5.17.2015

Rewind, Play, Fast Forward

After a short (year and half) hiatus, I've decided to see if I've still got it. By "it" I don't mean the ability to write thought provoking, inspirational tales of wit and wisdom, but rather the ability to write anything legible and coherent. It's an ambitious goal, I realize, but I take a lot of plane rides with nothing better to do, so I think that means I've got what it takes, right?Since it's been so long since my last post, I'll give a brief synopsis of how the last year went, followed by a quick take of the Lucerne Open, then a short insight into what's to come. Brief + Quick + Short = Probably too much writing, but bear with me.

Last season we won some games and lost some others, yada yada yada, lots of training, and now here we are.

Too brief? Fine, here are the highlights:
- Chaim and I got our first FIVB podium with a Bronze at the Parana Open in Argentina
- We followed it up with Gold at the NORCECA Championships in Tobago
- Klagenfurt and Stavanger, two of the players favorite Grand Slams, returned to the FIVB World tour
- Went to see "Price is Right" live with a few other volley notables (see picture below)
- The Calgary Flames made the playoffs, and beat the Canucks in round 1
- I grew a playoff beard
- I shaved off the playoff beard



Lucerne was a little bittersweet, with an emphasis on the bitter. When I was younger, having to qualify week after week, 25th was a sign of progress, it meant I was winning a few games and getting to compete against the best teams for 2 or 3 extra matches per tournament. But these days, it's more of a motivator that more needs to be done to prevent future early exits. The city of Lucerne is a beautiful place and hosted a very nice, well run, tournament. I hope to come back in future years to better my own experience of it, but as a player so focused on one objective, the rest of the experience often gets clouded by a poor performance. The best way to look at it was that as Lucerne was our first event of the 2015 season, and so it was a good warm up for the Grand Slams coming up, and gave us a good idea of what fixes can be made before then.

Now on to what's to come. I'm not sure what is most notable about this year's FIVB season, but there are certainly plenty of developments, so I'll start by mentioning the FIVB Major Series. This will be comprised of 3 of this year's tour stops (Croatia, Norway, Switzerland) and then a season finale in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I still don't have all the information, but it's my understanding that Swatch and Red Bull will be the major sponsors and are looking to make all the events similar to Klagenfurt (aka, As big as it gets for beach volleyball). This is exciting news for the players and the fans alike, and hopefully big news for the sport itself to grow into something bigger.

The next big thing this season (and in my opinion, the most anticipated) is the FIVB World Championship being held in 4 cities in the Netherlands; den Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Appeldorn. Worlds are always a big deal wherever they are held, and the Hague always puts on a good event, so I am really looking forward to early July. Chaim and I will be playing our pool play matches in the Hague, which this year will be played in a floating stadium in the heart of the city, just in case anyone happens to be in the neighborhood, it will be worth coming out to watch.

Finally, this season starts the Olympic qualification process. When the time comes, all eyes will be on the teams at the games, but it's the next two seasons that brings out the best in them. Everyone is ready to get the Grand Slams started and the season underway as we all battle to make our way to Rio.


That's all I've got for now, next week we'll head to Norway to train with Horrem/Eithun, and other athletes around their training facilities, and then to Moscow for the first Grand Slam or the season. I'll try to write another blog or two in weeks to come, but no guarantees.

Cheers,
Ben Jammin

8.13.2013

#TheNewAgeOfSport

Social media has made everything so accessible over recent years. There's so much easy access to everything you could ever want to know about every team, player, coach, mascot, ballboy, etc. Through all the networks you can fairly easily interact with and follow almost any athlete in any sport worldwide (As long as you can hack the great firewall of China) and vice versa, athletes are able to keep in touch with friends and family back home and keep updated with the goings on in the "real world".

Even a bum like me can have a fan page, and several means of communicating with those interested in my Beach Volleyball journey. It's so different from even a few years ago, when the only news you could get about the tour was months later in the latest issue of DiG magazine. Nowadays, though it's still not as popular as the big 4 sports in North America (Hockey, Basketball, Football, and Baseball) or other sports that have been easy access through TV forever, people can still be informed about Beach. You can watch streamed matches live from across the world, check scores via tournament websites, comment on your favorite player's Facebook group page, hashtag each event on Twitter. Sure you're still not going to see that many World Tour caliber games on your big screen (aside from the Olympics every 4 years) until the sport grows more in popularity, but there are ways to get involved in the game like never before.

All the social networks have gotten so involved in sport in general that last year, London was called the first "Twitter Olympics". People at home had more opportunity to be involved with the games than ever before. Even though I didn't get the chance to be there myself, I was able to send my words of motivation to those of my friends who did, and got to hear back with their words of thanks afterwards. It made me feel like I was at least somewhat part of it, even though not quite in the way that I wanted.

I for one, enjoy being able to so easily share my successes (not so much my failures), and being able to draw from the support of everyone following the experience. It's been kind of cool being able to gauge the excitement of people back home who followed our success at World Championships, and likewise it helped soften the blow seeing the words of encouragement after our recent hiccup in Berlin. I look forward to all the things I'll get to read from everyone next week in Moscow.

Cheers,
Ben Jammin

7.10.2013

Big Things

So some things have happened since the last time I wrote a blog. I've traveled a to a few more countries, jumped a few thousand more times, and aged a few months. A few notable things, Chaim and I finally figured out how to qualify, and how to win third sets from time to time. Here in Gstaad will be our fourth straight Main Draw appearance. Also, we took a 5th at the World Championships last week in Poland, which was kind of fun. I guess. (Even though I was robbed for the blocking title, they gave 2 of my blocks in the quarter to Chaim which would have tied me for the lead with the best ratio. Look it up)

Ok, it was a blast. We're finally starting to get some big wins, by making big plays, at big moments, under big amounts of stress, watched by big crowds, in big venues, against big players, .....etc. Only thing bigger would have been if we could have won a few more matches near the end, but it's a start. It was big enough, however, for me to think "Hmm, I should maybe write a blog or something." And here we are. (Also, someone's gotta challenge Ryan Doherty's claim to being the world's greatest blogger. ryan-doherty.com - I actually strongly recommend it, it might be a true claim)(PPS - He speaks pretty well of me in one of his recent blogs, so how could I not endorse?)

One of the best parts of the whole ordeal was the mass congratulations from friends, family, and everyone else who contacted me via Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, and any other means you can think of. My advice to all of you: Don't ever stop. The next best thing to actually winning the important matches, is being able to come home and read about how everyone back home is just as excited living vicariously through us.

Something else that always makes me smile (though sometimes time consuming) is being swarmed by all the local fans post match. When I was younger and first started playing internationally in the youth events, my dad advised me to never deny someone an autograph. I don't know if I ever will. I don't exactly crave the attention, but I love to see how excited people get over a simple picture with me, or to have a scribble on a piece of paper. How could you ever pass up on making even one person's day, never mind an entire crowd.

And now we come to Gstaad. Slightly smaller stakes, but no less difficult. There's no such thing as an easy tournament on tour, so it's immediately back to grind. Always pushing to improve on the week before. Such is life on the FIVB World Tour.

Cheers,
Ben Jammin