Tuesday, July 30, 2013

AVCA All-Americans Travel to Costa Rica - More Than Just Competition

This trip was about much more than the opportunity to compete internationally.  After four days of hosting clinics for the local youth and competing against some of the best teams in Costa Rica, it was time for some adventure!  Here's a photo recap of the team's final days in Costa Rica!

                   Touring Volcano Irazu (Cartago)

             Touring Basilica de Los Angeles (Cartago)

    Shopping at the largest open air market in San Jose

                          Zip Lining and Canyoning

                             White Water Rafting

Friday, July 26, 2013

AVCA All-Americans Travel to Costa Rica - Coache's Perspective

by Amber Warners, Calvin College Head Coach

Amber is in Costa Rica this week with a team of  AVCA Division II and III All-Americans with USA Athletes International to play matches, participate in service projects and teach the game to local children.

I am the person who has had the privilege to coach this incredibly talented group of AVCA All-Americans.  I must admit, I had little expectations and many more questions about this trip.  Will these players be anything like my players? Will they respect me like my players do? What is the expectation for winning....with never having any practices together?  What will the competition be like? I have traveled to many different countries but never to Costa Rica and never as a volleyball coach.  What a privileged, honored, terrified and excited feeling all rolled into one.  On top of all of these feelings, I ended up having one of my players and a player from our rival school both going along....and who play the same position!  The rivalry is not just any ordinary rivalry.  It has been ranked as the fourth most fierce rival in the nation.   And it is between two schools that are NCAA Division III!  When our two teams play, we draw around 3,000 fans.

Hanging out with Hope setter Greer Bratschie (left) and Calvin setter Megan Rietema (right)!

We are about half way through this trip and what I have found so far is the respect for the people and culture of Costa Rica, respect from the All-Americans, and that coaching women who aren't necessarily like all of my players is a very fun and rewarding experience.  I have found that there is friendship and goodwill playing against some very talented Costa Rican teams who also have a very competitive spirit.  I have found that winning matches is still just as much fun outside of the United States as it is when I am home.  I feel goosebumps every time when our team cheer is "USA."

Video Clip:  In a rematch with the Costa Rica National Team, we lost a hard fought match 21-25, 25-17, 22-25, 16-25:


One of the most rewarding experiences for me has been getting to know and coach a player from our rival school.  It has been such a joy to watch both my player and the rival player laugh, compete and get to know each other.  It has been a joy to coach her and there have been many times when I have wanted to call up her coach and praise her for her part in helping this player become the woman she has become (which I certainly will do when I get back into the US).  It has made me realize that I can compete and want to beat this other school, but at the same time like them as people because they are very much like our own team.  I know that the rivalry will not become any less fierce, but I do know that the respect I have for the other school has increased, and I feel very blessed by that.

I am not sure there are too many coaches who get to experience coaching a player of their own and a player from their rival school on the same team, let alone both All-Americans, but I can say that I would highly recommend it if they are given the opportunity.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

AVCA All-Americans Travel to Costa Rica - Player Perspective

by Megan Rietema, Calvin College

Megan is in Costa Rica this week with a team of fellow AVCA Division II and III All-Americans with USA Athletes International to play matches, participate in service projects and teach the game to local children.  There will be blogs coming all week from AVCA staff, players and coaches...so check back here tomorrow!

Hey all! My name is Megan Rietema and I am a setter from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. This is my first time traveling to Costa Rica and my first time attending a trip to play volleyball. So far this trip has been unbelievable and filled with some amazing experiences. Over the past two days we have had the opportunity to spend a little bit of our time here in elementary schools. It has been amazing to see the joy on the children's faces when we come in to teach them a little about something we all love and have such a passion for.


All of us (the players) split up by position and teach group by group about our specific skills. It has been fun to see the kids try to do exactly what we show them - especially because the majority of us speak little or no Spanish. I am one of the more pathetic ones and usually just shout out the only words I know and can relate to setting, such as "mas alto" or "dos manos" :). 

Dos manos!

One of our guides from the week, Caesar, lives in Costa Rica and works through a church in Indiana doing mission work in schools by leading after-school programs about volleyball plus a bible study. It was super cool to be a part of his program today knowing we were impacting those children in positives ways. We thought it was very funny that the first thing the little Costa Rican girls asked us was if we had ever been to the Nickelodian Kids Choice Awards, haha! There have been lots of laughs and smiles shared with the children this week, and as much as I can hope we touched their lives, I know they all touched ours.

Apparently this is kind of a big deal in Costa Rica.

Not only have we already had some awesome experiences off the court, but we have had some pretty awesome times on the court! On Monday we were able to play against Costa Rica's Junior National team and National team! For never playing together before this trip, I thought we performed pretty well and really pulled it together quickly for the challenging competition. Both teams provided us with a very intense match- I think I can speak for all of us when I say these were some of the best volleyball players we have ever played against and probably ever will! It was fun to be pushed by these ladies and to see how we could react to amazing talent by sticking together and playing as a team. We ended up going 2-0 to the National team, and I know it was an experience none of us will ever forget!

Thank you to everyone who is following us and supporting us on this week-long adventure!

- Megan Rietema #11


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

AVCA All-Americans Travel to Costa Rica - Day 2

by Ashley Beil, AVCA Director of Marketing, Membership & Board Relations

Ashley is traveling to Costa Rica with a team of AVCA Division II and III All-Americans with USA Athletes International to play matches, participate in service projects and teach the game to local children.  She will be blogging about their experiences all week, so make sure you keep checking out the blog!

I have no doubt the ladies slept well last night. As I sit here to write this blog post I can hear them grumbling at the rooster that has been consistently crowing since 5 am. I hope their threats are idle ones otherwise I would watch my back if I were that rooster.

Yesterday kicked off with a clinic for some of the local youth in Coronado. We hosted the clinic alongside the Taylor University soccer team who is also here on a trip with USA Athletes International. 

We love soccer too (excuse me...football)!
It was so fun to watch them share their love of the sport with the children. Greer and Kearby, both fluent in Spanish, communicated effortlessly with the kids and helped the other girls with some of the basics so they could be more effective with their teaching. It was hard to pull the women away from all the smiles, hugs and giggles. 


Chillin and talkin volleyball.

All smiles and a few WOW's!

Following lunch, the team toured the impressive Iglesia de coronado Costa Rica, a Catholic Church built in 1878, before heading to their first match. The team split sets with the U23 Costa Rica Junior National team but the highlight of the day was learning that the Costa Rica National Team Coach thought their talent level was high enough for a scrimmage! Challenge accepted...the girls won in straight sets and I'm confident that is a match they won't forget anytime soon 

Following the mixed squad scrimmage, the team played Goicoechea's top club team and won 25-22, 29-27, 25-20.  As expected, the block has been effective. An unexpected strength of this team given their limited playing time together is ball control.