Friday, November 7, 2014

You Can Call Me Coach

*Disclaimer: This is a stupid long post. If you want the gist of it, read the last couple paragraphs.

A long, long time ago I played volleyball competitively and I'll just come out and say it, I wasn't too bad.

As with most teenagers, they find their sport, instrument, hobby, what have you, and really hone in on that one thing. For me, at 14, it was volleyball. I played my first year of a Junior Olympics club team in 8th grade. It was the first year that the Maple Grove high school coaches wanted to start a club and I was their guinea pig. I gathered as many girls from the 8th grade Osseo Jr. High class to come and play and we just barely had enough girls to form a team. I can't remember if we were any good or not, but at 14 you are still growing in to your limbs and not quite sure how your body works. It was a fun experience, and it allowed me to pass playing for the junior high my freshman year because I was asked to practice with the JV team at the high school. Pretty rad for a Freshman.

Just after the volleyball season ended for high school my Freshman year, my family moved to Mequon, WI. We actually lived in a hotel for a week so my older sister could finish conference play before moving. We spent many nights peppering in the 'ol Maple Grove Hampton Inn parking lot.

When we arrived in Mequon we found a local club to play for called G-Force. It was a step up from the Maple Grove club team, but we were still kind of the bottom of the barrel club. I will admit, my skills were way ahead of my understanding of the game, so coming in to a new club and doing drills I had never heard of, kind of kept me back and I don't remember getting a whole lot of playing time. All the girls on the team went to the same high school and I was the new girl who just didn't feel like she fit in. To say this was my least favorite volleyball experience would be an understatement. I learned a lot though and was able to bring my new found skills with me back to Maple Grove when we moved back just after my Freshman year.

Now at 16 I'm officially a JV team member at Maple Grove Sr. High and occasionally get to practice with the Varsity team. This allowed me a lot of one-on-one time with different coaches. I can't tell you how many balls I hit standing on a box while a coach tossed them up to me so I could get my arm swing just so (this has now resulted in uneven hips). I tried out for a legit club this year and made the 17-2 Club Tonka team. This was very serious compared to the other clubs I played for. You got full uniforms, warm-ups and shoes. We traveled, to Iowa, and to nationals in California. This is the year I found my stride. I was an outside hitter. There were other girls from my high school on my team. I was more confident in my skills and maybe even a little cocky at times. I was louder on the court. And most importantly, I understood the game. The plays. The positions.

#8 Outside hitter
Early that summer my team headed out to California for nationals. We flew in to San Francisco, drove up to UC Davis where all the girls stayed in the dorms for the week while the tournament took place at the Sacramento Convention Center. There was a HUGE opening ceremony that was Olympic proportions to my young mind. Each team was announced as they walked in to the arena to loud music, a light show and we exchanged gifts with another team from Hawaii who gave us shell necklaces (I can't recall what our gift was).  The opening ceremony concluded with a USA volleyball match. We did pretty well until we had a day off and went to Lake Tahoe. Here's 10 Minnesota girls laying on a beach, looking up at snow covered mountains thinking we don't need suntan lotion. So many of us burned so bad that we could hardly move the last day of play-offs. Our coach was not too pleased.

This is the summer I remember the letters starting to come from all over the US. Maybe I'm exaggerating a tad, but I was getting a couple letters every month or so from small schools, mostly on the East coast. This was very new to me and at 16 and a Sophomore in high school, I was way more concerned about friends and cute boys butts than I was thinking about going to college to play volleyball.

Oh, young, naive Ali. If only you knew what you know now. Your life would be so so different.

Junior year came and went. I made the Varsity team, but due to high school politics I wasn't a hitter. I was the utility player which meant I played every position and basically just filled in when necessary. I did not like this. I was born to jump and make kills. Unfortunately most of my Junior year high school career was spent in the back row serving 100% perfect games and getting ace after ace. It was great, but it bored me. I loved the intensity of the front line. Making a block, digging a ball out of the net, going up with all your might just to tip the ball right on the other side of the blockers. That's what I played the game for.

Because I was old for my grade, I always played a year up. At 17 I played on an 18's team. I made the 18-2 M1 team. To put in to perspective how good this club is, every single girl on the 18-1 team played D1 volleyball. Quite a few of them played for the U of M, which was so fun to watch. At the time M1 was cream of the crop. King of the hill. It was the club to play for, heck I'm sure it's still one of the top in the country. When we practiced, we matched. When we traveled, we matched. When we ate, we ate together. Practice was 3 times a week with tournaments practically every weekend. We were good. I remember one game against M1 18-1 team we had a long rally going and I went up for a block and stuffed a girl who was a high school rival, but one of the best in the country. Literally. She even played with team USA after her career as a Gopher. But to show you how nice she is, she told me 'good job' and not in a snarky way either.  That's the game I love and miss. Unfortunately I couldn't handle this schedule on top of my school work and had to drop the team before the season ended.

I didn't play my Senior year of high school due to mono, which lead to tons of rumors as to why I wasn't playing and how I got mono, the kissing disease. At this time in my life I had only kissed one boy man and his name was Emilio and he was the pool activities director at the Copacabana in Acapulco. It was over my Junior year Christmas break at the club Palladium.

Acapulco - Copacabana Hotel
From that point on my volleyball career only consisted of subbing for friends teams or bar league sand volleyball.

Until now!

This week I met with the owner of Club Tonka. That team that I had a ton of fun playing for. He offered me any team I wanted, even a head coach gig. Since I have never coached before, my confidence level isn't very high right now, so I accepted the assistant coach for their 16-2 team. Coaching has always been at the back of my mind, I just never searched it out. But when you walk in to a gym and are greeted with a hug after nearly 15 years, you know you've made the right decision.

I'm excited for the age level too because this is the year those girls will be finding their stride and I really hope that, as a coach, I can make this the most fun year in their volleyball career. One that they'll look back on and have fond memories of, like I do during my time with the club.

Plus, I'm super stoked to have a coaches jersey!


1 comment:

  1. Yay! I'm helping coaching for the High School Dance team (I also didn't dance senior year, mainly because I wasn't loving it and wanted to do different things like plays/speeches that conflicted with the dance schedule). anyways, last year was my first year coaching, and I was pretty quiet, this year I'm assistant coach for the 7th graders, and its a blast. They are definitely figuring out how their bodies work, and how listening works, but they get better every week. Its pretty amazing.