After a week in paradise, I've made my way back to the slightly less beautiful city of Toronto. Thursday was spent tying up loose ends, but it always seems as soon as I get something done, something else pops up. Put a rush on a visa for Brazil, and now I need to figure out my visa for China. It's either going to have to get done with a one day rush once I get my passport back Wednesday, or it'll get done if and when I get back from Brazil for 4 days. Though we might try to get a flight straight from Brasilia to Shanghai.
For those of you who knew my plans this coming summer, they've been completely changed around. After getting back to T-dot, I managed to talk Jessi into going to play in China, because it's likely to be one of the weaker tournaments of the summer. We decided we'd have a good shot at getting a solid result, and by doing so, we should be able to get into the Grand Slams later in the summer. The more we play, the better we'll get, and hopefully by the end of the summer, we'll have a few more main draws under our belt. I've listed our summer plans in a list on the right of this page as well as the fivb website, so everyone at home can follow along.
On to the subject line of today's blog, I am back to training at Beach Blast. After my week on Grand Cayman, I can't say that excited me too much, and with National team head coach, Lennard Krapp, gone to Ottawa for the week, we have to coach ourselves for a bit. Also its a bit of a struggle to breathe in the confined space of the Blast, I don't know whether I should get used to it or not. We're all just waiting for the weekend, where it's supposed to reach 20+ degrees so we can finally play outside. But since I need to be indoors for a the next week, I intend to make the most of it. All touches are good touches as long as the focus is there. Jessi and I train a few times this week with Canada's highest ranked team, Rich Van Huizen and Christian Redmann, and their coach, 3 time Olympian, and one time Bronze medalist, John Child. Indoor training or not, we will be ready to play come Guatemala, April 9-11.
Friday night at Beach Blast saw a little extra action. Hernan Humana hosted an adult clinic followed by a party on the sand. Lately I've been running a lot of the Friday clinics, along with my roomates Chaim Schalk and Maverick Hatch, and fellow National team athletes, Jamie Broder and Ray Sewell, which put us all first on the list to guest coach this weekend. This Friday was a little different, with a third of all the proceeds going to victims of the earthquakes that are ravaging Hernan's hometown in Chile.
The part of the fundraiser that stands out the most in my mind, though I risk sounding like a little kid for saying so, was when the event asked participants to play against the pros. Teams of 4 were asked to challenge myself and Mark Heese. Heese being Canada's other bronze medalist, as well as a 10 time National Champion, making him Canada's most succesful beach volleyball player of all time. It was my chance to play with a childhood hero, so I had to impress. Though I might have tried too hard, because I just ended up making myself tired. Fortunately Mark didn't seem to mind too much. I only hope I did a good job of hiding how excited I was. I can only imagine that some day, the roles will be reversed, and I won't be the punk kid anymore, so I hope I can make as good an impression as Mark did last weekend.
The Cayman Islands are a paradise. There’s no other way to describe it. I got there expecting it to be too hot and humid. I expected sweat to be instantly soaking through my clothing and pouring off my brow. In reality, it just felt like a normal Canadian summer day. It’s still warm, but not unbearable. As long as you remember to wear a little sunscreen, it is the perfect whether to sit outside in just your shorts or bathing suit or whatever suits your fancy. Playing a three set match in the middle of the day is a little bit of a struggle, as was mentioned on Monday, but with a couple more days in the sun even that would be manageable.
The Cayman Islands consist of three separate islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac. On all of them the beaches are made up of beautiful white sand, and super clear ocean water. After every game and every practice, there was really no option but to jump in the calm ocean water, and let the Cayman environment sink in. The water has a very calming effect. On my last day there, I spent around an hour sitting on a rock made of old coral, just watching the waves rise and fall. There’s just something about the ebb and flow of the water that can hold my attention.
Finally, the Grand Cayman offers a variety of opportunities to interact with several of the ocean’s creatures. I don’t often have a huge time budget to spend on extra activities while on tour, but on this trip I couldn’t resist a couple of things. Things like swimming with dolphins for instance. Not only swimming, I also got to dance with one, hug one, and give one a big kiss. I regret that I didn’t get a chance to go to Stingray city, a sandbar crawling with people friendly Stingrays (No danger of following the same fate as Steve Irwin). I did, however get the chance to go to the sea turtle farm. There, I saw sharks feeding, snorkelled with exotic fish, saw some interesting native birds and lizards, picked up sea turtles, and got more of a sunburn in 2 hours than I did over an entire weekend of being outside playing beach volleyball.
