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August 18, 2019

10 Fake Reasons to Skip Sports

Disclaimer: this is a rant.

I grew up hating people who skipped practices and games. My first memories of learning that skipping sports was wrong were as a very young child - I'm talking I was six years old.

My dad was coaching long before I showed up and long after I left the house, so the coach's perspective is how my brain has been trained. On top of that, my dad was also usually the high school's athletic director, so even a larger umbrella perspective of all the sports and how coaches and teams have to learn to coexist was the talk in my house.

But this isn't just something that my parents complained about together, or as if they didn't understand.


The best thing was that my dad 100% practiced what he preached. I can sit here and try to rack my brain for ANY memory of him missing a practice or a game EVER and never come up with anything. I don't think I can even remember him missing a day of work, period.

I don't remember ever skipping practice. I remember being too sick, or when I got my wisdom teeth out, and I still went and sat on the side and watched. Teenagers didn't really have cell phones then, so I literally just sat there and watched. I became an assistant coach after my season-ending knee surgery. I didn't miss practices then and I don't miss practices now.

Why? Because commitment matters.

Commitment is showing up. Commitment is being there in whatever capacity you have. Commitment is the only way a team can improve as individuals and come together as a group. Commitment, commitment, commitment.


1. I'm tired.

Manage your sleep schedule better. See you at practice so you can be tired enough to sleep tonight.

2. I'm sore.

Manage your off-season, warm-up, cool-down, and recovery better. See you at practice.

3. I'm sick.
EXCEPTION: vomiting, diarrhea, massive fever, or in the hospital.

I will bring you hot tea and soup. Come learn the team systems we will work on today and do some individual repetitions. See you at practice.

4. I'm injured.
EXCEPTION: in the hospital, or must not move during injury at all.

We have chairs in the gym. You will do individual exercises for the non-injured areas. See you at practice.

5. I have to study.

Manage your free time better and turn your cell phone off. See you at practice.
(Read this. Also, never try to play college sports in the USA.)

6. I'm going to a birthday party.

Sure. Before and after practice.

7. I'm going on vacation.

For the entire season. Bye.
(Have you heard of the off-season months???)

8. I'm going shopping/running errands.

No. No, you're not.
(Are those places even open during late evening practice times?!)

9. I'm going to a concert/movie/show/whatever.

Why are you on this team? Were you going to invite us?!

10. (No message, no reason.)


What are real reasons to skip practices or games? Honestly, I would only really say real emergencies or last-minute, unexpected and unsolvable complications.

A compilation of what my dad said over and over again was, "When you join a team, you make a commitment to be a part of that team. It means all the practices, all the games, and all the team events. It means being there physically, mentally, and emotionally, from the very beginning to the very end. And that's the minimum."

I believe 10000000% that learning this from a very young age is the biggest reason why I am thirty-three years old and still getting paid to play volleyball.

Yes, I am also paid to coach, and this "minimum" is the foundational part of that career, too. How?

Because I believe that every moment with the team matters, I make sure that every moment with the team matters.

This means I do not waste time in practice. This means the games have a plan and a purpose, both for the team and every player. This means that team events are not just accidentally fun. Yes, this absolutely means that I try to use every moment as a strategy to build a stronger and better team.

This is why I when I have had bad coaches* and bad teammates,** I have learned that I have to give more and be more for my team. Sometimes that has really rubbed the bad guys the wrong way.

*Defining bad coaches, I would boil it down to things like: they have no control of the team, they waste practice time with inefficient/non-game-related activities, or they are coaching at the wrong level (whether too high or too low) for themselves. (If they are unmotivated, abusive in any way, doing drugs, whatever, this is more than a bad coach: this a bad person, and that's an entirely other problem than just the actual sport coaching.)

In the USA: about 20% of my experiences were with bad coaches. In Europe: 80%. After getting to coach half of my team's practices this season, I have realized that I am too old and have coached too long to put up with being told to do nonsensical activities anymore.

**Defining bad teammates, it usually just comes down to selfishness. I don't understand why anyone who only cares about themselves plays team sports. They literally have individual sports for you. Go away and do that. Skip as many practices and games as you want then, because nobody else is depending on you.

In the USA and Europe, the good-to-bad teammate ratio has been generally the same. But I will say that attendance and tardiness was much stricter in the USA on all my teams, and this helped a ton with building team identity. The team was 99% exactly the same people together, every time.

1📸 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2📸 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3📸 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4📸 Love is patient, love is kind. 5📸 It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 6📸 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 7📸 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 8📸 It always protects, always trusts, 9📸 always hopes, always perseveres. 10📸 Love never fails.” 📖✝️🤗 1Corinthians 13:1-8 ❤️❤️❤️ 📸credits @aliaskeiner 🙏🏼 . . . . . #athletesabroad #hashtagvolleyballgoals #dritteligavolleyball #GoDingos #DingoSwag #teamfirst #watersecond #whoisfrank #aiavolleyball
A post shared by Christy Swagerty (@whatupswags) on

I could over-analyze why there may be differences between the continents in sports commitments, but I actually think it's less of a cultural issue and more of a personal issue. We all build our lives around what our priorities are and what we think matters the most.

