Lauren Goins Online Journal
Aug. 1, 2006
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Since I finished my last season at Cal State Fullerton, my life has changed in ways that I never could have imagined. I knew that I wanted to play volleyball overseas for the last few years, so I went on a tour with an agency in the January following my senior season. The tour acted as a kind of tryout for college players wanting to continue their volleyball careers in various other countries. My tour lasted two weeks. It took me to four countries and helped me to meet some amazing people. I am still in contact with several of my tour mates a year and a half later. I immediately fell in love with Europe and the opportunities it had to offer. I could continue to play volleyball and do the traveling I had wanted to do for so long. After arriving back home, I contacted the agency and told them that I definitely wanted to return to Europe to play the following season. I signed a contract with a team in Germany just after Graduation. I used the summer to train, go on vacation and spend time with my family. After all, I wasn't going to see them for nine months....
At the beginning of August 2005, I made the journey to a city called Chemnitz to play for a club called the CPSV Fighting Kangaroos. The club is a member of the 2. Bundesliga, or the 2nd National League, in Germany.Chemnitz is located in the east of Germany between the major cities Dresden and Leipzig. The city has a population of about 250,000 and is home to a University. I lived with two other foreigners, a middle blocker from St, Mary's College and a setter from Iona College. Our apartment was situated in the middle of the city which made everything much more accessible for us. Public transportation got me basically wherever I needed to go, but if it was close enough, I just walked. I guess it was difficult at first getting used to not having a car anymore, but I learned very quickly that you can get used to anything.
Being a foreigner was very strange at first. That also took a while to get used to. People would sometimes stare when I was with my roommates in the middle of the city and we were all speaking English. My style of clothing was a little bit different than most Germans, and the fact that my flip-flops are my favorite pair of shoes didn't always go over so well. The language proved to be a problem at first, but luckily for me, all of my teammates and coaches spoke English, and I found that a lot of the students at the University spoke English. I was also very grateful for living in a town with a University. It provided an excellent opportunity to meet new people. My roommates and I spent a lot of time at the University. We started taking a German class in October, but we stopped attending for reasons that are basically inexcusable....
A typical day for went a little bit like this:
-Go to the grocery store to pick up a few things
-Go to the gym to get in workout.
-Head to the Mensa (or Cafeteria) at the University to eat lunch and hang out with friends
-Go back home to watch a movie or go into the city to walk around
-Go to practice
-Go home or hang out with friends
Volleyball is much different in Europe. It took me a while to adjust to a style of play that is not as structured as I was used to, but I learned quickly to stop fighting it and just go along with it. The European game relies much more, in my experience, on the talent of the individual rather than collective teamwork. Technique is not enforced nearly as much as it is in the States. Practices do not have the same kind of intensity, and the variety of drills that we engaged in was very limited. It was difficult to adapt to the lackadaisical attitude in the gym during practice. I had to delve into my training in sports psychology to make sure that I kept myself at the level that I was used to. It wasn't necessarily the same when came time to play in the matches, seeing as most of the girls were ready then. I just couldn't seem to change my mindset so drastically between practice and matches. The layout of the season is also very different. We play in a few tournaments at the beginning of the season, only one match each weekend starting in September, and we play through the end of April. It is a much longer season.
As a foreigner, there is a lot of pressure put on you, not necessarily by teammates or coaches, but by the sponsors and the media. When things are going well for the team, they love you, and when things are not going so well, to put it mildly, they don't care for you very much. I experienced both while I was there. It doesn't matter if you play exactly the same way in either situation. You are either praised or blamed. My team finished 5th out of 14 teams in the second league. It was fun to compete against the other teams at time because there were girls that I had either played against in college or gone on tour with. It was nice to be able to share my experience with other girls in similar situations.
I also held a small job during my stay in Chemnitz. I helped teach English to children between the ages of four and eight with a student at the University at a place called the Kindersportschule, or Children's Sports School. We worked to introduce the children to the basics of the English language in an environment that is conducive to children's excitement about learning at that age. They got to run around and practice English vocabulary at the same time. I found my experience working with these children to be highly valuable. It helped me to understand the importance of speaking two languages. I also began to realize how much children can absorb at such a young age. And, the fact that we were able to teach in an active environment made everything run a lot smoother for everyone. Since my knowledge of the German language is very limited, I had to learn to communicate in alternate ways. A smile can get you very far! In addition, the children taught me while I was teaching them. I learned German while they learned English. It was an amazing experience.
I met so many great people in Chemnitz, and because of that I am even more grateful for this opportunity. I made so many new friends and I also met my boyfriend there. I think that people are the most important component of anything you experience, and the people in Chemnitz made my time there more wonderful than I had dreamed it could possibly be. My boyfriend came to visit me in California this summer. I have other friends that have plans to do the same next summer. And, now I always have a place to visit in Germany whenever I return to Europe. I will not be returning to play in Chemnitz next season, but I do hope to play in Germany once again. I will greatly miss all those fantastic people, but I also look forward to meeting new people wherever it is that I am going next season.
It was very easy for me to follow Titan volleyball while I was in Germany. I kept in touch with a few of my former teammates by both phone and e-mail, and I was also able to keep up with the team's progress at www.fullertontitans.com. I was very proud of what the team was able to accomplish this season and I wish them the best of luck as they continue to make program history. My only hope is that more of the girls will look beyond ending their career as a Titan and continuing their career as a professional abroad. It's a fantastic opportunity and a great way to carry on doing what you love.
Currently, I am spending my summer at the weight room and in the gym playing anywhere I can. I have been practicing with girls from all over Orange County at Goldenwest College. It's exciting for me to play at such a high level during the off-season with girls that I competed against throughout college. I have also been working part-time to make a little bit of spending money for when I return to Europe. In addition, I have been in contract negotiations with my agents so that we can find the best deal for the upcoming season.