One huge difference is the love of football (or as we might call it 'soccer'). This country is football mad. They absolutely love it. When you go past a park you will almost always find steal soccer goals more often than basketball rings. So after school when back home kids are playing AFL and cricket after school, kids here are playing soccer in the streets. Two weeks ago our team got invited by our sponsor to watch Sparta Rotterdam play a home match. It was pretty darn cool. They play in the 2nd highest division in Holland and there but I was impressed by how big the match was. There were heaps of people supporting, and going crazy. The following we got invited to see Excelsior who compete in the highest division in Holland. Both games were fun and also interesting to see some crazy soccer supporters. I'm not sure how, but these fans for the whole entire match are jumping up and down, chanting, yelling and beating their drums lately despite the fact that it's freezing cold. From before first kick to full time they don't stop ever. Even when Excelsior was down 5-0 with 10 minutes left all their home fans were still going crazy. Safe to say their a passionate bunch.
It's also really obvious to notice the language difference. Although it's a different need for people to learn English, kids learn in school. Which means I can meet a 12 year old and have a conversation in English with them. And I honestly don't remember even being able to speak more than 3 words in Italian when I was that young so its cool to see bi-lingual children so young.
Speaking of schools, they have an interesting system here. Kids will go through special tests to measure 'academic' and concentration abilities etc. They will the get placed into a class with other children of similar abilities with them. Anyone whose spent more than 10 minutes in a classroom knows it sucks children who are academically accelerated being with children who struggle more with staying focused. So by grouping similar students you can cater to the needs of everyone more easily which is a nice idea.
Europeans definitely look in the mirror before they leave the house. Hardly ever do you see someone just walking around in their trackies and runners. Apparently even if you're going just to the supermarket then you need to make sure you look presentable. Often I feel under dressed compares to the dutchies but I'm slowly catching up. It also seems an unwritten rule that men must lather their hair in hair gel as well but I don't think I will take it to far.
Darkness. The sun rises after 8am and sets around 16:30 PM. So it's pitch black at like 17:00 PM. That sucks.
Coldness. It's starting to hover around the 0 degree mark tinkering into the negatives. That sucks.
Socks. In the Dutch league, you can wear whatever colour and length sock you want, and it can be completely different to your team mates socks. From my experience in Australia, you'd think that the league would fall apart but everything still functions. Maybe back home we can learn something from this free flowing sock uniform model they use here.
Just a few peculiar things I thought worth noting.
Now onto volleyball. Our team is on the improve. At my last post our teams win loss record was 1-5. We took a hard 3-0 loss to the Talentteam (the equivalent of the AIS team in AVL) full of 17 year olds. So our record went to 1-6 but even thought we had done a lot of losing, our team and coaching staff have had really good morale. There hasn't been any panicking, and our purpose at practice to try and get better has really been coming along the last month or so.
We played against Dynamo, a team who made the grand final last season. Despite losing the first 2 sets, we brought it back to 5th, where a slight rotational error cost us. At one stage we were up 7-5 in the 5th set and feeling good, then we got called for out of rotation and the score changed to 0-6, a tough pill to swallow, but glad to say my experience as a coach of the U/19 Vic Blue boys this year definitely helped me with. We lost the 5th set eventually, but the Mayor of Rotterdam came to watch and I got to meet him which was cool. Turns out Rotterdam is sister cities with Melbourne, a fact I definitely didn't know.
The following week a match against Zaanstaad. And a gym whose roof was the lowest I'd ever lay witness to. In no exaggeration, you couldn't really set a proper high ball because you might hit the roof. The ball would have hit the roof at least 5 times a set, it was ridiculous. But we went on to get our first win in 5 sets in over a month so was pretty happy with that.
Next up was Orion. It's a small world out there, because the setter from Orion is Keith (an American). Where did Keith play his college volleyball? At Grand Canyon Uni, and he played his last 2 seasons with GMVA athlete Gerrard 'Lily' Lipscombe. So before and after (they beat us) we shared a good joke at Gerrards expense, a good pastime I enjoy wherever I am in the world.
A long distance road match was against Rivo Rivsomething. Of course long distance to the Dutch is a 2 hour bus ride, hardly anything for someone from Australia. For this match we only had 7 players available, so our coach and assistant coaches had to uniform up and be ready just in case of injury. We went down 0-2 and some were worried we might have to bring them on, something I'm not sure their knees could have handled but we managed to come back and win the match in 5 which is a cool thing to do in front of someone else's crowd especially when said crowd is beating a drum for 2 hours during the match.
So right now were 3-8 having played everyone in the competition once. But beyond results we are getting better all the time. We have 2 more leagues matches and a cup match before the Christmas break. So as this year winds down we are getting geared up for a big push in the second half of the season.
Special shout out of ex-pat Aussie Dave Jones who made his debut at practice for us. Our policy at the club remains: if you are an Aussie, than you're more than welcomed.
Hopefully in my next post I will be able to delve into what volleyball in Holland is like compared to Australia.
In the meantime, for anyone whose following my story along if there are any ever questions people have about my journey, or about volleyball in Europe I'm always happy to answer them.
Until next time peace out holmes.