Athletes Abroad: students participate in tournaments and tourism
March 8, 2018
Pursuit of athletic passions leads these Spartans out of the country.
[In Print] These stories are reprinted from The Rubicon print edition: Mar 6, 2018.
Walker gains worldly perspective on European volleyball journey
A chance to travel the world—that’s not what sophomore Arie Walker was expecting when she joined club volleyball in seventh grade at the encouragement of her mother and middle school coaches.
Walker started playing recreational volleyball at eight years old. As she entered middle school at SPA, her mother urged her to become more serious about her sports career and pointed her towards tennis.
Instead, Walker intensified her love for volleyball. When her seventh grade coaches recommended club volleyball, she joined Northern Lights Volleyball, a Minnesota traveling volleyball team. Since then, Walker’s tournaments have brought her to states all over the country. The trip that stood out to her the most, however, was the world trip her team embarked on in January that took her to Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. Walker didn’t know about the trip until her “fifteens year,” and she learned that to go on the trip, she had to be on a “one” or “two” team; at the moment, she was on the “three” team.
“This year I worked really hard in high school season to accomplish that goal, and I ended up making a twos team,” Walker said. “That was super cool, and now I get to tell everyone that I went on that trip.”
Over the entirety of the trip, Walker and her teammates met volleyball players from all over the world, including from Belgium, Germany, and Holland. While the trip consisted of a long and intense volleyball tournament, the focus was on the experience of learning about different cultures.
“The focus on the trip was definitely more about learning and experiencing something that’s not part of the United States. It was amazing to see how other people interact… how, culturally, what people do is different than in the U.S,” Walker said.
Walker’s team had time to explore Amsterdam and the different cities that they traveled to, and the different teams had time to meet in a lunchroom and get to know each other through asking questions.
“Do you have snapchat? That’s a big one that everyone asked. What do you like to do, what’s the driving age, all kinds of stuff,” Walker said.
The only downside to the trip was the physical exhaustion of the tournament.
“The last country we went to was Austria, and it was tough because we were all kind of homesick, and a lot of people were just irritated and kind of complaining, and I felt like that was ruining the experience. That tournament was hard too…. Our level of energy and trying to compete with such a high level of competitors was kind of tough,” Walker said.
The trip inspired Walker to think differently about the way she lives her life. Walker was especially interested in the language differences between her and her teammates, and the different players from across the globe.
Submitted Photo: Tessah Green
Green hones soccer skills and gains cultural insights in Sweden
“I’ve never been out of this country before, which was super cool to experience and just to see how the way people do things is different… Seeing someone speaking a completely different language but at the same time knowing and understanding everything they’re saying is super cool. I like the way language is built,” Walker said.
Junior Tessah Green started playing soccer for the Saint Paul Blackhawks at nine years old. While she has been traveling to different states across the country for years, she had been anticipating her two-week trip to Sweden with her team ever since that young age.
“Every year the U16s go on the trip, so you hear stories from other teams and that gets you really excited to go,” Green said.
When her time finally came, Green and her team traveled to Sweden to play in the Gothia Cup, stayed with host families in Denmark, and had a layover in Iceland.
“We all didn’t go with our parents [to Sweden], and we got to see people from all over the world, so that was cool. We won one game because we weren’t really thinking about playing soccer in Sweden…. For a lot of us, that was our first time going out of the country, so that was really fun,” Green said.
While for some teams the Cup is an intense competition, for Green’s team, the trip was more about the adventure than playing soccer.
“There’s been other teams that had a better chance of winning, but my team, we didn’t think we were going to win. It was still fun playing against different countries, but I would say [the focus of the trip] was mostly on new experiences,” Green said.
Some of the highlights of the trip for Green were seeing the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and staying with host families in Denmark. Four of the girls from the families that the teammates stayed with traveled with Green’s team to Sweden, where they played on the Blackhawk’s C2 team. Green found it interesting to see how other teams practiced.
“We practiced with the Denmark girls, so that was fun seeing how different teams trained,” Green said.
The trip was a valuable bonding experience for Green’s team as well, and the girls found it difficult to say goodbye to Europe.
“We all became a lot closer after the trip. [The hardest part of the trip was] not wanting to go home,” Green said.