We all have the exact same amount of time. Every team requires a certain amount, whether it's thirty hours per week or six hours per week. The point is, every player needs to understand their personal priorities and then find the team that fits what they are willing and ready to give of their time. There are tons of choices for us to make about how we want to spend our free time, and sport is one of those options.

From Monday through Friday, we all have 120 hours. Give or take 40 hours for sleeping. Put away another 30-40 hours for working (if you are a real person and not a professional athlete). That still leaves at least 40 full hours to decide how to spend. The European teams I've played on and coached have practiced maximum three times per week. Taking 4-6 hours out of all this free time is a no-brainer!

I might sound like an American maniac in this post, but I am VERY picky about how much volleyball I do during the week, too! I don't choose to do forty hours of volleyball per week because I want to look forward to it and love it and bring my best energy to it in every moment. I understand my personal priorities and I have found clubs and teams that fit with what I am able to bring to the table.

I still hate when people skip practices and games, but I try to get over it for when they do show up. I also think it's super important to not take out that anger on the players who ARE present. The players who make it a priority and who care about their team will find a way to show up and respect their commitment to the team.

Respect your commitments and respect your coach's and your teammates' time...even if they don't deserve it. Normally, your commitment to being present with the team will reward you in at least one of these two sports ways: 1) taking your personal skills to a much higher level, and/or 2) getting to perform your skills with your team in the matches. Let alone the rewards from developing more meaningful relationships, helping others grow, and being a part of a caring and supportive team.

Nobody has ever gotten to an end of a season and said, "Wow, my only regret is that I went to too many practices."

Invest in yourself by investing in your team, and show up!!!

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August 11, 2019

Make Your Way Around Málaga

Málaga is delightfully known as one of the warmest cities of continental Europe. This makes traveling here wonderful throughout the entire year, and it is nearly always a beautiful day for walking around town for sightseeing.

It's surprisingly compact, and the beach is always just a few minutes away.

This tour is meant to give you a variety of perspectives on Málaga, and make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy.

This tour actually begins at the Hammam Al Ándalus in the old city center. I recommend going at the early slot in the day for a more peaceful and calm experience. It is an absolute for any trip to Málaga; the only question is which day of your vacation will you want to go - if not everyday!

After a morning well-spent at the spa, it only takes a few minutes to walk to a delicious brunch spot around the corner, Desal. The sisters who run the place have a fun menu with every kind of freshly squeezed juice, creative takes on Spanish toast, and a ton of avocado and mango options. There are also great coffee choices, and the food selection is so good, you'll have trouble deciding which items not to order.

The Catedral de la Encarnación de Málaga and Museo de Málaga are a stone's throw from each other and are crucial to understanding the Catholic background and more modern outlook for the city. The buildings themselves are gorgeous, and just check the opening days and times to make sure you have the amount of time you need in each.

If you're up for a bit of a hike, you can head up to the Alcazaba or the Castillo de Gibralfaro. Both offer extraordinary views of the city and the coastal area, in addition to representing and explaining some of the Moorish history of Málaga.

The Parque de Málaga is like a tropical forest with huge palm trees, jungle-like plants, fountains, and benches to sit on and watch all the people walking by. This is also a great place for a run or dog walking, and it provides a lot of cool shade on a hot day. Crossing the main road will bring you to the colorful glass cube where you can enter the Centre Pompidou Málaga for the best modern art in the area.

Strolling into the port area is best on the Paseo del Muelle Uno. There are two parts to this promenade: the part covered with white slats that creates the sensation of being on a boat or a yacht in the port, or the area with shopping and food. This second area will take you into a more modern district of Málaga, complete with covered and misted pathways, and will lead you directly to the lighthouse, La Farola.

You can end your tour by setting up camp on the beach at Playa la Malagueta. Here is where all of the people, tourists and locals alike, come to take some sun and relax. There are beach bars, showers to rinse off the sand, and plenty of opportunities for sport both in and out of the water. The water is generally warm enough throughout the seasons for a swim!

Málaga is a great European city on a beach! I have spent time there both in the winter and summer, and it does not disappoint. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities and options to keep everyone busy or have the right amount of down-time. The architecture is a healthy mix of traditional and modern, and the food scene is eclectic and a restaurant of some kind is always open. I hope you can enjoy this take on Málaga and enjoy the weather, too!

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August 6, 2019

Espéraza et ses Environs

Espéraza was one of the strangest places I have ever been to. It was part time capsule, part has-been (like La Fère), part economic tragedy, and part expat haven.

It is known for hat-making and dinosaurs, of all things to be partnered. Its population and reputation are but a shadow of what they once were, but the bustling weekly market proudly continues as if all were the same.

