on to Japan.This weekend we captured three critical victories against Algeria, Netherlands and a great win for our program against Serbia in five sets. Beating one of the best teams in the world on its home soil is never easy, and we were proud of the efforts our team made to rebound from the loss in Brazil with an improved performance this weekend. Up ahead the team will face #3 Japan for a fourth time this summer, a strong Bulgarian squad that took down Brazil two days ago and a scrappy Czech team. If Team USA continues on its upward trek, I have no doubt we’ll all be watching them continuing to battle and grow through a successful finals week.
It’s hard not to be a little reflective as my summer stint with our national team concludes and I put all my focus on our team at LMU. I feel incredibly privileged and honored to be able to serve in both capacities. The more volleyball I am exposed to, the more impressed I am by how many hard working, humble and passionate people there are throughout the world committed to growing this game and improving the people within their care. Coaching is a hard but wonderful profession.
If I could share a few random thoughts from this past summer:
- Karch is a wonderful leader. We are lucky to have him at the helm of our national team. While his name is the most eye-grabbing in all of volleyball, there’s nothing flashy about his day to day business. Just a startling capacity for hard work, a deep sense of commitment to the cause and people around him, and a burning passion for our sport. He simply wants to learn and get better and he’s committed to helping everyone else do the same.
- I’ve always been fascinated trying to figure out the separation in ability levels. What makes one person elite, someone else great and another the greatest, when they are all spending each and everyday together in the same gym? I don’t have the answer, but one thing I am impressed by in our USA program is how little time anyone spends talking about winning or how we/you/I compare to anyone else. It’s all about what did we do today to get better? Did we get better? Did I do what I needed to do to bring out the best in myself and my team? Are we performing at the edges of our ability? We trust the results will be there but we don’t spend much time thinking about them. As I write this at the end of the summer I’m actually dumbfounded by how little we think or talk about it, but we do spend a lot of time and concern on our effort and growth. We have clear goals and there is no confusion as to what they are, but 98 percent of our thoughts, conversations and efforts are toward what it takes to get there.
- We have a tight-knit team and program developing. It’s awesome to see our players get after each other in 6-on-6 while supporting each other so deeply off the court and during the matches. We need to cherish and nurture this. It didn’t happen by accident, it happened through lots of conscious decisions by Karch and our leadership council, as well as the adamant support and buy-in from all members. It won’t continue to build by accident either. It will elevate or be dismantled by the choices we all make. I have lots of faith, though that what’s being built will evolve and allow us our best possible chance at success.
- This is an awfully glowing report and I don’t mean to gush. There’s lots in the gym and program that isn’t perfect, but I hope in year one of the quad the coaches and players feel a sense of satisfaction by what has so far been built. There so much more to do. Everyone knows that, but I believe there’s a foundation being laid everyone who plays and coaches’ volleyball in the USA can be proud of.
Be sure to watch team USA this coming weekend and hopefully in finals week, as well as all the collegiate volleyball matches about to be played. The players in this USA program come from all over the country, a proud product of so many of you who took time to teach them and contribute to their lives. We are all a part of this U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team and the future is bright.
Aug. 11: Alisha Glass, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Setter
Some consider social media to be unnecessary or a distraction, but what I've learned recently, is that it can be this amazing tool for connecting people and sharing lives. I was connected through Twitter with Coach Toy via her husband. His devotion to her is a beautiful thing and he was able to tap into this amazing volleyball community and use it to help give her strength to push through these trying times. She's incredibly strong and has given so much to so many people it - it's an honor to be able to share her story and also learn from her as she helps us battle tonight.
I'm also so proud of this team and my teammates' response to help. When I brought the story to the team, everybody instantly wanted to help in anyway they could, tapping into their fan base or giving ideas for how to connect USA Volleyball to this amazing coach.
I hope everyone watches the live feed and also follows Coach Toy's comments on Twitter tonight at https://twitter.com/team4toy. I hope we can show that the volleyball community is strong and that social media can be used connect us to some pretty amazing people!
