Bill Kauffman Blog for Aug. 5 - Volleyball Press Day

Aug. 05, 2008, 11:45 p.m. (ET)

Aug. 5, 2008

Volleyball Press Day
Going into Tuesday morning, I knew it would be busy day, but a good day for volleyball.

My phone, or new alarm clock, starting ringing before I really wanted it to at 6 a.m. after another late night. However, I wanted to get a good breakfast to fuel the day without a break.

At 8 a.m., NBC with Lester Holt was at Beijing Normal University to interview the women’s volleyball team members, shoot video of training and follow-up with interviews with Lang Ping.

Lang Ping showing her table tennis skills. Photo copyrighted by USA VolleyballLester interviewed Stacy Sykora and Tayyiba Haneef-Park prior to training, then unexpectedly got a chance to view a different side of Lang Ping. She picked up a table tennis paddle and started to challenge members of the U.S. table tennis team that trains adjacent to the volleyball area split by a net. She more than held her own and looked like a seasoned player holding the paddle.

The NBC crew followed Lang Ping around during the volleyball training session shooting action to supplement the interview piece it will air at least a couple times during the Olympic Games. Lester’s interview lasted just over 15 minutes, and it is amazing to see how he works in person to develop a great piece put together by a great team of producers.

Before leaving the Beijing Normal gymnasium, Lang Ping had one more surprise for all of us to supplement the NBC story. As a past student at Beijing Normal University, she took time to sign autographs and meet with several of the faculty. She truly is an icon in Chinese history, not just the sports realm. What she has meant to China goes well beyond the court.

After the NBC crew was finished and took off, I took a quick 15 minutes to shower and change for the second half of the day filled with two volleyball press conferences through the USOC. The U.S. Olympic Men’s Indoor Volleyball Team was scheduled to have its press conference at 3 p.m., although I did not get the notice that the time had changed from 2 p.m. I did not think I was going to make it in time to assist B.J. Evans, until I arrived at the Main Press Center (15 minutes from Beijing Normal) and saw her sitting in the USOC work room. It was then that I learned the time changed.

As B.J. moderated the men’s press conference in a 200-seat press conference facility, I was able to shoot some photos for her and help answer questions in the breakdown sessions off-stage. The men’s team had a huge press gathering with some interesting questions from both a hometown and worldwide perspective. Interest in the team has definitely sparked since winning the World League just over a week ago.

While the men were holding its press conference, Lang Ping was doing two major interviews with Chinese media including CCTV. She day of interviews concluded with the U.S. Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team’s press conference that included her, Danielle Scott-Arruda and Nicole Davis.

U.S. Olympic Women's Indoor Volleyball Team Press Conference. Photo copyrighted by USA VolleyballAs for me, I moderated the biggest press conference that I could ever imagine. I was nervous going into the event, especially not knowing how the direction of the press conference would go. We wanted Lang Ping to feel comfortable in this setting without getting asked the same question over and over. At the same time, we wanted to be respectful of the players in attendance. Instead of the script I crafted for the opening moderation, I basically ad-libbed the entire opening before introducing the opening statements by Lang Ping, Danielle and Nicole.

The setting was an 800-seat room with two platforms for television cameras. The entire front row plus others on their knees at the base of the stage were snapping still photos of the press conference, which was being translated simultaneously into eight different languages so the foreign press could listen.

It is hard to gauge how many press members were actually in the room, but somewhere around 100 cameras – still and video – and numerous print journalists were seated in the room. I would not be surprised if the total in the room reached 300 or so journalists, possibly even more. It really was hard to tell as the seatbacks were hiding several people until I saw the occasional hand raise asking that I select them to ask a question. Plus, so many people lined the outskirts of the seating area that it was hard to count and still pay attention to moderate the press conference.

Lang Ping answered several questions in relation to coming back to China. If the question was asked in Mandarin, she answered back in the same language. If asked in English, she responded back in English.

Both Nicole and Danielle did a fabulous job representing USA Volleyball and the United States Olympic Team. They were eloquent in their responses under a difficult situation answering questions that have been posed numerous times over the past four years. We could not ask for any better representatives, but I am also sure any of our Olympic Team members would have been fabulous if put in the same situation.

After about 40 minutes of the press conference format, Lang Ping exited to allow the players more interview time in an informal setting down on the floor. In this setting, media could be up close and ask the questions directly to the players. If not stopped at the one hour limit we had the press conference room, the interview questions would have continued to flow as media were still surrounding the players awaiting more responses.

Overall, Tuesday was a great day for USA Volleyball to showcase our indoor teams on a worldwide stage. It was a long day, but it definitely was well worth it at the end of the day.

To view a quick photo gallery of Lang Ping's Aug. 5, click here. To view a photo gallery of the two press conferences, click here.