August 31, 2014

The Haarlem Hideout


I rode my bike into Leiden from Wassenaar. It was supposed to take 20 minutes. I think I had a couple backtracks, and it took me 35 minutes instead. Locked up my bike next to a tree, and got on the next train to Haarlem. The Netherlands has free wifi in their stations and on their trains. No phone, no problem!

Once in Haarlem, I took the long loop back to the Corrie ten Boom house. The museum only offers 4 English tours a day, and for only 25 people at a time, and I was already too late for the early tour. I did not book ahead, and I got lucky; I definitely recommend booking your spot ahead of time to save the worry of having gone all the way to Haarlem and not getting into the house.

The little city of Haarlem is dominated by the massive cathedral in the center market square. There were workers cleaning up what looked like had been a music festival of some kind. I think normally the square would feel more open and inviting without stage equipment everywhere. I would have gone inside the church, but there is an annoying Dutch trend of charging admission to go inside churches, and I don't support this concept (exception: Sagrada Família).

Every restaurant looked good in the center, so I don't remember the name of the one I ended up at...but if I saw it again, I would know! I ordered a sandwich that said North Sea, and all the ingredients were in Dutch. An amazing salmon sandwich came out on the softest homemade bread: YES!

"The Hiding Place"
I don't even remember the first time I heard the Corrie ten Boom story. It was sometime in early elementary school, and she was just a natural part of our Christian curriculum. This home tour was just as excellent as the Anne Frank tour, but with an unashamed message of Christ's love for everyone. Honestly, I felt like I was at a home prayer group. It was real and it was awesome.

The guide had great stories to tell, and I learned so much about the history of the ten Boom family; how they believed Christians should pray for and do whatever they could to support the Jewish people (they felt this way 100 years before WWII) and how their sacrifices during WWII helped save over 800 people.

The ministry of Corrie ten Boom after the war was intense. If you have no idea who I am talking about, read this. An incredible woman who survived insurmountable odds, and blessed others until the day she died. An ultimate warrior for Christ, and someone even non-believers can admire for her courage and strength to love even after seeing the worst of humanity during WWII.

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#DutchLove 2014

#DutchLove at its finest in Haarlem.
I obviously love it. I've come back every year I've lived in Europe.

This time in Holland, I was finally ready to take some new risks.

Like I rode the bike out of town for the first time...and then I did it a second time. I took some new buses and trains. I walked around without a real map. I asked for food on Dutch menus, not having any idea what I'd ordered.

Some of you are going to find those things extremely lame, and some of you are going to think they are extremely brave. Either way, great; keep reading.

If you know you are going to be taking buses and trains often, get yourself an OV Chipcard right away. You pay 7.50€, then load as much money as you want onto the card. Every time you take a bus or train, you scan the card to check-in, then scan it again when you get off the bus or train to check-out. This registers how many kilometers you've traveled, giving you a discounted price for your journey, and you don't have to buy a new ticket each time you want to go somewhere new. It's kind of like a pay-as-you-go Eurail pass for the Netherlands. The best part? You can get all of the money you don't spend back at the end!

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August 22, 2014

A Philadelphia Layover

I can still remember all 7 times I've crossed the Atlantic into Europe. I just stay longer than most Americans.

The first two times (2001 & 2011), I was a part of volleyball tour groups with agendas and activities to drag the jetlag out of us. The fourth time I came back in the midst of volleyball season; I had to knuckle down and get back on track sooner than possible - I had a match the next afternoon.

But the other four times have been my August re-entry dates, always with a few extra days planned for adapting to the 9-hour time difference. [Read: an entire week as a zombie who naps from 11am to 7pm.]

This year I finally beat jetlag at its own game.

I had a wild itinerary this summer, going Barcelona to Sacramento, then returning LA to Amsterdam (the day after getting back from Alaska, of course). Because of my bizarre schedule, I decided to go even more extreme, and opted for the nine-hour layover in Philadelphia on my way back.

And it worked.

Not only was it my first time in the city, but I was also thrilled to hang out with my sister-in-law, Alex, who made the drive up from DC, and my inner time zone gracefully arrived on the East Coast.

