Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recent life

It has been over three months since my last post. Many things have changed in my life and I honestly don't know where to start. I can't say I even finished my National championships post cause I was so devastated by our semi-final loss. We wound up coming back from a momentary rut and prevailed in the bronze medal match but it was still an anticlimactic way to end the season; I was sure gold was on the horizon.

I flew home and chilled for a few weeks on the island and then I flew to Mexico to compete in 3 NORCECA (central and north american league) events. I played with Ahren Cadieux in one and then I returned to playing with Ray Sewell which was an absolute blast. Ahren and I came 5th and Ray and I placed 4th (due to a rock/paper/scissors forfeit to a fellow Canadian team due to heat) and a well deserved Bronze medal in Puerto Vallarta. The tour itself was a little bush league and the weather was smoking hot so we had our struggles but I personally came out of that circuit playing the strongest volleyball I have ever played. I hurt my shoulder in one of the final events but other than that I ended my season with perfect health.

Since those final events Canada has rearranged our National team program and only carded 6 athletes. I am now the second oldest carded athlete on Team Canada which is a drastic change from before as there were quite a few older and more experienced athletes. The new vision of the program consists of training younger athletes for a longer term developmental program. We have yet to see how this will work because the program hasn't quite started.

I will be moving to Toronto early January 2010 to start my training program with the National team guys and our new national team coach Lennard Krapp. I am looking forward to this time but must say I will miss my regular routine of pre-season training in Rio de Janeiro with my coach and friends there.

Prior to my flight out to Toronto I will be staying with my family in the Comox Valley helping them out around the house, hopefully snowboarding on Mt.Washington in our back yard and visiting friends I haven't seen in ages.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Semi Finals BABY!!

A very exciting day for us on the sand here in Toronto as we competed in the second day of play for the Canadian National Championships. We both had great sleeps and brought a higher intensity to our play as our competition was a little stiffer.

Our first match was to finish off our pool play games. We played Kevin Ben and Denny Moser, a team who has been battling in the Ontario tournaments for quite some time and can play well when they need to.  We new what we had to do but reserved our energy as we played close sets but sealed them out in the last switches when it counted. We won that game in control and finished our pool play with a 4-0 record. This allowed us to keep our second seed in the tournament and go on to play the 15th seed for the first round of single elimination playoffs.  I am not sure what I said in my last update but this years format different from last years as now the playoff rounds begin after pool play.

The second game was against a classic duo who I have been playing for years. Ryan Cawsey of BC was playing with good friend Anton Hauser who has played in many FIVB events and is quite experienced.  We decided to serve Ryan as he is the taller player and trains far less than his partner. The wind was quite strong and we managed to pull away strong in each set after being up 12-9 for the technical timeouts.  We started ripping our jump serves into the wind but they controlled them handily so we switched to float serving and immediately were rewarded. Ryan was shaky on his passes and we forced him to hit quite a few hitting errors long with the wind. Ahren and I really gelled on defense and with a few set up blocking/defensive plays we sealed the game.  This round of 16 match challenged us in the wind against a big block and helped prepare us for our quarterfinal match later that afternoon.

We were assigned center court for the quarterfinals and that is where I shine.  I live to play on center court! I enjoy the showmanship of beach volleyball because it is such an interactive and exciting sport with spectators feet away from the court.  This game was no exception and we played the best we have played together yet.  Our opponents were a solid team that has had some success this year in Ontario.  Paul Podstawka has been a National team athlete for a year or two and has traveled to play in a few international FIVB events. His partner was Dave Quinn who is a relatively new guy to beach volleyball in Canada since he has been playing pro indoor for the last while. They are a respectable team and we new we needed to play top notch ball from the first whistle.

We started on fire. They were serving me and I was siding out like my life depended on it. We were earning points on defense almost every time we went back to serve and we wound up taking a the first set 21-12.  Thus far in our season we have had difficulty with teams we blow out in the first set.  We knew we had to keep focused on our side of the net and stay motivated and aggressive to fend off their comeback.  We dictated the second set from the first point and didn't let go throughout its entirety.  We made some incredible plays on defense and really earned our lead. I hadn't felt that good for quite some time and they were forced to serve Ahren because I didn't miss a single attack.  At 18-11 for us, Paul tried stalling for time after the whistle blew for my service and they received a red card. This brought the match to 19-11 and we earned the next two points to claim our most convincing victory yet!

It was a great day for us and we are really looking forward to building on our performance tomorrow.  We will be playing Jessi Lelliott and Ben Saxton in the semis tomorrow morning at 10:30 and that is a match I would very much like to win. I have played with both of our opponents so there is a little more at stake then a medal!

Before I tuck into bed here, I just wanted to mention we went to a fantastic dinner tonight to celebrate the last 20 years of beach volleyball excellence in Canada.  Mark Heese put together a fantastic BBQ and ceremony which was very touching and highly enlightening about the history of our sport here in Canada. It was held at the Bondi Beach Club which was where beach volleyball was first played in Canada in the 50's! I met some icons of our sport I didn't even know existed. There was an amazing video presentation put together by professionals at CBC which summarized some of Canada's highlights at the International and Olympic levels as well as an unveiling of a plaque with all past (and to be) National Championship winners. It was a great night full of emotion and pride with the backbone community of beach volleyball in Canada. It will be a great honor to stand on top of the podium tomorrow knowing a little more about the history of our sport and knowing how so many people supporting us across our vast nation.

Time for sleep and wish us the best for tomorrow!!!!



Friday, August 28, 2009

In Canada and Loving it!

It feels great to be back in the homeland! Speaking with friends, actually having a clean phone conversation with my family rather than on skype and eating my favorite snack of granola, plain yogurt and maple syrup! 

I am currently staying with my beach partner Ahren and his lovely girlfriend Emily, close to Ash Bridges Bay just east of downtown Toronto.  I have a wonderful couch to sleep on and they Emily has been taking care of me like my mother would which is quite a big set of shoes to fill for those of you who know my super mother.  We managed to train once a day leading up to Nationals to keep our sand legs but the focus was more on the mental aspects than anything.  We know our A game is right there, and we are looking to connect all the dots and peak for the National Championships. 

Today marked the start of the three day event with a round of pool play to establish rankings for a power pool format which then leads to a single elimination playoff bracket. The weather teased us with sun in the morning but midway through our first game at 8:30, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in making the rest of the day vicious. 

Our first match was against Ben Feist who is a good friend from the West Coast and a partner he had never met before by the name of Chris Simek who was a National Team athlete in 2008. I will start by saying how much I respect Ben. He came down to Brazil last year and trained for 4 weeks because he had always dreamed of playing in an International event.  He took time off work and trained is butt off with a Brazilian friend of mine because he didn't want to miss his chance of living his dream.  He is now out here, with a partner he doesn't know, competing at the toughest National Championships I have seen and he will be trying out for our National team camp following the competition next week. He is in his early 30's and he couldn't care less what people think because he wants it and loves the sport.  Like I mentioned earlier, this game started at 8:30 in decent weather but in the middle of the first set, things deteriorated.  Well the same thing went for our game! We were up 12-9 at the switch but then Chris went back to serve right as the wind came.  Chris's serve is a weapon and with a heavy wind it can be deadly. He ripped off 4 or 5 aces in a row and put us in serious trouble, especially me because I was the one getting aced! We lost the first 21-18 but recovered nicely in the second with a convincing win of 21-17. The third saw us hit our stride and we ripped serves, blocked and sided out to win 15-8. A shaky start but in our next match we knew we couldn't come out flat because our opponents were young national team athletes with their barrels pointed squarely at our heads. 

