Hello from Luohe, China!!
The Women's National Team is getting ready to compete in the FIVB Grand Prix tournament. Last year we had great success! Personally, last year's Grand Prix was my first big International tournament. The team started off a little rocky, but we ended up winning the whole thing! I also received the Best Setter Award. It was a great accomplishment for my first summer competing with the National Team.
The Grand Prix is a very long and tough tournament. It is four weeks long and it takes place in four different countries, one country each week. We play in pools of four teams and play three matches a week. The first three weeks determines what teams make it to the final week. This year our first stop is China, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, and then if we make the finals week, we'll return to China for the last week, only in a different city, Macau.
Training this summer has been up and down for me because I'm coming back to playing after fracturing my finger while playing professionally in Brazil in January. Fortunately, I made it back to playing for the first two tournaments of the summer. I've never really had a play-limiting injury before and it's been really hard for me mentally. I have to remember that a couple months ago, I couldn't set a ball, and now I have gotten the opportunity to travel with the team to this tournament.
I've been working on my mental game just as much as I have been my physical game. It's important to work hard and stay positive. There will be tough days where things just don't feel right and days where I'll feel like I'm on top of the world. It's important to learn from the tough days and know that if I stay consistent with my effort and stay focused, that I'll soon have way more good days than bad.
The team has been training hard and we are looking forward to start competing in matches. The thing that is great about playing with the National Team is that it is always competitive; we compete hard against each other every day. It's important to give your best in practice because not only does it make you better, it makes the people around you better as well.
Off the court, our team is a pretty fun group. I think you have to have a sense of humor if you have 24 hour travel days that consist of 12 hour plane rides and five different airports, all the while losing a day from the time change, and the second you get to the hotel, you have to change into practice clothes and head to the gym. People can get pretty delirious from a trip like that, but through the delirium, we had a good practice.
Eating on an international trip isn't easy as well. You never know what to expect so you definitely bring your own snacks. It's good to try new things, however, sometimes I let my teammates try things and let me know how it is, just to be on the safe side!
We practice hard and watch a lot of video, but we usually have some downtime and we understand the need for people to check out mentally from volleyball. Our team likes to catch up on the latest Bachelor or Bachelorette, or sometimes discuss what's happening on the Real Housewives of anywhere or even Basketball Wives. It might not be educational, but it's a good escape.
Four weeks is a long time to be gone and we're just at the beginning. We definitely miss our family and friends but we know that they love us and support our efforts to represent our country in international competition. This could be a great four weeks for USA volleyball. I can't wait to see how it all turns out!