Technical Time Outs
Athlete stories and discussions from around the world,
beyond the scores, stats and what we see on the court.
beyond the scores, stats and what we see on the court.
By: Caitlin Genovy
My dream career path has changed as many times as Instagram’s app gets “upgraded”. I went from wanting to be a teacher in Kindergarten, a doctor in grade 6, an architect in grade 8 and a physiotherapist throughout most of high school. Even though my love of sport and science made kinesiology an easy choice for an undergraduate degree, the change in desired career path changed with every semester for 4 years, until eventually, I had no clue what I was going to do once I graduated. I knew that I loved the sport I played and envisioned it being a major part of my life for a very long time, but would I continue to play or would I coach? Would I go on to become an athletic trainer and find myself on a volleyball bench somewhere in the world? With a lot of help from some really awesome people, we found a common theme in my summers: coaching. In grade 12, I started to get involved with McMaster Volleyball Camps and was moved from “Coach in Training” to Assistant Coach at Madawaska Camps and for some still to be discovered reason, I was hooked. For the next 4 years, I worked 5 weeks of back to back camps before diving head first back into volleyball and books. Despite being mentally and physically exhausted each year, something about the month of August stood out. What was it about these crazy 35 days that had me hooked every summer? What was it about Mad Camp that made it the best week of my life? Was it just the amazing friends I’ve made over the last 6 years of coaching or was it the opportunity to inspire and teach the sport I love so much?
A lot of soul searching and asking big questions throughout my fourth year at McMaster, I eventually landed on coaching as my answer to the repetitive “What do you want to do after school?” inquiry by family and friends. It’s like a lightbulb went off in my head that screamed “DUH!” at me upon coming to this conclusion. But given my training and school schedule, how the heck was I going to start working toward my goals?! Sure, some of my classes could help me out later down the road as a coach, like knowing different sports injuries, how to create yearly training plans for strength and conditioning and understanding some sport psychology theories but these were almost all science related and coaching is an art that takes many years to develop and get good at. Like any athlete I know, I want to be the best and follow in the footsteps of the many amazing female head coaches ahead of me, so I found myself dedicating the rest of my summers during my undergrad to coaching and gaining as much art of coaching-related knowledge as I could.
My bookcase quickly filled with applied sport psychology books, different theories and methods of leadership, how to create a winning culture and so much more. My summers filled up with Team Ontario and Regional team coaching positions, my final school year was jam packed with as much club coaching as I could get. Even living here in France, I help coach the club’s youth programming, even though the language barrier is still tough! Every spare minute I’ve had for the last 2 or so years has been traded in for the pursuit of my dream to one day run my own varsity program.
But along the way, I’ve learned so much more than just coaching. I’ve learned so many things about myself as an athlete - what type of coaches and feedback do I best respond to, how I prefer to learn a new skill, what are the qualities I respect in my favourite coaches? I’ve also learned how to be a better teammate. From all of the books I’ve read and coaches I’ve worked with I’ve been able to learn how to work with a variety of personalities different than mine, how to find the best qualities in others and how to get my teammates to buy in to what I’m selling. Operating as a coaching student-athlete has allowed me to see the game through more than just the athlete lens and finally understand some coaching decisions made on the teams I’ve played with or coached for. I’ve truly learned the importance of statistics in decision making, how the double substitution is not the worst thing in the world when used tactically and just how confusing it can be to try to get the right matchups in the front row.
Although the pursuit of the dream was always the core motivator for sacrificing my summers off, coaching has made me a better person, athlete and teammate. If you haven’t already tried coaching a camp or two, I would highly recommend it. You just may learn a thing or two about a sport you’ve played your whole life!
After a standout career at McMaster University, Caitlin is currently playing in France's Nationale-2 division with VB La Rochette as their starting setter. Having committed her summers (and part-time through university!) to coaching various camps, club and high performance teams, we look forward to a bright future in coaching for Caitlin!
THE LIFESTYLE OF A NCAA STUDENT-ATHLETE: WHAT IT MEANS, WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AND ADVICE LOOKING FORWARD
By: Justin Lui
Beep! Beep! Beep!