Committed to fire this game up and prove our ranking, we jumped to a 21-13 first set victory against the young talented boys. Chaim Schalk who set for Trinity Western University was playing defense against a high school phenom who had the highest vertical jump in our entire national team camp! Both are relatively new to the beach so our game plan was to bomb serves and put them in trouble in the wind. We were able to execute this plan nicely in the first but they fought a little harder in the second.  We went down 11-10 at the second set technical timeout but took the lead as we switched to the superior serving side. With a 15-13 switch and then a great hold on the bad side, we wound up closing the match at 21-17 with some great blocks and heavy aces.  Our ball control really shined and we were able to make some fantastic transition points which started with cannon serves into the win.  Confident with our play, we rested until 4 when we were to play the second ranked team in our pool who are the top ranked Quebec team.

Our opponents just came off a Silver medal at the Canada Summer Games in PEI last week and to their credit, they are great athletes and have excellent ball control.  Lucky for me, my partner had a few sets of aces in his pockets and we thumped them in the first set. Ahren was serving so well into the wind that I couldn't help feeling bad for them after a 5 or 6 ace streak where they barely even touched the ball. They conserved their energy and turned off their play to save for the next set.  A tough battle the second set turned out to be as they increased serving pressure into the wind and they started connecting on their sideouts.  We switched down 10-11, barely held on for a 14-14 switch and bled for a few points to regain the lead on the bad side for an 18-17 switch! Once on the good side, Ahren served 3 aces and they hit one ball out to seal it at 21-17.

All in all it was a successful day as we reaffirmed our superior ball control and siding out. I was pleased with my serving and blown away by Ahren's!! We brought solid intensity and will have to bring it for one more game to sinch our pool tomorrow morning.  That game will be played at 10:15 so wish us luck!!! 

Thanks for all the support from friends and family and I will repost tomorrow.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Final European fight

Somehow beach volleyball has taken us to Aland, an Island just off the coast of Finland where past Swedish player Simon Dahl has established an FIVB open joint with the Swedish Fedration.
A lovely event in a place that reminds be of a less beautiful Gulf Islands in the Southern Vancouver Island region.  It is colder and the architecture is far inferior to the artsy and natural wood norm in BC.  

The weather has decided to comply after our first day of cold showers and winds, our qualification draw has lined us up against one of two swedes; we are pleased. Our second match had the possibility of being a heart wrencher as the winner of us vs the Swedes lined up with the winner of Josh and Matt of Canada and a solid Russian team.  

Our physical preparation for this event was minimal to keep fresh as being on tour for 7 weeks can wreak havoc on your body if you don't treat yourself right.  This is usually the time when my body decides to break down but this year I am still strong and feeling excellent aside from an reoccurring ankle injury I suffered in the first tournament.  My preparation in Brazil has served me very well and I am excited to say that I won't need much time off this year before starting my 2010 season. Anywho, taking proper rest time before this event gave us an edge and we felt great moving into the first round of the qualy.

The Swedes have been around the game for a while and I have seen them in training camps around the world.  We chose to serve the taller of the two as he was more of a direct player and our strategy of playing straight up defense on him worked out as he played right into our pockets.  I served light because the wind was quite gusty but Ahren went for his jump serve.  We made some great points with blocks and transition digs and we held our sideouts well enough to take the game convincingly.

As we played our game, our crossover match was determined as the Russians were victorious over our Canadian friends. I was pleased with this result because we were actually bunking with them and it always adds extra stress when you play your fellow countrymen, especially in single elimination format. 

The Russians have been around for some time as well but are my age.  I had never played against them but we scouted them well and decided to put the pressure on the big left side player for he was less versatile and more readable. The wind was present but not a huge factor which for me is perfect conditions for ripping my jump serve harder and deeper.  We started the match with a 5-2 switch us and built on it from there.  I served 6 points in a row and wound up with an 11-3 second switch.  I was blocking lights out and when the ball passed me it either went out or into Ahren's bread basket. We were executing perfectly and I felt I could do anything I wanted; we played flawless first set ball. The set ended at 21-10 and going into the timeout we didn't know how we could improve our performance. This is always the toughest position to be in because clearly the other team will make an adjustment and come out more aggressive and the pressure is on you to continue the pace you established.  We came out the second set as pumped as we could and we held onto a 7-7 switch with a crafty play. We went up 12-9 but then something interesting happened, we eased up.  They had started serving Ahren because my sideout game was impeccable in the first but mid second, the tested me and I made an error.  All of a sudden the sideout game was in my hands and things weren't as easy as in the first! We battled back and forth, giving up two points here and then making them back in a heart beat.  The game was tense, full of emotion and power as the big boys on each team battled at the net. We lost the second set 22-20. We weren't able to recover our lead and as they picked up confidence, it evaporated on our side just as quick. 

The third set started with three simple errors on our side of the net. They served me deep and I didn't adjust so I wound up putting myself in an inferior position to attack.  We took at time out and recovered to make it 3-2 but they immediately pounced back to a 5-2 lead.  Shaky was the name of the game and we ended the third set at 15-11, unable to make points and hold onto them.

It was a devastating loss and it really hit me hard. We had it with ease and then we questioned ourselves because it came so easy and then lost our grip.  There have been few times in my life I have been so disappointed and it took me quite sometime to recover mentally. I was so displeased with myself because it was all an internal battle, the other team didn't change their strategy to challenge us. It is always tough when you blow out a team in the first set because the second is a completely different game.

After the match we had some time alone and allowed some of the dust to settle.  There were no teams missing so a lucky loser spot wasn't going to happen. Our final European event of 09 ended with a non-qualification but we had to look at the positives in the situation.

Ahren and I partnered up a week before worlds and had that time to prepare to play at the top international level.  We were competing against teams who have been playing together for years or at least a full off season to gel. We did our best to make adjustments on the road and to adapt to each other but without a 3rd party to break it down for us it was difficult to tell each other what to do or how to change.  We competed against great teams but weren't able to pull out some close victories, victories which are sealed by well oiled teams who trust in each other. 

We have developed a team that battles and we came closer and closer to upsetting to seeds as the season wore on. We are now back in Canada preparing for our National Championships and we are confident in our current play. We have learned a lot in Europe and the 2009 Nationals will be our time to shine.

I will keep this blog updated with National results this weekend!!!



Friday, August 14, 2009

Big Battle in Kristiansand

It is the day after our exit from the main draw in Kristiansand, Norway.  The sun toasty but the wind is chilly as Norway brings me soothing memories of the west coast; I have been on the road for 11 weeks and the thought of being at home with my family has never been so attractive.

Two days ago we successfully entered the main draw through a lucky loser path. Amazing that it came down to luck but I had no doubt in my mind we would be competing in the main draw and sure enough, our friend Marcio pulled our names out first.  Our draw matched us up with the number 3 team in the tournament, Russia's Barsouk/Koladinski who have had a few top 4 showings as of late. A difficult opponent for sure but I revel in games where we have nothing to lose against top teams.  We came out firing and had a fabulous battle with them.  We were leading the entire match 4-3, 8-6, 11-8, with me sideing out, but for us to go up 18-17, they served Ahren and I got called on a beautiful handset. Anger.  I have never felt so much anger well up from inside me. What a silly call for the ref to make on a perfect handset; it was totally uncalled for and nobody watching our court agreed. This put is down in the 18-17 switch but we came back to tie it at 19-19.  This is when the second terrible call didn't go our way.  The second serve to go to Ahren came off the net and I gave him a high set on top of the tape.  He got there a little late and tried to wipe the ball of the blockers hands out of bounds for us to get the point.  He successfully used the blockers hands and it landed out on our side, clearly proving the point should be awarded to us.  The ref didn't see it that way (besides all the obvious facts) and gave the point to Russia.  We were absolutely livid but committed to making it back and winning the set.  We were serving very well and I had 5 stuff blocks by this point in time; it was a perfect game aside from the ref stepping in unnecessarily.  We pushed hard but in the end Russia overcame our strengths and won 25-23. What a disappointment for us to lose because without the two ref's unwarranted calls, we would have taken the first set.  At this level, especially when you are playing a top 5 in the world team, the game comes down to 1 or 2 points making it crucial for every call to go the right way.

