Written by: Michaela Heynes (South African u20 Volleyball Captain)
On the 22nd of May 2017, a team was put together to represent South Africa at the U20 South African Volleyball team at the BRICS games, held in China on the 17th to the 22nd June 2017.
The team consisted of:
- Michaela Heynes (Captain)
- Mosia Manana (Vice Captain)
- Dibiya Samkelisewe
- Zanele Ndwande
- Tamlyn Thomas
- Mary Magoro
- Constance Mokateng
- Sejaphala Mokgadi
- Makwembila Tshepiso
- Malega Annelie
- Tatiana Simipoulas
- Christine Ammon
- Bella Tembe
Coach: Hugan Coopsamy
Assistant coach: Rethabile Chobokoane
Manager: Michael Makhubela
Referee: Tannia Lewis
Physio: Matome Seroto
The team members, selected from various provinces, were requested to attend their first training session from the 10th June 2017 at the Milpark Garden Court Hotel in Johannesburg from where we departed to China on the 14th June 2017. Given the short notice and the examination period for most students, not all players could make the full training session.
The team met with much trepidation as had not met or travelled afar before. The Volleyball Union and coaches held a dinner and orientation session at the Milpark Garden Court hotel once most of the team were present as well as formally handing over the Volleyball SA kits.
Over this period effort was made to learn more about each by sharing personal interests, likes and dislikes to a point where we agreed on certain rules of engagement.
Our training took place at the University of Johannesburg, including a friendly with the Senior Gauteng Women’s volleyball team, until our departure to Guangzhou, China on the 14th June 2017. Understandably, we had limited time to develop the team’s technical competence or cohesiveness, however, it was agreed that we are were going to make the best of the opportunity to experience Volleyball on a global level.
Given the above, it was natural for us as a new team to experience challenges with respect to team dynamics but with the support of the management and coaches we addressed these and accepted this as part of our learning going forward.
We left for China, stopping at Dubai airport, on 14th June 2017. We walked around Dubai airport admiring all the shops, absorbing the pure opulence and taking advantage of the free WIFI, given we had not contacted anybody from home for 8 hours after to our departure.
We arrived at the Guangzhou Baiyun Hotel on the 15th June 2017, exhausted from the travel, but mostly excited and anxious about representing South Africa. We were in awe of the reception of our hosts when we arrived, as they made every effort to ensure our safety and hospitality. With no time to waste we commenced our training on the first day of our arrival, which was exhausting as beside the rain, the temperatures reached up to 38 degrees Celcius. However, we embraced were these challenges as it better prepared us for what to expect. We agreed on realistic goals as individuals and set a team goal and reinforced these goals by repeating these goals to each other out loud to boost our confidence levels and morale.
Given that China was 6 hours ahead of us, our games were scheduled between 3am to 6am South African time. Our coaches kept us so busy and managed a very tight schedule to ensure that we did our best to prepare for each game. When it came to game time we would do a team huddle in the locker room and receive a motivational talk and tips from our coach to prepare us for the next team we were going to play next.
Positivity played a great role in the success of our spirit as we were inexperienced at this level of the game and had to remind ourselves that we agreed to have fun and to enjoy the game whilst trying our best at all times. This helped us keep our spirits high and to keep us true to our individual and team goals. Our huddles were key in this as it afforded us an opportunity to give thanks and prepare our minds for the next game.
Despite the losses to Brazil, Russia, India and China, what we lacked in skill or technical competence, we certainly showed it in spirit. The spirit throughout the tournament was amazing as it attracted the admiration and support from the spectators. We never gave up and kept fighting until the very end which truly strengthened the bond within the team.
Coming back home was really sad as we knew that we wouldn’t be spending as much time together as we did in China. The goodbyes were emotional, but we grew as individuals and team players through this experience. We were however consoled knowing that we would see each other again at the Provincial and VSA tournaments.
This trip was truly an adventure and we honestly cannot thank VSA enough for affording us the opportunity to travel abroad to represent South Africa and to experience volleyball on a global level.
I do encourage all Volleyball players to never stop striving for greatness. This opportunity has made us realize that there is more out there than just what we are exposed to and that it is possible to reach for your dreams whilst playing the sport that you love the most.
We would like to say a very big thank you to Volleyball South Africa for the wonderful opportunity afforded to us and for making sure that we got safely to China and back. Huge thanks also to the managers, coaches, referee and physio for preparing the team the way they did and for supporting us to strive for more than just the average. The team would like to thank the President of Volleyball South Africa for all of the efforts he put in in order to make sure that this trip was made possible.
Thank you, Michaela, for writing the article. It is great to see what opportunities are around for volleyball players in South Africa and it is an inspiration to see how positive your team represented our country.
If you would also like to share your inspirational volleyball experiences – no matter how long ago, please contact me. There are so many volleyball heroes amongst us, that we can learn from.