For four days in late February, five Maryland volleyball players visited the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to take part in the U.S. Women's National Team open tryouts.
Adreene provided a daily account of her experience in Colorado Springs.
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013
We've just touched down at 12:45 MT and there's snow absolutely everywhere! Mack, Ash, Em, Amy and I started our day at about 4 this morning, leaving BWI to our connection in Dallas.
Along the way we've been spotting other college volleyball players, and it's been pretty cool being asked where we're headed by passer byes. We get to talking about the Olympic training center and everything.
We got off of the plane, went to retrieve our luggage and there just seemed to be a mass of volleyball people heading in the same direction, so we followed them.
We walked outside and there the Olympic training center bus was waiting for us. We were riding with a few players we'd spotted on the trip here. Waiting to file onto the bus, I was overcome with the urge to throw a snowball at a pole nearby. I reconsidered when I saw the aftermath would land all over a player and coach from West Virginia...but also, that generally isn't the best start at making a good impression.
The terrain is a mix between flatlands and in the distance really beautiful snow powdered mountains.
We arrived at 1:21 p.m. An interesting note, the center had its own gas station.
Once we arrived, I took my ID picture. Yowza, I've had better days, but on the bright side I'm rooming with Ash and Mack. We went to get our shirts for tryouts. I was signing some release forms when Mack quickly reassured me that the middles got nothing on me.
For our first session, we group stretched, then partnered up to warm up our arms. Mack told me this is potentially the most awkward junction during the weekend, so I said to myself be friendly and ask if anybody needs a partner.
So I did that. First partner said, 'Oh, sorry, I'm warming up with my teammate.' Cool. Undeterred by my subtle public rejection, I made a more general announcement "anybody need a partner" and I found someone :)
After that we did hitting lines on different courts. Then we jumped right into six back-to-back sessions of scrimmage, with lots of coaches and United States staff observing on the sidelines. That didn't bother me though, which is nice, I guess it's something you get used to. I focused on being confident (fake it till I make it) and how I could make the players around me better, most of whom I'd never met before.
Saturday, Feb. 23
Saturday morning, Ash and I walked over to the testing center for physical speed and strength. Aside from temporarily being lost in the parking lot, we found the place and started getting warmed up. There wasn't a lot of space but golly was every player finding a way, running up down the staircase, stretching out on vending machines.
This was the first time I felt a serious sense of nervousness in my stomach. I know that I'm a good athlete, but there are a lot of good athletes here. Well, even if my numbers didn't compare, I decided to give myself the chance of being great by believing that I really was. My group first tested our vertical touch (without approach) and block touch. It wasn't like the vertical I was used to at school, but it is USA volleyball; I guess this is how the big dogs do it.
Then we did a shuttle run, measured our height, then an attack speed test with a suspended ball. First off, everybody's looking at everybody during these tests; you can definitely feel the judgment going on, good and bad.
Well, it was my first swing ever on one of those things and I thoroughly paint brushed the bottom of the ball. Then I walk back to try again and see Moe Simmons from Clemson across the way...she couldn't even pretend like she didn't see it.
Round two, and I swung harder and harder and I thought by my last try it was a lot more accurate assessment of my power. The final test was just timing a brief sprint monitored by the Georgia Tech coach; I really got to like him over the weekend.
After leaving the tests, we walked straight to the building we play in and got to get some coaching from the staff which I really appreciated. We were told to be willing to make mistakes, which shows that we're pushing the limit of our ability and also to try to make adjustments, and aim to create repeatable behavior at a high level, versus maybe spurts of greatness or reoccurring mediocrity.
The middles worked on our float serves first, which I felt pretty good about because we practice them at school quite a bit. Coach Reed worked more closely with me during this segment, and he challenged me to stop serving so safely; I was only serving not to miss.
Following the serving portion, we worked on a blocking technique where you start standing neutrally, then hop into a loaded position transitioning to either pin. It was difficult for me to get the timing and flow right, this coupled with eye sequencing, footwork, and remembering to fully press over the net. But I was working to implement what they asked of me, and the Georgia Tech coach mentioned that it was looking better and more efficient the more reps I attempted.
We tested our verticals with the Vertimax following a scrimmage. I looked forward to showing the USA coaches my approach touch. Then a Michigan State player, one of the first girls in line, touched 11 feet... My goodness! You wanna talk about being humbled in a quick minute. I finally got to test and touched 10'7", but hey, I know that was the best I had to offer and I'd worked hard for it, too.
That night we learned that our flight was likely going to be cancelled because of a blizzard that was supposed to come through Colorado.
Sunday, Feb. 24
The last day, we woke up and got breakfast at 6:30, and went to play on teams for three games, while officiating two others. A lot of people wished we'd had more time to play; honestly, I was feeling pretty winded after our 10 minute warm up, so I appreciated the setup of the last day.
We gathered up to listen about the selection process. I understand that we should be hearing feedback in two weeks. I told Moe Simmons from Clemson and Samantha Gostling from Virginia Tech that I admired them both as players and am impressed by the level of competition they bring to the court. It was really cool because Moe actually gave me hug and was quite welcoming to conversation. As for Samantha, whom I'd played since high school, she told me that she shared with her teammates that I've improved a great deal since then and that she looks forward to playing me again next season.
I'm glad I decided to talk to them and a few others. Often with competition, I feel more inclined to resent exceptional players, or villainize them just because they're great, but understanding how much it takes to improve even one degree, I couldn't respect these ladies more.
Then, we went to shower and headed to the store to get a few gifts and take pictures by the Olympic rings. Then we went to eat, and there we made friends with more players, some from Texas and Purdue. The really cool part of the evening though was when we were invited to play cards with Tharon, a blind swimmer.
He told us that he became gradually blind; losing his sight completely by the time he was 15. He'll be training at the center for the next three years.
I did homework until that time rolled around, and golly was it a lot of fun. Tharon's friends joined us: Earl, Ellis, Willie, and Robby who were wrestlers, and also John Orozco, the super publicized gymnast from the last Olympics!
So we played BS and Spoons, which I got out on the first round (lame), then our girls suggested we play mafia. That's when we got invited to their exclusive bungalow downstairs where they hang out together! So it was our girls, an Illinois State player LeAnne, a high school player, and then the Olympians, all playing mafia. That was such a blast! And we got to just get to know about them and their schedules, traveling, anything we wanted to know really. It was super, super unbelievable, once in a lift time experience. :)
We stayed until 10:45 then headed to bed. I was never too bummed that our flight had been cancelled, but holy cannoli, this was just the coolest blessing waiting to happen.
Monday, Feb. 25
So we finally headed out with a delay at 2 to Dallas. Overall, it was definitely an experience I'll never forget.
Heading back to our home gym, I've actually gotten to see that I can compete with some great athletes, and how directly self-confidence is connected to my performance and aggressive execution.Being consistently good is my goal for the time being, and technically, I see how pivotal blocking is to the success of my teammates. I want to be excellent at my job for them. Besides all of that, I have a lot of people to thank for this opportunity; I am really and truly blessed.