The second set they were steady and we were streaky.  Frazzled by the ref's calls and trying to pass Igor's over 100 km/h spin serve, we slowly spiraled into a second set loss. And then when we hadn't heard from the ref all second set, he chirped in on another PERFECT hand set by me.  UNREAL! Another high pass off the net and I took it high and quickly but the ref just didn't like its crispness and called it a lift.  This was to sideout at 19-14, to make it 19-15.  Ahren absolutely lost his mind and received a card (I am glad he did because that ref needed to know he was poo) so we ended the match on a red card point for the other team and lost 21-14! 

Once we cooled off and settled back into our natural rhythms, we found out we were matched against Germany for our second match. This German team is a strong team and consists of two excellent jumpers who love hitting steep angles and hard spin serves.  The scouting report was to block cross and trap them but unfortunately that plan didn't evolve into point making.  We were on the outside court, almost on the water so the wind was gusty.  The game came down to serving hard and sideing out on the bad side and they executed that better than us.  I think we lost 21-17, 21-16 but we just weren't able to make ANY points.  Ahren got the only block of the match and there were few rallies to count.  For some reason they played more of a finesse game and it hit us where we didn't expect.  On our side, we struggled to keep our sets in front of us so we lost our vision on offense, therefore making some silly hitting errors or mediocre attacks. 

We now have one more tournament to go before we head back to Canada for our national championships.  Aland, Finland is next week leaving us one more showing to excel for an entire game, or set of games.  What we really need is a 3rd party to come and help us out.  We aren't able to change our game because our perspectives come from inside the game and it is tough for each of us to coach each other when most of it is personal.  We are lost in terms of what to change or not to change so our new Team Canada head coach will definitely be able to help us when we get back to Toronto.  Either way, we are competing against teams with full coaching staff and support networks.  I hate using this as an excuse, and I normally don't look at it this way but after an email from my mom, it rings true.  We are alone out here, battling each week in new and different places while planning our next meals, hotels, transportation, game preparation and all the while maintaining our fitness and beach volley skills.  There is no guidance, no external influence and few anchors other than each other on the road.  We receive limited support from our federation and for this and the aforementioned reasons,  our commitment is tested daily on the road to becoming champions.  With all the odds against me, I am battling with everything I have and I am slowly breaking my oppositions down and building on my own successes. I will persevere because I am strong, I have a firm belief in myself and an undying passion for what I do and the goals I want to achieve.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lucky Losers in Kristiansand, Norway

I am a few weeks behind due to lack of access to the internet so I will review some of our recent successes and travels in the next post, but this one will be dedicated to our "Lucky Loser" draw in the Kristansand FIVB Open.  

Firstly, to those of you who don't know about the "Lucky Loser", it is a draw that occurs between the two highest ranked losing teams at the end of the qualification tournament to fill in a main draw spot caused by a late withdrawl from a pre-qualified team.  

We were blessed enough to have a few teams withdraw late from the event here as we lost a tight game to Mexico in the last round of the qualifier. 

Our first game was against a Swedish team who didn't have many points.  We were ranked 5th in the qualification tournament which lined us up to play two rounds against teams with fewer points than us.  The Swedes didn't have much experience at the international level but were good athletes.  It was a bit windy on the exterior court in the bay so we were able to capitalize on our superior ball control and patience.  We didn't play our top game and it worked best for us as we got the win and the Mexican team scouting us didn't get much of a report! 

Our second match featured a battle against a Mexican team who is very strong.  They took some time off at the end of last year and the start of this year so they had considerably fewer points than their skills indicated.  We started the match with crisp sideouts and made a few points here and there on both Mexican players but wound up being down 18-17 after a heavy rally. We sided out a few more times and wound up stealing the advantage back at 20-19. Unfortunately we weren't able to hold onto our sideout composure and lost the match 23-21.  We had been so strong throughout the beginning of the match but when it came time to push for the win, we over thought the situation and wound up changing what was working for us in the first place. 

In the second set we immediately went down 3-1 and couldn't bring the score back to even over the rest of the set.  We went down 9-5 and they held us at that scoring distance for the rest of the match.  We wound up tightening our playing style and making a few more tentative errors, errors we told ourselves we wouldn't make since our team excels with big serves, spikes and blocks.  The Mexicans fought hard and earned the second set Victory after many great rallies and digs.  We are still trying to figure out what went wrong and how they beat us but that is a lot tougher when your camera ran out of batteries and didn't record the game!

With this loss in the last round, we were in solid contention for the "Lucky Loser" draw at the Men's Technical Meeting. We showed up and our good friend Marcio (08 Olympic Silver Medalist) said he would sit in the front to specifically draw our name for us out of the bowl! We trusted him and had faith we were going to be chosen and sure enough, we were the first team picked! There were three spots available for lucky losers so we had a maximum of 3 draws to receive main draw status.  Marcio chose our names after grabbing one and thinking it wasn't the right slip! He pulled through for us and we are now preparing for tomorrow first round match against the 3rd ranked team in the event.  This top ranked team is the first Russian team and we look forward to implementing a solid game plan to post an upset.  

Thanks for all the best wishes from home and I will definitely be typing out my last few weeks once we are finished with the main draw here in our second Norwegian FIVB stop.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Been a while but going strong

It has been 2 weeks since my last post and I apologize for my tardiness!! Unfortunately internet has not been accessible in both Marseilles, France and Klagenfurt, Austria as the internet in the hotels crashed due to so many players and refs getting into it.

These last two weeks have taken a turn to the positive and I will take you through a light summary of my recent travels and games.

To start off, we landed in Marseilles a few days early after our unfortunate defeat in Moscow. We landed in Marseille on Friday with intentions to train the entire weekend prior to the FIVB Grand Slam there.  Sadly for us, when we got to the courts on Saturday morning, the wind was about 60 km/h! Absolutely silly conditions for volleyball but we managed to play a little competitive game between the two of us and then a no jumping game against Venezuela.  On Sunday the wind died a bit but we decided to train in a private facility on a beach closer to down town called "Catalans" with the brazilian duo of Marcio and Fabio (08 Olympic Silver medalists). We had a mildly frustrating hit with them due to swirling wind but we dealt with it and competed. We continued to train Monday and Tuesday and beat a few high seeded teams as we prepared for Wednesdays qualifier. Wednesday came around and we received a BYE into the main draw as our seed was high and many teams pulled out!!! What a great feeling that was to be directly in without the stress of a single elimination qualification match! Unfortunately that dream was short lived as they were testing a new format for the event which was a single elimination playoff format with the top 16 teams having a BYE in the first round.  

Our first match was scheduled for 7 PM Thursday against an Austrian team but due to high winds, the tournament was delayed 6 hours and our game was bumped to Friday! Excellent, another free night at the hotel and another day to rest and prepare to deliver a beat down. Friday was also postponed and over the span of the day we made 5 trips back and forth between the venue and the hotel as each hour game play was delayed due to high gusty winds. Finally we played at 6 and we made use of our opponents dismay for the stormy yet sunny conditions.  I made a commitment to go back to playing with heart and emotion and through that decision, I released all kinds of energy in my game.  We wound up beating the Austrians in straight convincing sets as we served aces, blocked and dug our way to our first official game victory!
We dominated in every way and I looked forward to bringing that same attitude to our following match.  