Aug. 10: Cassidy Lichtman, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team outside hitter, on behalf of entire team
There are so many reasons why I love volleyball, but one of my favorites, hands down, has always been the community that surrounds this game. The people involved in our sport are some of the best I have ever met and I’m endlessly grateful for that. I want to tell you about one of those people today—about a woman who has been a constant source of light and inspiration for a school and community that has been hit hard in the past few years.
Ellen Toy is the head volleyball coach at Kiski Area High School in Pennsylvania. And she has cancer. Diagnosed in 2009 with stomach cancer, Coach Toy’s fight had begun. But she wasn’t alone. In fact, she wasn’t even the only coach on her staff that had experience fighting cancer. Kiski’s assistant coach, Jaime Moran had already been diagnosed with, and beaten, leukemia twice when Coach Toy was diagnosed. Just as Coach Toy began to get better, Moran’s leukemia came back for round three. She passed away in August of last year and it was up to Coach Toy to rally her team in the wake of their loss.
Then came blow number two. The Kiski team lost one of its members, Jenna Prusia, in an accident last Christmas. Another life was taken too soon and, again, Coach Toy was left to guide her girls through. By all accounts, the team has shown remarkable maturity and grace in dealing with all of these events. One has to assume that much of that is a reflection on their leader.
Then, during a trip to the hospital, what the Toys thought was a routine test turned into blow number three. Coach Toy’s cancer was back. Needless to say though, she’s ready to fight it again. Unfortunately, this fight is going to keep her from the court for the upcoming season. It will be the first time in almost 30 years that she’s not out there with her team.
We know how much Coach Toy wishes she could be with her team when they start their season on Monday and how much the team would love for her to be there. But since that's not possible, we're hoping that she'll help coach our team this Sunday instead. We would like to invite Coach Toy to be an honorary coach for the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team when we play Serbia tomorrow night. We're currently playing in Belgrade, Serbia, for the FIVB World Grand Prix, a tournament in which we take on the best in the world. Our goal is to be ready to go to battle every night and we think there's nobody better to teach us how. Coach Toy has battled the toughest opponent that life has to offer and done it with poise, grace and the competitive spirit that has also made her a beloved coach. We could ask for nothing more than to come out of every match feeling like we've reflected those attributes.
So here's how it's going to work. Coach Toy will be watching the live stream of the match and tweeting @USA_Volleyball from her twitter account, @team4toy. She will be sending in any comments she has on the match and, of course, providing some of her coaching wisdom to help us take down the Serbians. She might also offer some observations about our play that can help younger players and fans learn more about the game as they watch. First serve is Sunday at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Pull up that live stream and your Twitter feed to watch us play and learn more about the game we love and one of the incredible members of our community.
For more information on Coach Toy’s story and Jam the Gym, their annual match raising money for the Jaime Moran Scholarship Fund, go to www.jamthegym.com.
Aug. 10: Celebrating Regan Hood's Birthday
Aug. 9: Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor
I like to reach out with the intention of addressing a couple errors that I found when reading the Blog of Tom Black, Assistant Coach of the Women's National Volleyball Team. Tom's blog addressed a rival basketball game at an orphanage where he mentioned an "epic victory over Jill and Alisha's team." While the facts that I was in flip flops and that we were playing on asphalt were true, the fact that no one was paying attention to the score was false. Tom's team came out strong with a 3-1 lead, eventually our team came back and tied the score at 3-3, then we went on a run and when we subbed out of the game due to potential overheating, we had a substantial lead and they had gone scoreless, final score for us being 8-3. That's not to say that Tom's effort should go unnoticed, he did knock a young man down to the asphalt, the full extent of his injuries are still unknown. Jill also would like to point out that she hasn't played basketball in any type of formal game since 1999. A formal retraction is being requested, as well as the overall score of Black v Glass be changed to Glass 1 - Black - 0. I'll be the bigger person and let you reset the score to 0-0, if you like another shot, name the place, name the time.
