“So, what’s next?”
An unavoidable question for college seniors. It’s not just a good holiday small talk conversation starter, but a deep question many are struggling with on a personal level.
Two years ago, I wrapped up my senior volleyball season and knew I wanted to keep playing yet that question still lingered in my head.
How do I go about playing overseas? Who do I talk to? Is there a recruiting process? When does the season start?
This is just a small list of the questions that ran through my head. With this post I’d like to help answer some of these questions along with some contacts of others who have studied, played, and lived overseas. My hope is to give you the resources you need to move forward and make the most of your future volleyball experiences.
The first thing I did was call my role models, people who had done before me what I wanted to do. My first two phone calls were with Alyssa D’Errico, former Penn State Volleyball Libero and current associate head coach at Dayton University, and Kristin (Carpenter) Steadman, former Penn State Volleyball player and current assistant coach at the University of Maryland. I looked up to these ladies as they played at PSU and coached me through middle school and high school. It was watching them pursue playing overseas that made me want to try it as well. They informed me of several volleyball agencies to look into, what things they made priority in their decision making process, and gave me a glimpse into the day to day life I’d be getting myself into.
Moving forward I made a list of priorities and/or questions to answer that would help me in my decision making process year to year, season to season.
Here they are (in no particular order):
- Am I still passionate about volleyball? Am I still in love with the game? Does it bring me joy?
- Is my body holding up?
- My relationship status
- The health and wellness of my friends and family
- Job openings or opportunities waiting for me in the States (or anywhere really ;))
Before you do anything else, GET FILM! Have 2-3 of your best matches on hand along with a highlight video.
Take some time to check out these “Pro-Volley 101” videos, they do a great job helping you understand the process, what questions to ask, how to move forward, and help uncover if pro-volley is right for you!
The next step was to research and choose an agency. There are several different agencies and it is important to find one that fits you, your goals, and ultimately will help you get what you are looking for out of this experience. As you research, be proactive! Make sure you reach out and have some conversations. Building relations is important. Even if they might not be the agency you ultimately sign with its good networking and you don’t want to burn any bridges!
Personally, I work with EliteVolley. They have been so helpful with more than just finding my team and solidifying my contract. I have a huge group of cheerleaders, connections, encouragement, and now lifelong friends from the intentional culture of respect and support they create for their athletes.
For me, the next step was to get more film and stream some live matches. I found a team and played in the USA Volleyball Open Championship where I was able to live stream my matches on my YouTube channel via my ProVolley Facebook page. This tournament runs every Memorial Day weekend and was so much fun. I would highly suggest finding a team and playing in it whether you need film or not! Another great networking event 🙂
Once you’ve gotten this far one of the hardest parts of this experience is upon you… it’s called “wait and see.” There is a large window of time that teams sign players and nothing is guaranteed. The signing period with teams is anywhere from April through once seasons have already started in October! It’s a lot of “hurry up and wait!” The most important thing you can do during this time is work out and play as much volleyball as you can.
I was fortunate enough to sign my first contract at the end of July and be with my team from the beginning of the season and I was able to resign with the team at the end of the season. Most contracts are for one season and the turnover rates are fairly high, lots of teams look for new players each year.
For a more detailed & agent minded outline, check out this article “The Pro-Player Timeline” from Agent Swags – Christy Swagerty is a rock star in all she does. She’s not only my volleyball agent but my Bible study leader, travel agent, and friend!
One of the coolest things I’ve been able to be a part of while playing overseas is a Bible Study with other American’s pursuing their love of volleyball in Europe! Through my agency, the Finnish volleyball league, and social media I have been blessed with a crazy lady in my life – Sarah Blomgren! She introduced me to the Bible study group and has been a great sister, encourager, as we both are learning the ins and outs of living and playing abroad.
Before starting her professional career, Sarah got her Master’s degree while playing in England!
Here’s what she had to say about the amazing opportunity that was:
So I played volleyball in England after I graduated from University of South Carolina in 2016. I went through a service called TeamGleas, which helps place both men and women who have completed their NCAA eligibility continue to play while getting a Master’s degree. I went to Northumbria University in Newcastle, ENG and got my Master’s in Clinical Exercise Physiology. My Master’s program was just one year, but there are other programs that can last up to 3 years if that is your preference. Most other girls on my team did a 1 yr marketing or sports management Masters degree.
There are a few things I mention to people who reach out to me about the particular experience of playing and studying overseas. I always mention TeamGleas, because they helped so much with the process on choosing a school, communicating with the coach of the University as well as the financial details and student visa process. Another thing I mention is that the level of play in England is not like NCAA D1. If you are used to gear “Christmas” every season, forget it once you come to ENG or honestly many other professional teams across Europe. If you are used to heat packs and ultrasound and stim before and after practice, prepare yourself to possibly never experience those luxuries again haha. Lack of resources and unmet expectations around all the amenities we are used to in college are probably the biggest issues that athletes have when they first transition to playing overseas. So im here to say, although its an incredible experience for so many other reasons, you have to prepare yourself for some let downs, especially in that department mentioned above.
On a bright note, (depending on what school you go to), school actually does come first to volleyball. Pofessors literally do not care that you are an athlete haha, its actually comical. So all the excuses and travel notes for missing class that worked with your professors in the US are most likely not gonna fly in the UK, especially because youre getting your Master’s degree, its go time. But this also means, that the training schedule for volleyball is a bit more relaxed and flexible than it was in college in the US. There isn’t as much pressure or rigor around training times, but if you are the type of player that thirsts for extra reps, don’t worry that always an option no matter where you go.
Living overseas in general is always an adjustment but I think deciding beforehand that you will have the mentality of embracing the culture will get you a lot farther and over those initial culture shock hurdles. In England there weren’t enormous cultural differences because its an English-speaking country, but they do say (and spell) many things differently, which is always fun to talk about and compare with. I also loved the fact that almost everywhere you go there is a giant old castle sitting on a hill or crammed within a city. That was something super special about England; so many beautiful places with rich history (way older than our history). Overall, I recommend the experience to everyone who asks about it.