November 17, 2013

Weathering the Seasons

Every volleyball season in Europe has been drastically different from the last. As has the actual weather. But the thing about seasons is that they have a beginning and an end, and we must be prepared for the worst - and yet still hope for the best.

A Californian enlightened by cold weather clothing.
The first half-season in Belgium was a real-life fairy tale. I wouldn't trade those 3 months for anything. We completely dominated teams, and achieved our objective of moving up a division. Western Europe had an insane snowstorm that winter just before I arrived in January, so I got to deal with a lot of frost and ice. I also learned how to wear scarves and coats properly.

The second season in France was pretty easy. The goal was to maintain our position in Nationale 3, and see how we could improve over the year. We finished right in the middle of the pack in 5th place after an unexpected great start (9-2), and a less than stellar finish. The fall was dubbed an "Indian Summer," but when winter came, it stayed cold and wet through the spring.

The third season in France was extremely frustrating. The pressure was on now to move up to the next division, and while crazy people like me flourish under that kind of expectation, our team as a whole fell apart from top to bottom. We finished in 4th place, barely any change from the previous season. It didn't help that the winter started at the end of September and went all the way through May. I have never been so cold for so many days in a row in my entire life.

This fourth season in France with a new club is once again, totally new. We are currently defeated. Like we have won zero matches. We are heading into what we hope will be the three matches we can win in the next month, but it will depend on how well we can move past the fact that 75% of us are new to the team and still figuring out how to play as one. We really only need to be better than two other teams in order to stay in Nationale 2, so these matches are going to be very telling of what the future holds for me and my team.

But on the brighter side, it's the middle of November, and winter is just starting to peek its head around the corner. I haven't even had to start wearing leggings under my jeans yet! We are still enjoying some sunny, albeit cold (40s), days and it has made anything unpleasant that much easier to handle.

Of course, I'd love to have what I had in Belgium all over again, and who knows, that kind of season might be waiting for me somewhere in the next few years. And Marc and I would definitely go for living anywhere in the South of France for more reliable sunshine!

One of the many things my parents taught me while growing up was not only to accept change as it came, but to find how I could thrive through change. Changes can be good and bad, but they are inevitable. It is who we become through the changes presented in our lives that dictates our course.

Sports have often been used as a lens to reveal one's character. My dad taught me how the winning and losing aspects of sports only serve to magnify how much we actually love or hate the game, our reactions to success and failure, and whether we will choose to stick together as a team or drift away from each other.

"Cuatro" at championships. In Minnesota. SO. COLD.
I'm thankful that my life in sports has never been entirely defined just by wins or just by losses. I've had the opportunity to be a part of amazingly successful and incredibly awful teams, with some plain old mediocre groups throughout. I'm blessed to have been grouped with like-minded people often enough to make lifelong best friends.

What have I learned from being on and/or coaching an average of 3 teams each year since 1995?

I have learned that every season is different, and good and bad for different reasons. I have learned that I love volleyball, even when I'm losing, and I won't change this career until my body finally quits on me. I have learned that seasons come, and seasons go, as do teammates and coaches. I have learned that no matter how discouraging the coldness of losing can be, that the warmth of a win is always somewhere in the future, and sometimes closer than we think.

God has used everything in my life to teach me how to be durable. Durability is an attitude; it's showing up everyday with a smile on my face that says, "I'm here, I'm ready, and I'm with you, so let's do this."