We dipped our toes in the Adriatic Sea, and waded in the Mediterranean on a day when the ambient temperature was nowhere near summer swimming heat. We walked the cobblestone streets of cities such as Aviano, Venice, Sicily, Pula, and many more. We experienced languages and cultures far different from our own, and learned to appreciate the game of volleyball to an even greater extent than we did before. We trained hard and consumed all of the fresh pasta, pizza and gelato that we possibly could. We walked until our legs ached, and stood in awe of the many famous architectural structures we were able to visit.
The trip was unbelievable and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. One day in particular will forever be in my memory...
We were in a little town called Pula, Croatia. We were practicing with the team we had just competed against. Their coach couldn't speak English, so their assistant coach translated for us. Although the coach couldn't communicate with the English word, every single person from the team could effortlessly understand his body language, and relate to the simply empowering emotion in his voice as he spoke of the game. When he coach spoke to us, the gym turned completely silent. Not one ball bounced on the ground until his message was crystal clear. He coached our entire practice, and we eagerly ascertained every drill he taught us.
It became shockingly apparent to me that day that volleyball, or any other sport, signifies a great deal more than simply winning and losing, trophies and ribbons, or a blimp on the front page of the sports page. It is a love. It is a passion. It is an escape. It is a place of sanctuary for many. Some say that if you don't lose your head over winning or losing, then you've already lost. I have to disagree with that statement. Real athletes don't lose their heads; they ignite anger and acquire a deep desire to prove someone, anyone, wrong. Real athletes have a burning desire in their souls to prevail in any competition, whether it is sport or not. The girls in Pula portray that feeling, and it is distinctly noticeable. They live to play the game. They proclaim their love for the game through skinned knees, bruised hips, aching backs and numerous hours away from home. In their single-court gym, between the walls covered in a veil of chipped paint and the worn floor, magic truly happens.
Some athletes aren't able to see majestic occurrences such as these. We are lucky enough to have been able to spend our Spring Break with some of the most inspiring people we will ever meet. A new fire was born during our trip to Italy and Croatia. It is a fire that was ignited by women just like us, who play a game that we share a deep passion for. Our team competes with an even greater love and appreciation for volleyball. We play with a new passion in our minds, in our eyes, and in our hearts.