We had a late lunch at Reading Terminal Market, which translated to what would have been dinner in Europe. I skipped the dinner on the plane, having already adjusted my watch to EU's midnight, and went to sleep. In a strange way, our plane sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half before take off (Philadelphia might want to look into building enough runways for scheduled planes...) only helped my cause, giving me a total of 8 1/2 hours of downtime before landing in Holland.

I was still wary of my potential energy crash after Cat picked me up from the Schiphol Airport...but it never came. I unpacked my stuff. I took a shower. I watched a movie. I ate dinner. (Don't you wish my blog always read like this?) And I made it all the way to 7:30pm without ever nodding off or laying down to recover!

I thought maybe the time change hangover would sneak up on me later...but it never did. I feel great, and I'm ready to start my season next week!

Moral of the story: Embrace the layover! If you struggle with jetlag and/or time change, find a cool city to touch down in and stay awhile. The layover is a free day trip to anywhere you want to go along the way to your destination! 

The layover is your friend.

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August 15, 2014

Take Me to the Tundra!

I went back to Alaska.

It's a somewhat insane world in which one can experience so many different places on a volleyball ticket. 

But I'll take it.

For the price of working two weeks of All-American Volleyball Camps, I was able to return to so many rad Alaskan friends from my NBC Camps days. That would have been reason enough to go - so everything else ended up as a bonus!

The AAVCs in Alaska are really nice because they are invitation-only camps. Besides my perfect camps at Redding Christian in June, these are probably the easiest camps I've ever coached. The fun part was seeing familiar camper faces from 3+ years back, and even getting to do a home stay with two of my former campers!

We stayed in Anchorage for 10 days, then made the beautiful drive down to the Kenai Peninsula, where we were so generously hosted by another family for 4 more days. 

In Anchorage, I got to spend time with Gly at Virgin Creek Falls, with Krehg, Mary, and Alice catching up on old and new stores, and with Kaitlin in every spare moment. 

The other coaches at camp were a ton of fun to hang out with as well, and my "road hike" with Becky stands out as the highlight. You can't beat gorgeous views, a moose on the loose, a cat stalker, and jumping photos. You just can't.

In the Kenai area, I ended up coaching the Soldotna High School girls team in my own gym. I looked forward to every water break when the group would huddle together and yell out, "SO-HI!" I don't care if that's the school's nickname, it's SO-Hilarious. 

I had two awesome times while on the peninsula. The first was going fishing for the first time. I don't think I'll ever go again because I was told that only in Alaska is it possible to have so much happen in one trip! All three of us coaches who went caught at least three rainbow trout each, and every catch was a thrill!

The best part of being in Kenai is the fact that it's a stone's throw from Nikiski, home of KJ, one of my two favorite Alaskan campers ever, who turned into an epic NBC Camps coach, who turned into one of my Simpson players! (Kaitlin is the other one.) I had the chance to have dinner with KJ's family in their classic Alaskan cabin-on-a-lake home, and to hear firsthand from KJ about her incredible missions trip to Haiti and her transferred life at Northwest Nazarene University on the track team. 

(After counting KJ, this summer I was able to see 5 of my former Simpson players (Jenny, Kelly, Lauren, Kaitlin, & KJ)! Considering I only ever had maybe 22 in the two seasons combined, that's a good number of them. It is such a blessing to see where each of them are in their lives now, and they have become great friends of mine!)

On our way out of Kenai, we stopped at the bakery The Moose is Loose and we ate some very delicious [unhealthy] donuts the rest of the day.

Our last stop before heading to the airport included one final surprise. While finishing everyone's souvenir shopping, I recognized the cashier. I've been "recognizing" a lot of people the past few years, though, so I didn't confirm it really was one more of my former Alaska volleyball campers until I read her name tag, "Alyssa." Perfect!

I'm so thankful I was able to come back to my favorite tundra world and really spend time doing more Alaskan things aside from just coaching volleyball. And it's always a good time when I get to bring my tundra jokes out!

Thanks also to my fellow coaches for all the fun!

