3 Things I Learned In Italy, Switzerland & Turkey
by Gabi KOEVA
1. Switzerland (CH)
What did I know about CH before going there? Pretty much what everybody knows - it's the land of swiss chocolate, swiss watches and swiss banks! What I didn't realize is that Switzerland was the land of rules...a lot of rules I mean. In fact when I first went before the season to sign my contract and meet the president, he asked me one simple question:
"How are you with following rules?".
"I guess I'm good, I can follow rules..." - I said.
"Then you'll have no problem whatsoever in Switzerland!"
How to follow the rules is one of the most important things I've learned there. Being organized and disciplined, scheduling your time wisely and never, absolutely N-E-V-E-R permit yourself to be late for an appointment! Swiss tend to take it personally! They are very sensitive when considering time...and wasting it.
2. La Bella Italia... (ITA)
(lit. 'The beautiful Italy')
As Italians lie to refer to their lovely country is no doubt (or at least it was few years ago) the country of some of the strongest European club teams. Teams that merged experienced with young athletes on the court, playing side by side, leaded by some of the best coaches in the volleyball world.
It was a great experience to get to be a part of Serie A1! The only thing that went bad that season was the fact that our team Riso Scotti Pavia struggled a lot and we finished the regular season second last with just two victories behind our backs.
Even though season was difficult for the team I played really strong. I scored over 70-80% in attack almost every game and even finished a couple of matches with 100%. Every once in a while I meet some of the coaches from IT that year and they'd tell me "Wow it was an incredible season for you in Italy..."
So the most important thing I'd learned from my Italian experience? It was that even though "team comes before individual," it's still important to be able to focus on your own performance. Even when the team is doing bad, to be able to give your best, no matter the outcome! There will be always someone who notices that and it will probably open many doors for you in the future.
3. Türkiye (TR)
Turkey...I fell in love with this (I'm here now!) country and most of all with the crazy, sleepless, colorful Istanbul! But let's talk about volleyball.
The last few years the Turkish championship has been one of the strongest in the world alongside of Russia's and Brazil's. Turkish teams play many finals and win gold medals in (almost) every CEV and FIVB tournament during the past 4-5 years. So it's never easy to go out on the court, facing the best players in the world, not feeling like an underdog.
But being the underdog has it's advantages and that's what I've learned here in Turkey. As long as you give your best on the court and fight for every ball, even when it seems impossible, no team can underestimate you for it only matters what's the result after the game. I am playing for the team of Besiktas JK and we have never been one of the top teams in the league but that didn't stop us from winning against the big teams of Galatasaray and Eczacibasi for example.
Let me help you picture the situation of being an underdog with one other example where we made IT despite the odds and expectations of everyone else:
So it's season 2013-2014, the team of Besiktas didn't have the chance to play any European cup tournament, because previous season finished in 7th place after the regular season. The only chance we had was to compete and try to win the Balkan Cup and get a wild card for the CEV Challenge Cup. And we did it, we won! So there we were, last team to make it to Challenge Cup and guess what? We played final that year! It was a tough journey, we advanced 5 times by winning a golden set and we truly surprised everyone by making it to the final round.
Unfortunately, we lost that one against a Russian team, but the lesson we all learned was that no matter the expectations, no matter who's on the other side of the net - the court is still 18 m2 for both teams, the ball is round and at the end, if you never give up and your heart is big enough, you can beat the odds and prove everyone wrong!