Thus far in my career I haven't played any top 10 teams. In Marseille my first change to upset a top seed came along with our draw being against legends Ricardo/Emanuel.  The winningest team in beach volleyball history is no dream draw but where else would we get to play these guys in tough conditions to increase our chances of winning? Pumped for the match, we came in and all of a sudden found ourselves down 11-3.  Not a great start but we chipped away and didn't give up, losing the first set 21-16. In the second set we earned more points and steadied our sideout play but our 11-10 switch in our favor turned into a losing 16-19 switch.  We lost that set 21-17 but we beat ourselves.  They didn't do anything special, we just forced ourselves out of the game.  A disappointing loss but an easy one to come to terms with.  

The Marseilles FIVB Grand Slam is amazing for night life and the 2009 edition was crazy good. A bunch of athletes stayed and shoot their tail feathers on the dance floor that weekend and I took many notes of their setup as bringing their party layout at the venue would be unreal on the west cost of Canada!

We left Marseilles with renewed confidence and a more settling feeling as we both played like we knew we could. Klagenfurt, Austria was our Sunday destination; one of my favorite events in the world!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disappointment in Moscow

I write from my sunbathed hotel room as the Sputnik sun sets late this Wednesday evening.  Today was qualification Wednesday for the FIVB World Tour and I unfortunately am reporting a close but devastating loss to Latvia in the first round.  Devastating in the fact that it is a team we should have beaten and I am so frustrated with the result.

The team consisted of one of the Olympic Latvian athletes and his new partner "Krelis" a nick name in Latvian for lefty who I have played against for a few years and never lost to.  Together they were very beatable team and one I was pleased to be playing in the first round.  Should we have played an aggressive and error limited game like I have been aspiring to play, we would have won handily.  However, I didn't show up to play world class ball and physically it didn't come together.  

I could use plenty of excuses but a loss is a loss and I definitely let myself and Ahren down.  We had a chance to close out the first set at 20-19 and I rolled line on a defensive transition (classic tentative move) and the second we were leading handily until they scrapped back to 18-17 and won 23-21. A game I would rather forget but in forgetting I won't learn the lessons I need to take away from this event.  Ahren nailed it in our post game chat that "we were playing not to lose".  

I have been attempting to go deeper into the mental side of the game and have been listening to some sports psychology stuff on commitment and stepping up but upon the first attempt to put it into practice, it didn't kick in.  I also hurt my foot last week and tried not to think anything of it.  Unfortunately, it did affect me and is still affecting me to this date.  After our close game in the Gstaad Grand Slam qualification where I hurt it, we had a small hit before leaving Switzerland and didn't have competitive training until the day before our competition in Russia.  This really didn't allow us to come together post loss and work on solidifying our connection on sideout and confidence as a team.  Our plan of giving my foot some time backfired and unfortunately due to an unfortunate error by a Russian coach, our training court the day before our game was switched and we had to train with 4 teams on a court which really wasn't what we needed.  It was out of our control but stepping up to play on game day was fully in our control and it didn't happen.

By divine design, I grabbed a book called "Failing Forward" by John C. Maxwell as I left my house for this trip and it is coming in quite handing during this testing period. A great friend and past coach Paul Mend dropped me a line saying he is eagerly waiting for our breakthrough game and my patience and commitment is certainly being tested as we strive to gel as a team mid season and compete for a big win! Thanks Paul for your kind words and it couldn't fit better with "Failing Forward" which affirms failure and more importantly learning from the experience as a crucial part of life's journey to personal success. Here are a few of my favorites; I hope they stoke your inner flame or just give you the boost you need to overcome a challenge you are currently dealing with!  

"To achieve your dreams, you must embrace adversity and make failure a regular part of your life. If you are not failing, you're probably not really moving forward."

"Achievers are able to keep moving forward no matter what happens.  And that's made possible because they remember that failure does not make them failures. No one should take mistakes personally.  That's the key to bouncing back."

Off to Marseille for the mistral winds and arid climate of southern France!



Friday, July 10, 2009

Gstaad Grand Slam competition

We are in Switzerland competing in the first FIVB Grand Slam of the year.  An absolutely fantastic place as the tournament is held in the small town of Gstaad beneath 4 large ski peaks in the pristine and traditional Swiss Alps!  It is most certainly a strange place for a beach volleyball event but Gstaad is a playground for the rich and actually hosts an ATP tennis tournament once the beach volleyball fans have cleared out.

Our qualification draw was a tough one so we went to bed Tuesday night focused on playing an error free game the following day.  I had recently had a few great conversations with older athletes and finished reading a wonderful book called "The laws of the spirit" by Dan Millman, so I was coming off an emotional high with confidence and positive energy aplenty! I had made some changes to my game after Worlds and was determined to come into this Grand Slam with my new found attention to skill execution and being aggressive and confident through thick and thin.  This seemed like a superb idea at the time, but as I would find out during my match, heavy aggression really didn't help keep me focused!!

We had a fabulous warm up as the sun broke through the stormy high altitude clouds.  We felt fresh and moved freely the clean and fluffy sand the Swiss us for their courts. We had never matched against our Czech opponents together, but as of late, they had been doing some serious damage on the European tour.  After a few hits and warm up serves, a whistle announced the start of our first of a possible two qualification matches.  Ahren and I prepared at the base line for a battle and quietly met our opponents at the net to shake hands.  I was nervous as single elimination brackets tend to make exciting fights to the death (or at least for free lodging!).  We started out with a few clean sideouts but shortly thereafter the first set drifted from our control as my excitement and keenness to plough balls 6 feet into the ground forced me to make unforced errors.  My heart was racing, I was short of breath and after the final point of the first set I realized I was trying too hard! I was forcing plays and celebrations while all I needed to do was let my athleticism flow uninhibited by emotions and expectations. 

With this new mindset on refocusing on deep breathing before and after every point, my attacking quickly became more effective and we soon found ourselves in the driver seat of a great second set.  With a switch at 21-21, we sided out and then applied a sneak play consisting of showing cross court to the aggressive hitter and then having me take it away by blocking sharp cross at the last second.  This play set up perfectly and a well orchestrated defensive strategy found me on the delivering end of a massive stuff block to end the second set! 

The third set started with an interesting play as there was contact between myself and the attacker when I landed from my block.  I landed on his foot and made an attempt to set the great dig Ahren made, but my ankle compressed on my opponents and I dropped to the sand in pain.  I lay there for a few seconds to assess the damage and luckily for me it wasn't a game ender. Luck would also have it that the referee thought it was the attackers fault so we received the first point due to interfering contact under the net.  Well the other team wasn't pleased in the least and filed a protest forcing a game stoppage.  After much debating with the head referee, we won the point and the game continued in our favor.  

The third set was a battle and one that saw us drawn at 14-14 after a splendid defensive play on our part.  We then went down 14-15 and faced a match point sideout play.  Our opponents had been aggressively serving our middle the whole match and the final point was no exception.  They sent a heavy spin serve perfectly between Ahren and I and with neither of us going for it, it landed on the outside of the line to end our match 14-16 to the bad guys.

What another tough loss to suffer, especially when facing single elimination.  We have since recovered mentally and have put more focus on making even less unforced errors but we are competing with excellent teams and just losing in the end.  The team we lost to wound up qualifying and are sitting with 1 win and 1 loss in their difficult pool.  

We are right there and our team's breakthrough is just around the corner!! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pulpit Stone Hike

It is important to keep focused on our ultimate sporting goal, but it is also crucial to stay light hearted and burden free as we compete each week. Here is an example of one of the ways we like to have fun and balance the yin and yang of our sporting travels!!