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August 7, 2014

The NBC Series: College Volleyball

"The NBC Series" is a re-posting of select volleyball articles that were published in the NBC Camps newsletters from 2008-2010. Every summer, I reflect on my life-changing 13 years of my time with NBC Camps. Because I will not able to publish new blog material until late August, these auto-postings will be up weekly for some throwback reads. The articles have been edited and updated as needed for 2014.

So You Want To Play College Volleyball...

First published April, 2010


If you are one of the incredibly skilled players who catches the college coach’s eye and has already been recruited and offered a scholarship – good for you!

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for 90% of us.

Any college sport requires serious commitment and serious work before you even look at that letter of intent. You need to be ready to market yourself as an athlete and a personality that will fit well with the team you are trying to make.

Coaches won’t even bother bringing you onto the campus for a practice if their first impression of you is poor. This impression is established immediately through your communication skills. You have to remember that college coaches expect to coach adults, therefore, we are looking to recruit athletes with mature qualities such as honesty, mental toughness, and respect.

Here are four active steps to help propel you to the forefront of any college coach’s recruiting list.

1. Do your homework. 

Research ahead of time what area of the country you’d like to live in, enrollment sizes, urban vs. rural, private vs. public, the majors you are interested in, and be honest about what divisions in which you can potentially compete.

NCAA Division 1 is definitely the most competitive; NCAA Division 2 and some high level NAIA Division 1 schools are comparable, and NCAA Division 3 and lower level NAIA schools are very similar.

Every school has a different balance of athletics, academics, on-campus social life, and local attractions. It is important for you to have at least a general idea of “your perfect college.” Once you’ve established some parameters, find all the schools that fit your description. This is your foundation.

2. Create your personal profile. 

There are a lot of recruiting agencies and companies that can do this for you, but it’s not really necessary to have them put it together. We see so many profiles that they tend to blur together anyway.

You want to be organized and professional, but you can do this by putting together an athletic/academic resume on your own, or with the help of your school college counselor.

Be sure to include: your name, contact information, GPA, SAT/ACT scores, community involvement, academic honors, athletic honors, years of volleyball experience, kinds of experiences, positions played, height, weight, standing reach, block touch, approach touch, recent statistics, and any other athletic info you have available.

3. Have film available. 

You are so fortunate to live in a day and age where information is constantly accessible through the internet. No regular person could put up videos online when I was in high school. Now it’s simple and free to just copy the link to your YouTube account where a coach can see your skills. It’s also more convenient for the coaches, instead of giving them a DVD they have to find a player for, and time to watch it.

You need to make at least four kind of videos. Different coaches want to see different things; if you make all these options available, it will be easy for us to find what we’re looking for. You should have a full match film, a partial match film (1-2 games is enough), a highlight reel from matches, and a skills video from practice.

It’s best to set up the camera in a wide angle so it captures the full court. If you can also include a short introduction video where you speak directly to coaches about your strengths, it shows your communication skills and personality in another light.

4. Make the effort in the details. 

Communicate to the coaches what you are looking for in a college: kind of playing style and goals for your volleyball career, also what major and vocational career you're interested in pursuing. Say things like, "I am definitely interested in the Journalism emphasis in your Communications department," and "My beliefs match up well with the doctrinal statements at your school," and "I'm really looking to become actively involved with (name a variety of the programs you found that the school has)."

You want to communicate that you will be a good fit for their school and their volleyball program. Be professional, but be approachable; make sure all grammar and punctuation is correct, and include contact information for your parents, coaches, high school counselors, and yourself. Communicate that you would like to talk with them over the phone and eventually visit the school to meet the team and tryout.

Yes, college visits can get expensive. But after your initial contact with coaches, you can begin to narrow down your top choices to two or three schools. You really do need to visit all of these schools, meet the volleyball teams, observe the coach’s style, stay in the dorms, and sit in on classes. A website cannot do justice to the actual feeling you experience while on campus.

And remember, you want to be marketable. High grades and SAT scores are always more attractive to coaches because they know you have the probability to succeed in college level academics. Earn as many scholarships as you can through academics, community service, and local organizations. Be the well-rounded person every coach wants to add to their program.

The NBC Series Blogs
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