Arrival in Brazil for FIVB World Grand Prix

July 30, 2009, 2:02 a.m. (ET)

July 29, 2009

Greetings from Rio. We arrived late yesterday morning and our flight was uneventful which, in this day and age, is just what you want. It's been almost exactly a year since Jamie and I were last here with the Men competing in the 2008 World League finals, so there's some good memories and a strong sense of familiarity as we start this tournament. As per usual, the Brazilian Federation has done a wonderful job of organizing the event and the stadium, Maracanazinho, is a great place to play. The fans in Brazil are passionate and knowledgeable, it's always good to compete here.

Our Team is young, and largely inexperienced - by design. We need to develop some younger players and this event (the 2009 FIVB Grand Prix) provides a lot of matches and a lot seasoning (adversity) in a relatively short amount of time. We think it's the quickest way to accelerate the learning process and, maybe more importantly, to see how our players deal with the challenges they will inevitably face. Succeeding at this level is a lot about finding ways to win in less than optimal conditions. We talk a lot about being comfortable being uncomfortable.

We practiced last night from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm and, as you might expect after a long flight and not a lot of sleep, it was a little rough around the edges. By the time we made it back to the hotel, showered, ate, got treatment etc. it was well after 10 pm and we had to get it going again at 8 am this morning. We woke the Team up at 6 am and they were getting taped by 6:30

Breakfast opened at 7, and we were on the bus by 7:15 am. A little sleep went a long way and were good for most of practice. Our athletes work very hard, so the variance in performance is not due to lack of effort. It's just tough to get used to the demands of game at the international level. This environment is not very forgiving, you have to make a lot of good plays for long periods of time and the margins are very small - the difference between winning and losing is often times one or two plays. There's a huge premium on repeatability and, for many of players, the process learning to be good over time can be frustrating. It's tough trying to become the best you can be.

After lunch the coaches watched video and the athletes got treatment and napped. Karch, Jamie and I took a short break from watching Volleyball on our computers to wander down to the beach (our Hotel is 1 block from Copacobana) and walk, talk about Volleyball, and swim a little. We needed to get some exposure to sunlight so we can better adjust to the time change here. I am very fortunate to have such a talented and knowledgeable coaching staff and our Trainer, Jill Wosmeck, is a stud. We're also lucky to have Beth Launiere, Head Coach at the University of Utah - and current AVCA President, with us for the first two weeks of this trip. It's a great crew to work with.

After the short break we met up with the Team and headed to a local workout facility to lift. We went straight from lifting back to the gym for our second practice of the day. The main emphasis this afternoon was serving and passing (the two most critical elements of this game). We also had a chance to work on some setter/hitter connections and generally tried to focus on some individual skills instead of our usual Team/System based training. The Team worked hard and there were a number of improvements made. Hopefully we'll keep building on this tomorrow and be ready to play hard vs. a strong GER team on Friday.

Onwards. Hugh