Aug. 8: Tom Black, U.S. Women's Assistant Coach
Round 2 of our matches will begin in less than 24 hours and our time in Serbia has been all we could asked for. Yesterday evening we spent at the ambassador's residence, where we learned the reason for the incredible amount of security around us. We've had police greet us as we leave the hotel, sniff out buses before they allow us to enter, and escort us throughout the cities and highways of Belgrade. We also have two guys shadowing us during our practice sessions who look like they're just waiting for someone to mess with them...
For news and politic buffs, you'll remember the conflict here in the mid-2000's. When Kosovo split from Serbia and the U.S. recognized them as a government, a Serbian mob attacked the U.S. embassy in 2008. There are allegations the Serbian police casually stepped aside to allow the mob a free pass into storming the embassy walls. A new government with hopes of a better relationship is now pulling out all the stops to take care of us and show they take American security seriously. We feel more than safe in this beautiful city.
After a special trip to a Serbian orphanage for special needs children (CLICK HERE for video), the team had a strong practice in preparation for our matches this weekend. Algeria, Netherlands, and Serbia loom ahead. We're hoping for great crowds and strong performances in our quest to qualify for the Grand Prix finals week and make a deep run. The team continues to push and improve and will be driven to give its best against such quality opponents. Hopefully, we'll even see some big crowds again. Witnessing how big volleyball has become throughout the world is truly amazing. It gives us hope something similar can be built in America, where we have so many quality volleyball players, as well as a National Team deserving of the privilege to compete professionally on their own soil.
No short court games with Karch to report, but I did lead my hoops team at the orphanage this afternoon to an epic victory over Alisha and Jill's team. Jill might point out Alisha was wearing flip-flops, playing on asphalt, and none of us were keeping score...details. Black - 1 Glass - 0.
Aug. 8: Alisha Glass, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Setter
Click here to read her blog for Aug. 8.
Aug. 7: U.S. Women Sing Happy Birthday
The U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team sings happy birthday in its own special way to its FIVB World Grand Prix team leader Cecile Reynaud.
Aug. 5: Tom Black, U.S. Women's Assistant Coach
From Brazil to Belgrade in a day makes for some long travel, but taking a walk through a Serbian neighborhood to have our athletic trainer Jill Wosmek lead the team through a public stretching session in the middle of a family park will give you plenty of chuckles to re-energize. Kim Hill seems to be the queen of asking rhetorical questions her teammates are only to happy to ruthlessly reply to, always good for a few more laughs.
The giggles, of course, were sorely needed after leaving Brazil with a loss to an excellent Brazilian squad. Coming off two solid victories from such quality opponents as Russia and Poland, we entered a one of kind environment for our final match of the weekend. These types of crowds you just rarely see for volleyball, and are a big reason why playing in Brazil is such a special experience:
The match was filled with plenty of challenging moments, and our players and staff and I are all better for going through it. For example, we learned from the Brazilian Head Coach in the middle of set 2 that ball pressure is a very important issue, so much so it can require walking across the court to discuss with the head referee in a..uh, raised voice. Ah, the joys of playing at home...Didn't seem so funny in the moment, but it's getting a little more so as I keep thinking about it. For sure, it's a big lesson of how we need to focus and respond in the heat of battle.
Anytime you get to play such great teams back to back to back, there will be lots of lessons to uncover through discussions, reflection, video and statistics. We can always control our response and our preparation. To be sure, with Karch and our captains (Kristin Hildebrand, Courtney Thompson, Christa Harmotto and Tama Miyashiro) you can always bet the challenge to prepare each day in practice in order to respond even stronger will be met well. It's an honor to be a part of this program and represent our country with such a high-caliber group of individuals.
If Karch gives me a short court rematch I'll let you know...as long as I win.
I might be half-joking.