This past Saturday we committed to taking a break from Volley and we hiked a famous Norwegian Fjord with the most amazing view.  The ultimate goal of the hike is Pulpit stone which consists of a flat rock on the edge of a 604 meter vertical drop. That is right, a 1800 foot drop from the edge of a completely natural and pristine mountain! 


What a beautiful hike it was and full of lovely treats along the way! Ahren and I, along with an Australian ladies team and a Norwegian friend spent 4 hours indulging in Norway's abundance of natural landscapes.


We took a ferry across a body of water to a city called Tau.  From there hired a taxi to the bottom of the hike and began our ascent.  With a fit crew of 5, we set a quick pace with the odd competitive sprint along fun rock sections.  We looked at the climb like a bit of a fitness session so Becchara and I had a few competitions along the way! About 3/4 of the way up we came across a set of beautiful lakes which we eagerly jumped into! The water was a perfectly refreshing temperature and we spent ten minutes floating, splashing and snapping underwater pics.  Lazing on the rocks, we dined on some of Hilda's (our Norwegian friend) award winning banana bread and a few chocolates before crushing the summit with a final push. 


The last section of the trail propped us right under the pulpit stone with a near 600 meter unassuming vertical drop to our left!! It was such a shock to be so vulnerable on the side of a mountain that it took a few minutes before I was able to tickle the edge of the cliff! Once on top of the flat stone called Pulpit Rock, it was breathtaking.  Every minute brought new challenges as we pushed our personal limits; aspiring to hang our feet over the edge.  


Trusting those around us, we warmed to the reality of being feet from a lethal free fall and finally put our toes as far as humanly possible over the ledge.  We shared some nervous laughs and a few jokes but calmness didn't settle back in until we began the descent.  


It was one of the more surreal views I have ever seen as we came as close to a sky diving view as possible without dropping at terminal velocity. A worthy day out of the sand for sure as the light climb challenged us outside of sport, developed c with other athletes and brought attention to the bigger picture which is so easy to forget as we are consumed by refined goals and a focused lifestyle.


A wonderful breath of fresh air indeed. My step is that much lighter now and I challenge you to take time out of your busy schedule to conquer a mountain, a walk or a series of breaths in nature to ground you and allow you to take a step back and see the bigger picture.


All the best from Gstaad, Switzerland.




Monday, July 6, 2009

Competing at Worlds

A late drop in here on my blogg after taking a few days of beach volleyball to freshen the mind and rebuild confidence.  Since my last entry about our first game in the 2009 World Championships, we played two more games and unfortunately didn't make it out of pool play.

Our two last pool games were played against the second and third ranked teams in our pool.  The second ranked team was from Germany and players we have both had experience playing. In my opinion they were the best team in our pool and I knew we were going to have to battle hard to come out on top.  The first set didn't go our way as nerves and consequently a few errors allowed them to take the upper hand.  We refocused and came out fired up for the second set and beat them handily through precise defensive plays and a more consistent sideout rhythm.  The third set was truly a tight exchange of points which lasted until the early teens where they made a great play on us and then aced me down my line with a heavy top spin serve for the 15-12 win.  It was a super close game and in all honesty we felt we were in control of the last two sets of the match.  Amazing how a single swing of two points late in the game can really change the outcome!! A devastating loss which put even more pressure on our performance for the deciding match of our pool.  

The third game was against a Latvian team who are starting 2009 together after one of them split with his 2008 Olympic partner.  We are good friends since they have developed over the same timeframe as I have and I was happy with this ultimate match up.  As the whistle for the game blew, I felt very prepared and all my engines were firing.  My new partner Ahren Cadieux is a more introverted player who plays with a poker face so my energy levels were making up for his on court calmness.  Each set was a serious battle and after winning the first set, we eased up a bit in the second to let Latvia back in.  Victory was imminent and as the third set developed, we knew we had to bring our partnership tighter and squeeze out some big plays.  Unfortunately we were unable to clinch the victory as the final play saw the ball go over the net 8 times before they capitalized on a let spike which landed far in front of me cross court.  It was a heavy loss once again and one which sealed our fate as the last placed team in our pool through a third and final 15-12 loss! That is correct, we lost all three of our games in very tight matches ending in the same points.

With time to think about our losses and attempt at solving some of our problems, we realized we give away a few points in the middle of one of the sets.  This small gift of points allows our opponents to gain some momentum and even a lead.  We are now aware of this easing on the gas pedal mid set and are determined to not give any points away for free.  Aside from that small detail we are getting some great chances on transition which has given us some crucial point conversions to this date.  

With lessons learned and wounds licked we have moved to Switzerland for the Gstaad FIVB Grand Slam.  We are in the qualification tournament which is a single elimination bracket so the pressure is on us to win our matches and push on to the main draw event.  It is beautiful weather here and our training session today saw us more composed and stronger than ever.  

Wish us the best!!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Tough loss to China

I am updating after our first match of pool play here at the World Championships in Stavanger, Norway.  We had drawn a Chinese team who are the 7th seed in the tournament and played them on center court today at noon.  

Center court was an amazing atmosphere with about 1000 people attending and loads of Canadian flags out!! Such a pleasure to play in front of a few fellow country men as any support network helps.  It was a fantastic day with plenty of direct sun and a slight warm breeze making center court a little stuffy. 

Ahren and I had a great warm up and were feeling superb.  We were able to bring that positive energy to the court and won the first set 23-21, fending off a game point advantage for the Chinese.  We battled hard and were paid off for our patience and tough serving. The second set was also a tight one and had us leading 12-9 at the technical timeout.  We were making great points from their left side player who is a more juvenile athlete in the Chinese program but we just couldn't build on the lead.  The second set finished at 28-26 for China even though we had 3 match point attempts with us serving.  They made some great blocking plays and I wound up getting aced on my line to put them back in the game for the last push.  

The third set saw us go down 4-1 on the first switch but we brought it back to what felt like a tight 11-9 score for China.  We had a few points to tie it but we just couldn't convert and wound up switching 14-11.  We brought it to 14-12 but unfortunately couldn't hold them off long enough to tie it.

Overall it was a great game for us and we proved to ourselves that we are able to compete with the top ranked teams in the world.  We displayed our grit and determination late in sets which isn't usually present in new teams so we are excited to build on this promising duo. Please check out the tournament photos where you can find some great actions shots of us!

Our next opponents will be Germany on Sunday at 11 Norwegian time so we will have plenty of rest and refocus time before we hear another whistle.  

All the best from Stavanger!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Start of the World Championships in Stavanger, Norway

My new partner Ahren Cadieux and I landed in Stavanger, Norway Tuesday evening after a fairly lengthy travel day from Toronto. We unfortunately missed a connection in Frankfurt due to complications so we spent a little more time in the airport lounges than anticipated. We are pleased to report we landed safely and to a lovely surprise! After preparing ourselves mentally for terrible weather, we landed in Stavanger at 8 at night to 22 degree blue skies!! It has been fabulous since our arrival and this fantastic weather is supposed to continue for a while!!

The amenities here are second to none and we were taken care of the second we got off the plane. We were then taken by our personal athlete shuttle to a friend's house we were invited to stay at prior to the event.  It is always amazing to have support from Canadians abroad and Norway is definitely special.  There are many expats as well as Canadian related workers in the oil business who are pleased to have us as guests and help us out wherever they can. Thus far we have been wined and dined by various families which helps considering this is the most expensive spot on the FIVB tour! 

We have trained twice thus far, once with Brazilian and French teams and the second with the top Brazilian team who are ranked #1 at these World Championships!! A great team for sure who challenged us in all aspects of the game.  The definitely helped us prepare for our first match tomorrow which will be on center court at 12 against a Chinese team.  The schedule here in Norway is starts with pool play for 6 days and then moves to a single elimination 32 team championship draw.  We are the first game on center court tomorrow and will play one match Sunday as well as Tuesday making it perfect for relaxing and scouting!  I am really looking forward to giving everything I have during the games and making a move forward at this crucial time in my career.  

