A couple of weeks ago, Brittany Groth, Carmen Leitermann and Leah Poel travelled to Colorado Springs, CO where the Olympic Training Center is located and participated in the annual open National Team tryouts. Below is Carmen's blog about the overall experience as well as some of the things she learned in her middle blocking position while working with the national team coaches.
By Carmen Leitermann
After finding out I was going to the USA Women's Olympic Volleyball team open tryouts, I knew this was going to be an experience of a lifetime that I would probably only get one chance to do. Once we finally got to the gym after a long flight delay on Friday, I realized that the players I would be competing against were as tall as 6-5! I quickly found out, the skill and experience level of some of these athletes was beyond where I am as a player, but I knew I could get a lot out of the 48 hours in Colorado Springs. I approached the weekend as a learning experience and took in everything I saw and everything the coaches were teaching us.
The first session we attended on Saturday was more technique-oriented and I learned how to swing block. I knew about the concept of swing blocking because there are teams in Horizon League that use it, but this was the first time I had ever actually tried to swing block. My first few tries were a bit rough; I couldn't get the footwork down right away or the timing of when I should be swinging my arms up to block. After numerous tries, I started to get the hang of it and I didn't mind the new technique at all. I also got the chance to try it while eye sequencing against different setters. It was definitely fun to try something new.
Sunday was our last and final session at the Olympic Training Center and we played in a tournament the entire time, playing 6 on 6, 10-minute games against each team. The biggest challenge for me was to get in sync with all of the new setters I was working with throughout the weekend because each setter is different and set tempo/speed varies from team to team; league to league. Even though it was a challenge, it was definitely fun playing with players from different colleges around the United States.
After our last session, we showered and packed our bags. Once we were packed, we still had about 4 hours until our shuttle was going to leave for the airport. Brit, Leah, and I headed to the cafeteria to get lunch and do some homework before we headed to the airport. The night before, we had heard rumors that Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, was going to be arriving Sunday afternoon. While eating lunch, we saw people rushing into the cafeteria and whispering about how Michael Phelps was getting food. Our natural reaction was to go and see him! Once he sat down, we asked him for a picture. He asked us how long our stay was and told us he was there for three weeks during which he was going to be working out three times a day! Just hearing that made us realize how much commitment it is to be an Olympic athlete and how much hard work it takes to be an Olympian, not to mention what it takes to be a 14-time gold medalist. I wish we could have had more time to talk to him about the things he did to get where is at right now and find out any advice he could give college athletes competing to be their best.
After talking with Michael Phelps, we made our way back to the airport to go home. Going home was definitely a bittersweet ending to this amazing experience - it was disappointing to have the weekend come to an end, but exciting to think about all the things we could bring back to the team in order to help us achieve our goals for 2012. Even though there were some ups and downs of learning new techniques and learning how to adjust to different styles of sets from setters, I couldn't have asked for a better weekend in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was definitely an eye-opening experience that I will never forget!!