Amidst a spirited dream, I am awoken by the incessant sound of my alarm blaring next to my ear. It is 6:30am and yet again, I am feeling both tired and unenthused, wishing for a few extra minutes of rest. Contrary to my desire for sleep, I decide to click my alarm off and thereby commit to my day as a NCAA volleyball player. I saunter out of bed, ensuring that I do not awaken my two roommates sleeping a few feet away from me. I change my clothes, brush my teeth and head out the door towards my first task of the day. Unlike most university students, I have to wake up at 6:30am, rather than go to sleep at this time. As one can imagine, my morning walk by the lounge features the sight of my friends face-planted in their caffeinated energy drinks or passed out on the keyboards of their laptops. A simple reminder of a Stanford students' arduous lifestyle.
Due to this ungodly hour of awakening, breakfast is not yet open, so I consume the only available nourishment around – a cup of coffee and a lone banana. By 7am, I head to my bike to begin my trek towards the locker room. The bike ride takes about 10-12 minutes but is endured shortly as I am accompanied by the rising sun and Californian palm trees, which together, help cure my prolonged lassitude. By the time I enter the locker room, it is around 7:20am. I quickly change into my volleyball attire and walk over to the weight room. Inside this clinically bare room lies an amalgam of football players, wrestlers and swimmers who have already begun their morning workouts at 6:45am. I instead head to the corner to begin foam roll-out and activation warmup with my team. By 7:50am, we begin our weights workout. We complete the workout as a team and head back to the locker room by 9am. At this time, I quickly shower, grab a protein shake from the food stand and head to my first class. On a typical day, I have class beginning at 9:30am and ending at 3:20pm with a brief, hour long lunch break at 11:30am.
Once my last class is completed, I bike over to the locker room to prepare for practice. Often joined by a few teammates, I get changed into my volleyball gear and walk over to the practice gym to help set up the nets. Practice begins around 4:30pm and runs non-stop until 7:30pm. This may seem quite lofty, practicing 3 hours a day (especially to younger athletes), but trust me, once you get into the rhythm of it, the time seems to fly. After the nets are torn down, the team discussion is complete and the roll-out is finished, I walk back to the locker room to shower. Quickly after, I head back to my residence to eat dinner. I eat around 8pm alongside a few of my friends, or if I am alone, I skim through a few news articles to occupy the apparent loneliness.
Once my appetite is filled, I commence the student grind. If I have a lot of work, I will go to the campus library to ensure peace and quiet for my focused efforts. Otherwise, I will begin work in the residence lounge, taking infrequent breaks to talk to friends who are studying with me. I normally finish all the work I had planned to do by 1am – 1:30am. By now, I am completely exhausted and I immediately crash into my room to get as much sleep as possible. I fall asleep finally, only to be awaken by the sound of my alarm. Beep! Beep! Beep! And thus, the day is anew.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A NCAA STUDENT-ATHLETE
As one can imagine from my day-in-the-life, being a student-athlete is as it says: A student and an athlete. Although I heard this ubiquitous phrase before, I had never quite grasped what it truly meant. Upon my arrival to university, I thought that I would have time to balance volleyball, school and social life fairly evenly. However, if you are like me, striving to conquer the athletic and academic fields alike, then the time devoted to volleyball and schoolwork increases while the time allocated for social experiences significantly decreases. My coach likes to say that “volleyball and schoolwork should occupy 80% of your time here. The other 20% is up to you”. This lack of social activity was a manageable concession for me, as I was willing to forfeit some social time in order to maintain my desired grades and volleyball quality. But I know for many of my teammates, this was a necessary sacrifice, despite the fact that many of them enjoy the social aspect of university.
Playing at Stanford has also exposed a new meaning on the title of ‘student-athlete’. Through my time here, I have learned that being a student-athlete for such a reputable school is not just a name afforded to those playing a sport while fulfilling an education. It instead represents a responsibility. It is a responsibility bestowed upon a small, but highly influential portion of the university community that emulate the best standards a university has to offer. This means that they are expected to strive in the classroom while on the court; they are expected to be active members of the community by helping and supporting all who seek it; and most importantly, student-athletes are expected to display qualities of respect, humility and kindness to ensure that the university is well-represented. Thus, being a student-athlete is not only a privilege that affects oneself, but it is an honor that reflects the university as a whole.
ONE PIECE OF ADVICE (FOR YOUNGER ATHLETES SPECFICALLY):