For those who care to watch our match, you can do so on www.bwin.com and search for Beach Volleyball. They should be televising our midday match tomorrow which will be about 3 in the morning for all you keeners or late nighters in British Columbia!  Our Sunday match will be 11 AM Norwegian time (2 in the morning in BC) and our Tuesday Game will be at 5 PM making it 10 in the morning Tuesday. The World Championship website is http://www.vmstavanger.com
if you care to look at photos and results.

Until the next post!!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

World Championships here we come!!

It has been a fantastic two weeks here in Toronto training with my new partner Ahren Cadieux.  We have adapted very nicely to our respective playing styles and I am truly confident we are a threat at the World Championships. 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of competing in an Ontario Volleyball tournament with Christian Redmand while Ahren was at a funeral. Christian and I matured over the single day event and took the finals 21-17, 21-17 against a solid Ontario veteran team. I had a lot of fun switch blocking with Christian and I really impressed myself with defensive touches! In total we played 6 games over the Saturday and I was wrecked by the end of it.  Not since Highschool have I played that many matches in one day.  Thank goodness for my good friend Glenn who is a Muscle Activation Therapy specialist and he had put me in the physical condition to last the full day and not be crippled the following day!!

My body is feeling fantastic and after todays bump and spike against National Champions Matt and Josh, I believe we are as prepared we will ever be.  

Our flight is Monday at 5:30 so regular road posts can be expected now that we will be on tour!! The 10 day World Championships will be a highlight in my career and I am looking forward to executing my skills after months of focused preparation.



Tuesday, June 9, 2009


After a light day of full travel I have arrived safely in Toronto and my new beach partner Ahren Cadieux was at the airport to pick me up.  Unfortunately Air Canada has recently replaced the backings in theirs seats to a non-adjustable head rest which conveniently sticks into the middle of my shoulder blades.  Needless to say, my posture on the entire trip was poor and consequently my lower back has tightened up.  

To resolve my back issue, we immediately went to the beach to get warm, move around a bit and play some ball.  It always amazes me when I land at Ash Bridges Bay in Toronto because there are over 100 courts set up every night for league play.  With 4 or 6 people per side, you can imagine how many people are down there!!  It is a great vibe and it staggers me how the popularity of our sport hasn't influenced a pro league across our great nation. It was great to show up and see some familiar faces and friends who are highly involved with the development and promotion of the sport.  Mark Riley and Brian Hiebert who I have played with and against are still heavily involved in beach and it was great to see them both running training sessions for numerous male and female youth teams.  The level was high and I am excited to say that there are some great looking athletes coming through Ontario.  Lets just hope BC has what it takes to compete with their bitter cross country rivals!!

Ahren and I jumped in with a few kids he had coached this year in club and it was an easy transition to play with him.  We will be working out our team play over the next few weeks but I am confident everything will fall into place by the end of this week.  During the training I was also invited to play in a beach tournament happening this weekend with Christian Redman, a solid friend and beach athlete! I agreed to play so I can look forward to playing in a top Ontario series this Saturday as Ahren will be attending a funeral all weekend.

Ahren and I finished the training and chilled on the beach for a while discussing the west coast and how amazing it is.  His mother lives in Victoria and he frequents the Island for holidays so we were able to share some thoughts on the best place to live on the planet.  From there we hit an all you can eat Eastern Buffet in the Beaches area and discusses past partners, mistakes and our commitment to the sport.  I wasn't sure what my role was going to be or how the vibe would be between us but I am pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to connect with him and communicate about our mental stances, playing styles, dreams and equality on the court.  I am really looking forward to the partnership and the next 6 weeks of competition!

Cheers from Toronto

Monday, June 8, 2009

Partner switch and change of plans

Life has taken a serious change and I have completely changed my training and travel plans.  I have been training in California for the last two weeks with Ray Sewell as we had planned on playing in the World Championships and Grand Slam events together in 2009.  Unfortunately we didn't qualify for the World Championships but the top ranked player in Canada (in terms of international points) called me and asked if I wanted to play in those events.  I had made a clear goal for myself before the 2008 season started and it was to play in the World Championships and proceeding four Grand Slam events due to their great importance for gaining points and also heavier cash purses.  It looked like I wasn't going to qualify for the main draw with Ray and I couldn't pass up on this golden opportunity to get into the main draws with another top athlete in Canada.

So I was living and training with Ray in California and all that has now changed.  I left California to return home and pack for the new plan of training with Ahren Cadieux in Ash Bridges Bay, Toronto for two weeks leading up to the World Championships.  I have had 2 days to pack at home and sort my life out and I am really looking forward to turning it up a notch in Toronto as the new Team Canada coach will be helping us.  

I must go and finish packing, so many things to cram into my suitcase!!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kits Beach and Cali

Been a while since my last post and I apologize for not being consistent.  I have been at home in the Comox Valley since we left China three weeks ago and it has been a pretty mellow time. I was really excited to have some rest in my own bed as well as feasting on my mother's home cooking.  As usual, it was all I expected it to be! 

I also was able to do some unreal cross training with my local trainer name Marc St.Joules (www.stabilizertraining.com) at his Athletes United (www.athletesunited.tv) training headquarters. He runs a series of sport specific high performance training camps and I was able to get into some great training with excellent hockey players.  I created a few videos of training which are featured on our facebook group (reader/sewell beach volleyball) or on Youtube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oQTPNbfbh0&feature=channel_page.  My fitness and conditioning elevated in just two weeks and my explosiveness through weighted sprinting drills improved.  I was also doing mixed martial arts cross training at the Comox Valley Boxing club and really enjoyed the fighting focus and mentality.  There were many points in fighting I was able to apply to my beach volleyball game and I look forward to digging deeper into fight training and its mental practice to improve my overall athleticism in the future.  

I left the Island to start my 3 week training camp in California but managed a stopover in Vancouver to play a weekend tournament on Kits beach.  It had been a while since I played at Kits and just as long since my family had seen me play.  My mother and sister came over to Vancouver to support and as per usual, we had about 15 other family members there to watch and cheer on.  Ray and I won our pool play and then won our round of 16 game against a solid western Canadian team to move to the quarter finals Sunday morning.  It had been a while since we both played ball and the 4 games on Saturday destroyed us! I took a 9 hour coma Saturday evening and returned to Kits beach the following morning sore but well rested.  We played quite well in our quarter final match and moved onto the Semi finals against Anton Hauser and Ryan Cawsey who have been in the beach circle for years.  We won the first set 21-19 but lost the next two sets.  I was really disappointed with the loss but realized that with just under 3 weeks without playing any ball, we were far more rusty and out of touch than I thought we would be.  Amazing it only takes a week or two for highly learned skills to slip away, even after training in Brazil for 3 months! 

I am now in California to train for 3 weeks and will be taking a few days off due to a really sore lower back.  The plane ride here was the most painful ride I have ever had in the air and it is has seized quite fiercely. I hope the daily California Bikram yoga will help!! 

Until the next post,


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Great games but unfortunate result

After the rankings for the Brazilia FIVB open, we would up drawing the only other Canadian team in the tournament.  This is always a tough game to get excited for as playing fellow country men in a single elimination round outside your country leaves one team on a bitter vacation without volleyball. Ray and I kept solid attitudes and were able to stay calm and execute in this first round match.  We played extremely well, making few errors and created many defensive scoring opportunities.  The winner of our match drew Venezuela who are one of the most athletic teams on tour and by far the most aggressive offensively.