I loved my B&B here with a British expat couple, La Maison de la Riviere. I had my own traditional French room, complete with a huge door window and balcony overlooking the Aude River. You can book it using my referral code from Booking.com and we will both get a discount!

One of my fun early excursions was to find the Château de Puilaurens, where I had a tailgate picnic in the back of my rental car.

Espéraza is a cute village to walk around, and has a delicious crêperie.

I loved my mini-jaunts through the nearby towns as well, and, as you can see from my pictures, I especially loved seeing all the beautiful French landscapes and home architecture.

For the stories and photos from my entire trip, check out the main post, South of France: Aude to Hérault.

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August 1, 2019

Live Well 2019: August

Welcome to the renewed guest post series of Live Well 2019, thanks to my dear friend/client/Bible study buddy, Sarah! The previous stint of fabulous Live Well guest posting was done by my sister, Lindsay Wampler, from 2016-2017.

This time around, we will post once a month for the year of 2019, in tandem with The Pro Player Timeline posts.

Sarah Blomgren is another California-Christian-Volleyball-Crazy who has played in England, Finland, and is currently living and playing in Serbia. Sarah adds a deeper dimension to being a professional athlete abroad with her commitment to maintaining a plant-based diet based on vegan guidelines, developing her professional profile, and growing as an athlete and person.

Sarah and I met through Elite Volley, and we have been a part of Athletes in Action online Bible study groups for professional athletes overseas. It only seemed fitting for us to also share our idea space for 2019 to better equip and encourage our fellow athletes and expats abroad!


I've been coaching volleyball camps this summer with a company called Gold Medal Squared. They send us around the country to different high schools or clubs to put on a camp for a week. One of the unique aspects of traveling for camps is being housed by local families of the girls participating in the camps. I've met some really amazing people staying with host families; one lady in particular impacted my faith. After chatting, we discovered we both are Christians and began to share our stories. She had so much wisdom, it was amazing! She even sent me home with two books that I am starting to go through now. The one I'm reading first is an autobiography of a man named George Muller, an incredible man of God with such a cool story. In regards to this book, one critic, Dr. D. James Kennedy, wrote, "Readers will find their faith strengthened, their prayer life enriched, and their ministry expanded by the life and example of this man of God." I'm so excited to continue reading and discover these gems!

Smoothie Mixmaster

Oreo Cookie Shake
Coconut Cream *pour into ice cube trays and freeze vanilla bean pods or vanilla bean extract
1 date
cacao nibs
blend, freeze, thaw, and serve with vegan chocolate drizzle

Dig Deeper Recommendation

Anyone interested in volleyball (coaching, playing, or simply a fan of the sport) should listen to the Coach Your Brains Out podcast by Gold Medal Squared. They talk all things indoor and beach volleyball with some of the world's best coaches and athletes. Great info and very entertaining!

Stay on-task and motivated throughout the month for FREE!

Plant-Based Meal

Spaghetti Squash Pasta
Poke small holes in your squash, cover with tin foil, and bake for 20-30 minutes until the flesh is soft. Cut in half, then take a fork and scrape out the inside of the squash (will look like spaghetti noodles). Serve with pasta sauce of choice (I like a classic tomato & basil) and any veggies (I typically sauté mushrooms, onions, garlic, and broccoli).

Yoga Move

Mountain Pose or Tadasana
This is the foundation of all standing poses, and is great to have in your tool belt for resting or transitioning between moves or lows. Make sure to lift the heart, stand tall, and relax from the shoulders down, palms forward.

Image result for mountain pose

Vegan Snack/Dessert

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Banana Bites
YUM! These are so good and so easy to make!
Slice banana into small slices, lay on baking sheet, and freeze for 1 hour.
While that's freezing, melt chocolate of choice (I do dark because it is typically vegan), then combine chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl, and microwave for about 20 seconds.
To Assemble: dollop peanut butter on the banana slices and drizzle chocolate over top.
Sprinkle sea salt flakes over each and freeze again.


Hey, friends. I'm Sarah. In addition to what Christy mentioned above, I played indoor and beach volleyball in college at The University of South Carolina where I earned my bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. I then went on to get my master's degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and continued my volleyball career at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England. My first pro season was in Finland, and my second was in Serbia. News on next season's location will be released soon!

Since then I've become 100% plant-based (vegan) and I absolutely love this world of plant-based nutrition. One fun fact about me would be that I have an obsession with doughnuts! No, not like Krispy Kreme; like actual artisan, small-batch, crazy flavor doughnuts! I try to use all my traveling as an excuse to visit doughnut shops around the world. Besides that, I love Jesus and I'm just here to figure this thing called life out the best I can through His eyes.

Connect with Sarah on FacebookInstagram, and her website.
You can contact her directly via email for more information on Juice Plus+® sarahblomgren[dot]provolleyball[at]gmail[dot]com.

Let us know in the comments below if you try any variations of these delicious recipes, yoga moves, or have the chance to check out Sarah's recommendations!
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