Ahhh….Brazil—with its stunning ocean scenery, “really GOOOOD meat” (shouts Courtney), and the speedo-clad men on the beach who play volleyball without using their arms all make for an exciting backdrop to the 2009 World Grand Prix.
As has been mentioned before, this is no doubt a young group of players taking on the best competition around the world—at times every athlete on the floor is fresh out of college, in fact. Keeping this in mind, Hugh has made it very clear to us the dual purpose of this trip.
Of course, we are always trying to win and compete to be our best, honoring and protecting the “USA” on our backs. However, we are also very much focused on the learning process that began in May and extends to 2012. And our humbling loss to Germany the first night provided a great test of trust to believe in the big picture.
Post-Germany, we engaged in productive evaluation on how we can be better at what we can control—both as a team and in positional groups. So with fresh goals and attitude intact, we went on to battle for a 3-2 victory over Puerto Rico on Saturday. There was certainly an inclining improvement in not only our execution, but most importantly in our effort as a working unit. In fact, even those players that didn’t get much action in the match, met up that evening with Beth for an intense practice that included Pressey 10-ft line blasts, Stacy yelling tricks, and butter sets from Heather, Nancy, and myself--ha! Like the coaches say, we’re all aiming to get at least 1% better each day. And Team USA certainly did.
The learning curve continued Sunday as we entered into a match against hometown Brazil. A mammoth crowd of green and yellow made waves and plenty of noise as we remained neck and neck with the Olympic champs for most of games one and two. Our ability to manage the game, communicate intentionally, and make good play after good play increased even more.
Let me pause to say that I am not trying to paint some idyllic picture of rainbow-happy learning time. Learning is hard and it is frustrating and it is tedious at times. But learning is also beautiful.
I have found myself stepping outside of the moment sometimes on this trip, watching my friends, my teammates laugh and intermingle. Seeing Jordan or Kristin celebrate silently when they get that angle right or hearing about Nicole Fawcett’s victory in letting go. I see the momentary glimpses of absolute greatness that our team creates on that world volleyball stage, and I marvel at the increase of those moments thus far.
We might not be changing the game completely like the speedo men of Copacabana (in fact, Hugh’s pretty intent on keeping things as simple and basic as possible), but we can keep working to be great in our own time, on our own path as we aim to maximize the potential of Team USA.
Another chance to get better awaits in Monday morning’s practice. Then, I hope to indulge in one more cup of fabulously potent Brazilian coffee before beginning our 29 hour trek to Taiwan!
On with the journey….