Venezuela's second team consists of two jumpers who elevate more than 38 inches out of the sand.  Their game is all power and little finesse and our game plan was for me to be an aggressive blocker and challenge them to shoot around me.  Ray and I made many great transition plays but we wound up losing two VERY close sets.  We played the best we have ever played and we couldn't be more pleased with the application of recent adjustments to our defensive strategies.  Ray played two fabulous defensive games but unfortunately the second was a loss. We made 5 errors in 2 sets and Venezuela made 1 error with quite a few lucky digs, lets and line touches.  We are pleased with our aggressiveness and look forward to our main draw start in China next week.

Ray will be heading back to Toronto early to attend to a sore knee and I will be staying here as I would like to scout the new teams on tour this year.  It will be a very even one as many freshly formed teams will be battling close games with each other, and the consistent top ranked teams.  

I will sign off for now as it is late but I hope to upload highlight vids of our games today shortly.

Good night from Brazilia! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Brazilia

Ray, our coach Xendaco and myself have landed in Brazilia after our final training week in Rio de Janeiro.  We are here for the opening FIVB tournament of the 2009 World Tour season and we couldn't be more excited to play! As it turns out, it is Brazilia's 50th birthday today and the tournament is being held downtown where a projected 1.5 Million people will view the event and various free concerts in the downtown plaza!!  It was absolutely packed when we trained this morning and as we walked from the park to our hotel, we crossed a parade with more than 2000 cowboys riding their steeds.  Unfortunately with so many attractions downtown the danger of being robbed is much higher.  The stats for Brazilia's crimes rates are the worst in Brazil, and with free transit all day, all of the poorer surrounding areas will be entering the city to have some fun and potentially poach bags, purses and jewelry.  Locals have advised us to stay in our hotel and let the storm pass, so we will take their advice, stay inside and prepare mentally for our qualification tournament tomorrow!!!

Ray and I currently have quite a good ranking so we will most likely sit between 3rd and 6th in the qualification tournament.  This is a good position to be in as we play an inferior team ranked between 11th and 14th.  On a far more exciting note, Ray and I have earned ourselves a direct spot into the main draw for China, our next event! It is our first time not having to think about the single elimination qualification tournament so we are pleased to be able to travel all the way to Shanghai with peace of mind.

After a lovely afternoon rest with my feet up, I will return to the event site to watch the Brazilian country quota matches.  We will have our qualification meeting this evening where we will find out at what time and against who will have to play to enter the main draw Thursday.  It looks like we will have to win two games so it is crucial for us to rest well this evening and follow up our magnificent few days of training with patience and power.  

I will update this evening when we receive the draw!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stepping stones against Estonia and our newest video link

Greetings from the humidity of Rio this clear evening.  The big swell is calming now but the mist from crashing waves and the offshore breeze still blows and freshens the lungs.  It was a beautiful walk on the boardwalk after the gym today and I feel blessed to be in the situation I am in.  I spoke to my lovely sister today after she completed her final exam of her collegiate life and she too is in a wonderful position!!! 

We played a few training games against Estonia yesterday afternoon and proved to ourselves that we have the capability of matching top ranked international teams. The Estonias are a veteran team and bring a lot of poise and confidence to the table; something we haven't confirmed in ourselves yet.  We played three matches and came out on the bottom of all of them in terms of score but drew some valuable experiences.  As our coach Xendaco has explained to us many times, we shouldn't look on the other side of the net for a winning solution; the answers lie with us.  With so much time training, we haven't accepted our improvements and ability to win games we couldn't in 2008.  Each match we had a two or three point lead around 14 but gave the game away with silly amateur errors caused by anxiousness. Throughout the rest of this week we will concentrate on keeping calm during tense times and on executing the skills we have been programed to perform flawlessly!

It is officially a week out from our first tournament in Brazilia, Brazil and we couldn't be more excited.  The main draw/qualification list isn't out yet so we aren't sure where we are in the standings but we are hoping enough teams pull out for us to have a direct spot into the main draw! 

We will be playing another game against the Estonians tomorrow, a game against a Brazilian team Thursday and are hoping to get in with the Ces brothers from France before the weekend and our departure for the event!

Here is our most recent video production with footage from our training game against Germany last Friday.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Awra4Lzeogs

Enjoy and cheers from Brazil!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pre season WINS!!

It is a Saturday morning here in Rio de Janeiro and the sun was out early.  We just got back from a little road trip to Barra beach where we were supposed to play a special edition www.volleyhouse.com.br tournament for international guests.  It was a fantastic turnout with teams from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Enlgand, Estonia, another Canadian team and a few Brazilians but unfortunately, we decided to abandon ship once we got due to federation rules. The FIVB has strict regulations concerning International players playing on domestic circuits and we felt that a 1 year suspension wasn't worth receiving for a fun Saturday of strong play. As it turned out, a massive swell came through today and apparently halfway through the event, a series of waves washed out the courts up to the road and soaked everybody! I can't imagine this because the courts are literally 100 meters from the waterline so the waves must have been immense! The organizers weren't able to salvage the damaged courts so the event ended abruptly with a super soaker!

We had a FANTASTIC week of game play training with top Norwegian and German teams.  We had two play days on our court where we all played each other and as Ray and I played more games, our confidence and team play sky rocketed.  We are pleased to say that we beat the Germans 3-1 and have a 2-2 set record with the Norwegians. It was also a nice touch to have the Olympic Estonian team come to us and ask to train.  The better english speaker was quite complimentary and it pleases Ray and I greatly to have teams we deeply respect come and organize sessions with us.  Our countless painful hours in the sand have paid off and I firmly believe it will be a breakout year.  I will hopefully have some new videos loaded in the near future but my computer is so full of songs, photos and videos that I don't have any space to load new footage! I will try to free up my hard disk and prepare a solid highlight clip of this week.

On Friday when we arrived at the beach, it was PACKED with international teams.  It has always been clear to me that this is the best place to train in the world and yesterday proved it to be true.  There are about 12 top international teams for men here and about the same for women.  Annie Martin and Marie Andre Lassard landed yesterday so we look forward to spending some time with some fellow Canadians and show them the hot spots here in our block of Ipanema!  

I am going to hop back into bed for a refreshing nap and then head to a BBQ hosted at a local hostel owned by someone in the v-ball crowd. I wish everybody a lovely holiday weekend and I will be posting early next week with results of our busy game schedule,

Tchau from Rio,


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Unfortunate Sickness

Sadly I must report that Ray has fallen ill over the last few days and we had to pull the pin on our trip to Sao Paulo where we planned to play a Brazilian National tour event. Ray picked up a sickness on Monday after our game in the rain and has been suffering from a sore throat, raging headaches and has been taking more naps than a new born.

The game we played on Monday was a fantastic one and we are excited about the progressions we are making every set we play together.  As I mentioned in the last post, we met against Guto and Oscar who are a top 10 Brazilian team.  They are both 6'6 six, solid athletes who tear on their jump serves. The Brazilian tour ball is smaller, heavier and bouncier so the locals crush their serves and spikes harder than in the international leagues making it more challenging for us to play with a new ball.  Ray and I lost the first set, won the second, lost the third and in a super close fourth, lost in overtime.  Regardless of the final more heated loss, we were pleased with our aggressive service and sideout play. Our coach has been focusing on improving our confidence and our new and elevated posture won us a few intense rallies and pushed us closer to the team we are capable of being.

With Ray quazi bed ridden since Tuesday morning, we were unable to play against the top swiss team and had to deal with the complications of being removed from an international tournament roster.  To add to the complexity, our coach had given the local government the thumbs up to go into the area close to our court to resolve some profound sewage problems in the sand.  This means our court is currently half dug up by a massive excavator.  The court should be fixed by Monday, but in the mean time I am peaking with my weight lifting program and running the most intense sand intervals of my life.  With two months of periodized strength and power conditioning, I am the leanest and quickest I have ever been and I feel my playing style is far more explosive.  The time it takes for me to recover from high intensity exercises is impressively shorter than when I started, so long rallies and running up to the net to block every game is a far more simple task.  The more games we play, the easier it is for us to make points and cohere on our quicker more varied offense.  Come April 20th in Brazilia, we will be a very forceful team.

