June 13, 2007
by Head Coach Bond Shymansky – We have been back in sunny Atlanta for a week, but my mind’s eye still envisions the amazing sights of Europe. Most people will never get the chance to visit such wonderous places as Neushwanstein Castle, the Olympic grounds of Munich, the Berliner Dom or the coast of the North Sea. We were all given this tremendous opportunity through the game of volleyball and with the support of our athletic department administration. Our entire staff, and every member of the team, was privy to an experience that will last a life time in our minds. The team bonding and friendship building were two of our goals for the trip. But I did not know just how great, and how deep, those experiences would be.
We were challenged as a volleyball team every day in practice and competition. The level was varying from team to team, and the style of play was different from the U.S. Our team learned a new way of looking at the game, thinking about the game, and training for the game. By the end of the trip, many of our new found talents and newly acquired skills were demonstrated in two great days of competition versus the German Youth National team and a Division 1 team from Berlin. I was impressed by our ability to adapt to the culture of the game while we were in Europe. We had several young players show improvement that will certainly help our competitiveness for the fall. We also had several older players step up to the new challenges of playing an international style. It was great to watch Ulli play in her home country in front of friends and family. She had an intensity and passion that was rarely matched.
In addition to the playing experience, we also utilized every free moment in our itinerary to explore what the various destinations had to offer. We walked the bank of the Main River in Frankfurt the day that we arrived with the intention to get some fresh air and get our legs moving. I did not expect it to be so beautiful. We spent several days in Heidelberg and walked the narrow streets of the old town, exploring the small shops and local culture. All the while, the fortified castle of the town loomed high up on the mountanside. It had been the guardian of the river town for nearly one thousand years. Our experiences in Munich included walking in the Enlgischer Garten, visiting the Olympic grounds of 1972, spending lots of Euros in the shopping district and an amazing day trip two hours from the city to see the castle that inspired Disney’s creation. Our trip to Salzburg, Austria was magical. Gazing over the city from the hill-top perch made us ask the question “Is this real”? It looked like a model of a fabeled far-away land. Prague brought new sights and sounds. The hustle and bustle of the city surrounding the ancient town by the river made for a unique blend. Prague is a city emerging from Eastern Europe and capitalizing on the Western cutlure and feel. I turst they will not abandon their roots and preserve the amazing buildings, churches and bridges that have survived for eight centuries. Chemnitz , Germany proved to be a pleasant surprise on the trip. It felt much like a college town in the U.S. It was quaint and friendly. We ate dinner at an outdoor cafe overlooking a lake and finally had a chance to catch our breath. Berlin was our next destination and holds so much fascinating history and architecture. Four days was simply not enough to see what Berlin has to offer. The newly-built train station was an impressive feat of construction. Many of the buildings in the East German city center were a complex synthesis of old and new architecture. We ventured outside of the city to an area called Potsdam. It was the original royal residence of the Prussian Royal Family. Several different castles and estates all adjoined over a sprawling 4 square mile area. The decadence and decorum must have been amazing in it’s day. The final stop on our trip was Ulli’s hometown of Greifswald. A small fishing village, it had the charm of a New England port, without the tourism or inflated sense of importance. The draw bridge that spanned the small channel leading to the sea was manually retracted on the hour every hour. Cottages with thatched roofs and window flower boxes dotted the landscape near the coast. The cobblestone under your feet and the simplicity of life in Greifswald made me think of times long past. I now have a much greater appreciation for what Ulli gave up to be a part of our team, and how difficult it must have been to adapt to our way of life here in fast-paced America.
It is clear to me now how many distinct and valuable ways our team will benefit in future seasons from the experiences we had in Europe this summer. We will always remember the brilliance and civility that engulfed us all for those two weeks of our lives.