All in all, the worst part about the Cayman Islands, was having to leave and go back to Toronto.
I’ll start this entry off with my apologies for the lack of blog over the weekend. NORCECA tournaments just fire out as many games as possible over a 3 day span, and much of my time was spent at the beach without computer access. I’ll make up for it now by giving a quick rundown of how our weekend fared. (Some of the set scores might be wrong but not by much, forgive me. These are all off the top of my head.)
Game 1 vs. Jamaica: W 21-10, 21-18
The first game of any tournament always seems like it could go in any direction. In our case, it started out right. We made sure to come out energized, and ready to play strong. The scores don’t really show it, but Jamaica is actually a very athletic team capable of doing good things. They would finish the tournament in 5th place, losing to eventual bronze medallists, USA, in three sets.
Game 2 vs. Guatemala: W 21-7, 21-15
This was just a case of us overpowering the other team. Guatemala is a smaller team and again, tough serving on our part did not allow them a chance to mount a strong offense against us. Guatemala would eventually finish in 9th place
Game 3 vs. Puerto Rico: L 21-16, 15-21, 13-15
It seemed we were strong in every first set. We controlled this match until midway through the second set. A couple calls in a row went against us, as will happen in any game, and combined with the heat of midday in the Cayman Islands, we were a little thrown off. That would lead to our demise in the second set. The third set was back and forth, neither team led by more than 1 point until 12-12 when the Puerto Ricans grabbed a quick couple, and there was very little time left to take one back. The Puerto Ricans would eventually claim 2nd place.
Game 4 vs. USA-2: W 21-14, 21-19
Start time, 9:30 pm. Maverick and I had managed to get to back to the hotel to grab a shower and a quick bite to eat, whereas the Americans had to remain to play their 3rd game of the day in order to face us. We took full advantage of their tired legs in the first set, Getting 2 or 3 points every time we went back to serve. They made adjustments in the second, and jumped to any early four point lead. Mav and I battled back little by little, and managed to close out the match in the tight second set. USA-2, after their loss to us, ended up in tied for 5th with Jamaica.
Game 5 (semi-final) vs. Canada-1: L 21-11, 17-21, 10-15
Another case of strong serving, gave us a huge lead over fellow Canadians, Martin Reader and Ray Sewell. We rode the lead all the way to the end of the first set, and went into the break energized. Marty and Ray battled back however, and showed new fight in the second, whereas the heat of the day had us struggling to maintain our first set intensity. Eventually, our very frustrating lack of legs and energy, mixed with the consistent play of the other Canadians, finished with us on the wrong end of the match. Martin and Ray would go on to win the tournament
Game 6 (bronze medal game) vs. USA-1: L 16-21, 21-12, 17-19
The one exception to our strong play in first sets. We started the game without any fight, but found it midway through the first. It was too late for that set, but led to a dominant second. The third set saw several 2 and 3 point swing for both teams. It seemed that neither team had the energy after a long weekend of playing to be consistent. After a tight last few point, we again lost in the third. Finishing our tournament in 4th place.
I’m disappointed we weren’t stronger in 3rd sets, but there we many positives on the whole. This is not only Maverick’s first international event, it’s also the first time he’s ever been outside of Canada and the northern united states. Considering that, he played very well. Also the fact that we controlled every team we played for at least one set show’s a lot of promise for the future. With just a little extra push here or there we could have been on top of the podium. When Jessi and I get a chance to play in Guatemala in a few weeks, hopefully we will be.
First I’ll give the background story. Since my regular partner, Jessi Lelliott (remember that name, it’s likely to appear in future blogs) is taking a few classes at the University of Toronto, and won’t be done exams until the first week of April. One of my roommates, and fellow national team member, Maverick Hatch, approached me and asked if I would play with him for the event in the Caymans. As far as I’m concerned, any chance I can get to play high level volleyball is a good opportunity to get better. Not to mention, the Cayman Islands! Need I explain further? So we immediately registered and booked our tickets through Expedia. Since we are poor athletes, we immediately chose the cheapest route, even though it consisted of 3 flights to get there, and 2 to get back, including an overnight stay at the New York airport.
Now here is where Murphy’s Law comes into effect. As we are standing in line for customs, Maverick asks me: “So when do we get into JFK?” to which I promptly reply, “We aren’t going to JFK, we’re going to LaGuardia.” Apparently we managed to book two different routes of the same price and identical flight times, with different first and second legs. A quick laugh, “Well, I’ll see you in Miami.”