Lastly, I am pleased to share that after speaking with Lululemon's team apparel program, w will now be sporting a full array of Lulu gear. I have also been working with Adil Amlani (my trusted designer for everything) and we have come up with logo's for our team apparel.  We just printed a test pair of game shorts here in Brazil and the outcome is incredible.  We will be committing to printing our entire game and training wardrobe shortly and then will be working with a professional photographer next week for team shots. I will post the photos as quickly as possible!!

Thanks for all the support!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time for Action

It has been quite sometime since my last entry and I would like to apologize. After the clutter of Carnaval, our stay has been very monotonous and has consisted solely of beach and gym training. I can honestly say this has been the most serious trip of my life and our focused efforts are yielding excellent results. We have sacrificed many nights with friendlies for all you can eat buffets and 8 hour sleeps. Now we will be toning down our repetitions and moving into game situations.  We have two games lined up next week in preparation for our upcoming Brazilian National Tour event in Sao Paulo. Our training games will be against a top ranked Brazilian team and the other against the top Suisse team ranked 19th in the World. I will post thoughts and hopefully a highlight video for each game this coming week and will throw up reports of our progress in the Brazilian event. 

My mother found a favorite quote of mine and I would like to share it with you.

"You must dream no other dream. You must come to love the taste of pain, the wounding defeats that force you forward.  You must learn from others, but work alone, driving for the goals that only you can set.  You must do it all knowing that glory may alude you - that the dream itself has to be enough.”

I unfortunately don’t know the author of the quote but it sums up my sentiments towards striving to achieve your best.  It reminds me of the importance dreams play in motivation and to constantly push myself past my comfort zones. It also reminds me that it is how one deals with and recovers from failure that determines the champion, not the actual loss itself.

This week was super heavy and we are bashed from countless hours of tough work. We will be getting massage treatments all weekend to recover for our important Brazilian event next week. We are super excited to get into tournament play since we haven’t played in a serious game for a long time!

I am going to sign off and get some treatment from our therapist before we all head out to Pedro Solberg’s 23rd birthday party.  His family cook will be preparing a classic Brazilian meal called a “Fejoida” which is a combination of stewed meat in beans, rice and a brazilian side dish called “Faroffa” which is a flower textured filler with spices, garlic and the odd banana!

All the best from the heat of Rio and I look forward to updating you with details of tournaments and game play 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It couldn't be hotter

Since the arrival of my beach volleyball partner Ray Sewell and our physiotherapist Eric Rispens, everything in Rio has been going superbly aside from the crippling heat.  We have set up camp in our wonderful apartment just off Ipanema beach and have a full time physiotherapy clinic for ourselves as well as for other full time international beach volleyball athletes training in Rio.  With the level of activity and training that we are going through, daily massage and athletic therapy is necessary to stay healthy and strong.

There is so much happening here in Rio as emotions and events culminate for the epicenter of Brazilian culture "Carnaval" which will start next weekend.  It is a massive festival of indulgence as Brazilians prepare for 40 days of lent. The festival takes over the entire city with Samba music and street parties and the festivals epicenter revolves around an enormous Samba stadium where Rio de Janeiro Samba schools parade and compete against each other for a massively important performance title. This entire event takes over the lives of all locals and overflows onto the beaches during the day; not allowing us to train for just under a week.  Luckily for us it won't be too hard to find activities to do while we break from our intense training regime!

Another event which happens here in Rio is the "King of the Beach" which involves the top 8 players on the Brazilian Banko Tour in a large televised championship on Ipanema beach. It was a pleasure to spectate the 14th annual edition of this event and watch current beach volleyball legends battle it out in 35 degrees.  My very close friend, World Tour point champion and Ipanema born and raised local, Pedro Solberg Selgado won the king title over his new and current partner Pedro Cunha.  Both were the youngest to compete in the event and demonstrated the athleticism of the new generation of athletes filtering into the sport.  It was a superb event and truly demonstrated the significance of the beach lifestyle in Rio de Janeiro.  It would be such a treat to have a beach volleyball following of that magnitude in Canada. Having the fan base and corporate interest would expose the truth of it being the most exciting summer sport! 

Ray and I will be playing the top Dutch team training in Rio tomorrow morning and I hope to post a highlight video of that game by this weekend. I have also posted a few other highlight videos of our 2008 season games and will post those links soon.

Sending the excess warmth of the southern hemisphere north to Canada where I hear it is a tad bit chilly.


Monday, February 2, 2009

Hard Work!

My second incredible week has passed here in Rio and I am well rested for this coming week of hard work both on and off the sand. Last week was high paced and exhausting as we pushed my fitness as far as it could go.  This season I brought with me a Polar hear rate monitor to learn more about my body and make my training more scientific and precise to my needs. It was a humbling week as I thought I was far fitter than I actually was but served as an excellent lesson, indicating I am poor at quantifying my physical output during activity.  
In this week's sand training we trained between 70-90 percent of my hear rate maximum for 1 1/2 hour sessions. With a constant monitor on my heart rate, we are able to set more precise training tempos and recovery/resting times set specifically to my body's needs. It is also early in the pre-season so I am not jumping to allow for beach leg development and keep my injury risks to a minimum. Over 6 sessions I performed over 1200 hand sets, 600 bump sets, 800 transition sets, 800 blocks, 400 block peel digs, 1000 digs cross court and line and passed close to 1500 balls.  My coach is very regimented so we perform each task separately as to improve on the finest details and not complicate drills.  
Beach Volleyball is a game of errors and the more I train here in Brazil, the fewer errors I make. When I first got here 3 years ago I thought my skills were perfect.  I then was put into a setting drill and found out that 1 out of every 3 sets didn't go to the perfect spot.  Now with hundreds of thousands of isolated repetitions, I am setting 9 for 10 for both bump setting and hand setting.  The biggest difference from 3 years ago until now is the preparation and body base prior to executing the skill.  Making sure the proper foot is forward with a deep and balanced base while facing your target and being there on time are all steps which play their part in the end result and proper execution. If I can give any advice, it is to concentrate on the small, basic movements of a skill to secure the foundation and decrease the chance of error.
Aside from sand skills training, I went to the gym 6 times (1 1/2 hours per) throughout the week and did 3 afternoon running interval sessions.  Each interval session consists of 12 repetitions of 1 minute running and 1 minute of rest. We are building my fitness so my cadence is set to 165-180 beats per minute during the running.  As my fitness progresses, we will increase the cadence and then drop the rest and running times to an optimal 30 second sprint at 90% of my maximum with 30 seconds of rest which will target my anaerobic energy systems since most of volleyball is played in 6-15 second bursts.  
To keep my shoulder strong I am using a program call "The Buchbeger 12" which is a specific non surgery rehabilitation program for overhead athletes (it was created for MLB baseball pitchers).  A leading researcher and scholar in athletic shoulder therapy developed a 12 exercise program involving the rotation of 6 exercises per day.  It is a miracle program and I have not suffered from shoulder pain since I implemented it into my training. You can check his site out at www.rotatorcuff.net.
Well my partner lands tomorrow along with our physiotherapist!! I am very excited at the thought of training with a partner and improving together. So far everything has gone to plan and the World Championships are closer than ever.
I am going to go for a nap now and regain some energy for this afternoons interval and court movement training.  Have a fabulous week and I will check back in shortly!!