Aug. 5: Christa Harmotto, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Middle Blocker
Brazil did, and always does a phenomenal job hosting. The hospitality was on point and a big thanks to all those who came out to watch, even if you were cheering for the home team ;) What a special environment to play in...fans excited, fans loud(really loud), and fans who appreciate the sport.
We ended the week with 2 wins in our pocket, and the loss...we learned a lot and have those learning moments to continue to build upon. Brazil is a solid program with some nice depth in the young crew now coming through the pipeline..as do we :) I look forward to playing them more over the next couple of years. USA Volleyball cup with Brazil in 2014? #bringbraziltosocal
The next stop brings us to Belgrade, Serbia.
Here are some pictures that were taken with the GoPro of the Campinas Arena
Aug. 1: Christa Harmotto, U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Middle Blocker
For those of you who do not know what the FIVB World Gran Prix entails...here is a bit of insight...
- What is it? A 4, but this year, 5 week tournament featuring 20 teams from all over the world.
- The first 3 weeks are pool play, and the top teams will qualify for finals week (week 5) in Sapporo, Japan.
- Our first week takes us to Campinas, Brazil where we will face Russia, Poland, and Brazil. Second week: Serbia. Third week: Japan
- If we qualify for finals, we will stay in Japan and train on week 4 and then the finals are on week 5. Return home Sept. 2!
- more information visit http://www.fivb.org/EN/volleyball/competitions/WorldGrandPrix/2013/
So before I give the weather report here in Campinas, I have a to say a few things. I believe it has been said by multiple people already, but we have a special group of women in the USA gym. An environment has been created this summer where taking risks and the courage to be vulnerable are becoming a large part of our team recipe. I believe those two factors are front-running our team's growth not only in skill, but trust, at a pretty solid rate. Of course it is only year one, and there is a ton of room for improvement, but let's just say it is a recipe for something special.
Campinas. In case you guys weren't aware, it is actually winter here in Brazil....
75 and no humidity....
anyways, we have had the chance to "get out" and walk around the past couple days during the afternoon to adjust to the time change (4 hours ahead of PST) and enjoy these wintry conditions.
The food has been wonderful. Pretty sure I've never had a banana or mango taste this fresh.
We've also enjoyed practicing in some distracting locations to prep us for the crowds we will face this weekend. Yesterday's strobe lights and today's power washer, diesel fuel, and a fresh coat of paint...headwinds. Love it.
USA vs RUSSIA tomorrow....
Aug. 1: Kim Hill Shows Off an Off-Court Talent
Kim Hill, an outside hitter on the U.S. Women's National Volleyball, took a minute to show off one of her talents and personality prior to a training session at the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix Pool A in Campinas, Brazil.
Aug. 1: Tom Black, U.S. Women's Assistant Coach
The first weekend of Grand Prix starts with a bang for Team USA. First up are the Russians tomorrow at 4:30. Like you would expect, they are a long powerful team who rely on the powerful arms of their lefts, as well as the back row attack of Obmochaeva, a big time opposite for their squad. After the first video session this evening, you could sense the excitement meter rising in our players. This is a remarkable group of young women who have prepared long and hard and cannot wait to get after it.
While the players get ready for their matches, I have other important matters to worry about, namely how to stop Karch from crushing me in one-on-one. There's a traditional short court version where you are allowed to tip and joust within the 3m line and half the length of the court. Then there's the "one bounce" rule where we stay within the 3m line but use the entire length of the court. Over the course of two days, I've been dominated 13-4. The only category I've really pulled ahead in is in "steps taken" as Karch smiles and sends me scampering sideline to sideline until I make an unforced error. I'm determined to get better, it just might take awhile...
As for now, the players are sleeping soundly and the coaches have just returned to our rooms. The starting line-up is settled, and beginning rotation agreed upon. Tomorrow morning we'll present the final scouting report on Russia, have our serve and pass, and at last, compete! It will be the first of many great battles over the next five weeks. We can't wait to get going.