Things only got worse from there. After passing through customs and security, we find out there is a very large amount of traffic flying through New York and so flights to JFK have been completely cancelled, and flights to LaGuardia delayed for hours. Maverick and I part ways so he can figure out his flight, and I learn that we will board my plane shortly. I’m excited, that didn’t take hours at all, when in fact, they are just going to board the plane in case they get the call to fly out earlier than the expected delay. They do! Instead of waiting on the plane with my 6’7” body crammed into a tiny airplane seat for 2 hours before takeoff, it only takes 1 hour and 54 minutes. Joy! It would have been better just to sit in the airport for that long.
Next comes the LaGuardia airport. I got in just after midnight, so the majority of the airport is already shut down, and all the comfy couches are already taken by others spending the night in the New York airport. Fortunately, there were several spaces of tiled floor available for me to curl up on. After about 10 minutes of freezing cold discomfort, I gave up all attempts, and decided to wait it out until my next flight at 6 am. Spent my time writing my first blog, reading about King Arthur, and grumbling about my lack of sleep. Around 5 am, some shops started opening up, so I grabbed some oatmeal and some OJ, which, immediately after sitting down, gets spilled all over me, by another travellers backpack. At least he was gracious enough to replace my spilled beverage. I don’t however have a change of clothes in my carry on, so I’m stuck with what I got till I get in.
Hoping to catch a bit of sleep on my 3 hour flight to Miami was not a good idea. I should not have gotten my hopes up like that. The seats were closer together than normal, and the head rest was not adjustable, leaving the top of my seat slightly below my neck level. Is sleeping while sitting straight up without any support for your head and neck even possible? If so, I would like to see it done. Not to mention the fact that my leg got banged by the drink cart every time I came even close to accomplishing the feat. To top it all off, my bags didn’t make it all the way through, so I was stuck with the same OJ soaked pants until my bag got in that evening. I can only imagine how Maverick managed on his trip.
But if you think about it, I am now in the beautiful Cayman Islands, where it doesn’t go below 25
degrees. The organizer is a great guy who’s been helping us out hugely. Everything is now catered to us, and we’ve even managed to get rooms in the tournament hotel (though I’m on a fold out bed, and Mav’s on a cot). Not to mention the tournament, the reason we came out here in the first place, starts on Friday and there is a huge Canadian population on the Islands, aka. Large fan base. So as bad as the travel gets sometimes, it’s always all worth it in the end.
n. A weblog.
intr.v. blogged, blog·ging, blogs
To write entries in, add material to, or maintain a weblog.
My first of many blogs, but where to begin? Yes, I have written other blogs before, on facebook and for VC, but this is the first blog written with the intention of having others follow. How better to start a string of blogs than to discuss blogging?
It seems many beach volleyball players nowadays are writing blogs of their daily and weekly endeavours. Since training and travel are a constant part of any amateur/professional athlete’s regime, we need to find any means necessary to keep in touch with friends and family. My parents seemed pretty excited when I told them the other day that I would like to blog on the Volleydome’s website. They tell me it’ll be good for business, but I know that my Mom will be especially excited that she’ll get to hear from me often. I’m ashamed to admit, I’m the typical son away from home who worries his mother by not calling daily. Sorry Mom.
While keeping friends and family happy, an added benefit of an athlete’s blog is that it’s displayed to the public eye.With all those eyes perusing my words, there’s plenty of opportunity for new friends, new fans and new contacts to be made. You never know when a good contact will come in handy. Myself and Maverick Hatch are heading to the Cayman Islands for a NORCECA event, and we will be staying with the contact of a contact of our friend, Chris Densmore. Thanks Chris! Aren’t connections grand?
As for my blog, I will do my very best to update it on a regular basis. Three times a week if possible.We’ll say Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for now, though dates may be subject to change. I still need to try blogging on tour before I can set it in concrete. I’m currently sitting in LaGuardia airport en route to the Caymans, so if I can blog here, I should be able to blog anywhere. I entrust you, old friends, new friends, and family, to keep me honest, however. If I miss a blog and you know how to reach me, scold me. Better yet, if I miss a blog and you know how to reach my parents, Don or Mylene, tell them to scold me.
My parents will be shocked at the length of this. They’re so used to asking a million questions and getting one word answers. They’ll finally be able to know what’s up in my life without having me respond with “nothin”. Since this is the first blog, I don’t expect much feedback, but all comments and suggestions are always welcome. Just leave a note for my parents or I, and I’m sure I will get it. We’ll see if I can get a volleydome.net email address so you can contact me directly in the near future.
Insert catchy sign-off here,