In July I was lucky enough to be able to go spend a week in Nafels, Switzerland with my dad and most of the Swiss National Team as they prepared to go to the World University Games that are happening right now in China. Summer in Switzerland is as glorious as I had imagined, and as someone who loves the mountains I was in heaven.
Switzerland as a country speaks three official languages: German, French, and Italian, (actually Romansh is the fourth official language but doesn’t really get counted) and the sense of regionalism that exists seems to make national team sports less of a priority than in the USA. While in the USA we all come from different states, when the time comes to get fired up and patriotic about competing for our country those boundaries disappear and we are all simply Americans. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Suisse/Schweiz/Svizzera, and one of the big things that the team was working on culturally when I arrived was developing a sense of “one-ness”, unity, and singularity of purpose for their country and their sport. It was great stuff, and I think they were doing a wonderful job of figuring it all out. One of the things that seemed to help was that all our practices were in English (that was the common language of the coaching staff), which eliminated any chance of bias towards a particular area’s language.
The boys were a wonderful group – respectful, happy, and hard-working. I was really impressed with how much they appreciated the coaching and the feedback, how interested they were in hearing from me, and how good they were at making changes in their games. Most groups of players at high levels are deeply suspicious of any outsider coming in and coaching them, but I never felt like they were anything but excited to hear from me. I had a wonderful week of training with the team, eating several really good meals at the training table, swimming in the pool of the sports complex, hiking in the nearby mountains, and wandering around the streets of town. Not a terribly tough way to spend a week of coaching, as you can imagine. As of today, the team has overachieved at the WUGs with wins in their pool against Australia, China, and an amazing comeback win against Norway after being down 0-2. They finished second in their pool to Canada, and are playing for the first time in their history in the 1-8 place bracket. Not a real surprise from a Carl-coached team, but certainly a lot of fun for them nonetheless.
At the BYU youth camp a few weeks ago I was talking with one of our staffers, Les Calles, and we were discussing with amazement the fact that a bouncing ball (“a little white ball”, as Les puts it) has taken us to locations all over the world. The places that we travel to, and the wonderful people that we meet there, will continue to be one of my favorite parts about being a volleyball coach. The instant sense of common experience, purpose, and brotherhood amongst players and coaches is something that you don’t typically find outside of sport, particularly our sport. If you have the chance to make it to Switzerland in the summer, drop everything and go. And if you get to coach while you are there, so much the better.