Volleyball Players Reflect on Overseas Experiences
Jan. 22, 2013
When collegiate volleyball players conclude their playing experiences at their respective universities, they often search for other avenues that will allow them to continue playing the game that they love. Four volleyball players with ties to the Georgia program have had the unique opportunity of playing overseas following graduation.
Three of those players had the opportunity to play through a placement agency known as Bring It Promotions (BIP), while 2011 graduate Elizabeth Reid participated in the 2012 Olympic Games as a member of the Great Britain volleyball team. During her Olympic career, Reid tallied three points for Team Great Britain, including two in the final match.
"It was a really great experience," Reid said. "I felt like I was at the top of my game, and I was challenged in every way against great teams. The whole point of being in the Olympics was to start a legacy and to increase the exposure of volleyball in England. I felt like my team achieved that at the Olympics."
Following the Olympics, Reid continued playing with Team Great Britain, traveling throughout Europe and competing against other national teams.
While Reid took the Olympic route, former players Briana Bahr ('12) and Kathleen Gates ('11), along with current graduate assistant Meghan Sherman, each played overseas with a company called Bring It Promotions. Sherman also had the opportunity to coach overseas as well.
Gates began her overseas experience on January 6 in Milan. The team had a brief practice that same evening, at which point a coach from Aprilia, a city located just outside of Rome, noticed Gates and expressed interest in having her play as a setter on his team. Gates traveled with the coach to Rome the following day and after further discussions with both the owner and the general manager of the team, she secured a contract to play with the team for the remainder of the season.
Throughout the remainder of her time on the 10-day tour, which concluded on Jan. 16, Gates traveled to Slovenia, Venice, Prague and Vienna to play matches and to enjoy time touring each of the respective destinations. Upon her return to the United States, Gates began the application process for a student visa that will allow her to return to Rome to play on the Aprilia team. She will also begin taking Italian classes at a local university during the day while practicing with her new team in the evenings.
"My overall experience on the tour was a whirlwind, but it was also extremely exciting," said Gates.
Following the conclusion of her playing career at Georgia in November of 2011, Gates expected to turn her focus towards becoming a club coach. However, realizing that she missed playing and competing in volleyball after being away from the sport for several months, Gates decided to give competition another shot.
UGA volleyball head coach Lizzy Stemke assisted in connecting Gates to a path of opportunities and after graduating this past May, Gates decided to go on tour in order to gain firsthand experience about the lifestyle, culture and style of volleyball overseas.
"There are so many opportunities now after college for women to continue to play the sport they love and the experience of living in a different culture is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Stemke said. "We always tell our student-athletes to pursue their dreams both on the court and in the classroom and we are committed to do our part to help prepare them for both"
Along with Gates, Sherman also spent time playing overseas with Bring It Promotions prior to coming to Georgia. Sherman began her time in Hungary from January to April 2011 before playing for a full season in Sweden from August 2011 to April 2012.
Sherman is no stranger to Bring It Promotions, as her mother serves as the BIP southeastern US representative, with her responsibilities focusing primarily on Division II, Division III, NAIA and juniors tours.
Sherman has traveled with BIP since age 14, and she also had the opportunity to travel with her own university team, University of Tampa, in 2010.
"The overseas playing experience is unlike anything you can imagine," Sherman said. "The court and net are the same, but the balls are very different and the rules of play are very different."
The rule changes in the overseas game limit teams to only six player substitutions, as opposed to the 15 substitutions allowed in NCAA play. Additionally, the ball cannot hit the ceiling at any time during play while competing in overseas matches.
"Along with the rule changes, playing in Hungary was very challenging, as most of my teammates and coaches did not speak much English," added Sherman.
After the conclusion of her playing experience with the Swedish team in April, Sherman returned to Georgia this fall to serve as the graduate assistant of the UGA volleyball program while simultaneously working towards a Master's degree in Kinesiology.
Bahr, who just recently concluded her playing career in November and graduated from Georgia in December, also became involved with Bring It Promotions during the winter break. Sherman encouraged Bahr to come over to Europe and play, in order to experience the overseas playing culture while also having the chance to tour Europe.
Bahr recounts that she was "immediately interested because I wasn't fully ready to be done playing once the UGA season was over, and I knew that playing on this tour could ultimately open a few doors for me."