Today marks the beginning of my Swedish volleyball experience here in Ljungby – try to pronounce that as “Yoon-bee”. After sleeping in until 11, we went to Hotel Terraza, where we will eat 5 days a week, for lunch with Daniel (the head coach) and Malin – our teammate who’s apartment we are currently living at until our apartment gets furnished. After eating our meal of pizza salad (shredded cabbage – like in coleslaw – with oil, vinegar and pepper; apparently this salad always comes with pizza in Sweden, hence the name), sausage, and mashed potatoes, Jo and I decided to try to maneuver our way from the city center to Malin’s apartment. The walk was pretty basic: follow the parking lots to Maxi – our grocery store – go across the main road, turn left at the library, and stop at house #45. Luckily Ljungby is not such a metropolis thus making it very unlikely that we can get too lost. As a form of insurance, Malin gave us a town map with the 3 most important locations circled: Malin’s apartment/our current home, the volleyball hall/gym, and gym/training center/weight room. After doing some quick shopping at Maxi for tonight’s dinner and shampoo, we ventured back to the apartment for some R&R. Despite sleeping over 12 hours last night, this jet lag thing is really kicking our butts. Johanna, another teammate, would be picking us up to go to the gym aka TC 5:20, so we had plenty of time.
By 4:30, we were finally up and somewhat ready to begin getting dressed for practice. Jo’s bag that the airline lost has all of her spandex, t-shirts, kneepads and sports bras, so until that arrives she is stuck wearing my clothes; I really hope she likes the ripped seams that are present on every pair of my spandex. Johanna arrived and we headed over to TC (training center) for lifting. So apparently, this weight lifting program that both Jo and I were dreading has more of a DIY concept, where the girls are technically lifting together, but are able to pick and choose what exercises and body parts they want to do on any given day. This was somewhat of a relief, as we weren’t going to be participating in what we had assumed to be an extremely rigorous Swedish work out before our first practice. I think we might try to contact our former weight trainers from home to get some sort of program so we can actually benefit from working out, as opposed to just doing lunges, bench, sit ups, and squats each day. After an hour in the weight room, we headed over to the volleyball gym for our first practice. There, Jo and I had our first newspaper interview, and of course some pictures (good thing we were looking super attractive). I believe the girl who interviewed us will be emailing us the interview in PDF format, so as soon as I get it I can send it out to everyone. Not sure if it will be able to be translated, but good luck with that and welcome to my life :P
Our practice wasn’t too bad, we did some hitting lines off of live Libero passes, first setting outsides, then moving to middles and opposites. All of a sudden Daniel starts counting “10…9…8…7…” and Jo and I freeze, look around and see our teammates scrambling for loose balls. Apparently, if he ever starts counting, we have that much time to shag or else we have to take laps for every second we go over our 10-second time limit. From there, we did 5-on-5 out of system, where you have to set from the back row; a similar drill we did at Tampa. We did this for a while to make sure everyone understood before we competed. First team to 10 points would win; my team lost by 3. Fail. Daniel did some more counting, which we ended up having to run laps before we were allowed to get water. Finally we split up into two teams for a scrimmage. My team had Jo at M2, Johanna (who is called Jula, pronounce that Yoo-la) at Opposite, Asha (Polish teammate also named Joanna) at M1, Selma at Libero, Sophie at OH (she stayed from row the whole time), and of course, me setting. Everyone started off pretty slow, and had some minor communication errors, but things started getting a little better. The team cheers “två, tre, opa!” after each play. Of course, I can’t really pronounce those words, so I just end up doing a super awkward dance move to distract them from my disabilities, and wind up shouting OPA! So far I think it’s working out pretty well for me, and I usually get a couple chuckles out of my teammates, and sometimes even our opponents. We ended winning 25-19, with our middles having to play back row—pretty sure this was a first for Jo, but she did pretty well. More counting from Daniel before we were allowed to get some water and it was back to another scrimmage. This time instead of Sophie hitting outside, we had Lisa, but she would only play front row with Selma, the Libero, playing back row the whole time. Again, our team won, 25-20, and that would conclude our first Swedish practice.
There seems to be somewhat of language barrier, as the literal translation of “set” in Swedish to English is called a “pass”, so after I play the ball, if they think it was good, many of my Swedish teammates will tell me “good pass”. Also, the setting zones have completely different names from the offensive systems that we use in the States. Of course, that varies between coaches and teams across our own country, but even between Jo and my own pervious experiences, we had never heard some of these names for their respective sets. For example, a low, quick outside set that some call a “hut”, “shoot”, or “go” is called a “6” here; whereas a high outside ball here is called a “5”. A quick front-set to the middle is called an “A”, a quick backset is a “B” – both somewhat common in the States – but a slide is called a “sigma”. I’m not sure exactly how one would begin to make that hand signal… Our low, fast back set is called a “0”, or “null” and a high back set is called a “1”. Needless to say, when we got home, my head was definitely hurting from constantly trying to substitute my old offensive names for the new ones. I think this may take a bit of time.
It’s fair to say that tomorrow we will both be a little sore, and still seriously affected by jet lag, but that is the price we pay for, as Jo calls it, “the Swede life”. We wound up staying awake until almost 3am local time, talking about our friends and family, and learning more and more about our new built-in best friend. Anyways, that’s all for now, so until next time, I bid thee farewell.