CHECKING IN: Allison Raguse's China Trip Journal
May 17, 2008
BEIJING, China -- Out of all my experiences so far in Bejjing, today's was, by far, the most touching. Climbing the Great Wall was empowering, and visiting historic locations has been awe-inspiring, but today was something different, and it's probably because it was so subtle, so simple. I think everyone around us was moved by what went on.
It's one of those moments we're not going to forget for the rest of our lives.
After our match this morning, which we won again, the Chinese head coach asked us if we would like to join her players in a wash drill. At first, I thought it was going to be conducted like the game was -- us versus them -- but once I saw her girls coming onto our court, I knew it was going to be a whole different scenario. For the first times in our lives, and maybe the last after this trip, we were going to have teammates that we could not verbally communicate with.
While both sides were all smiles and very excited to join up and play, you could tell that no one knew exactly what to do. How were we going to figure out what positions we needed on each side? How would we know what plays to run?
How exactly was this all going to work?
Amazingly though, it all did work. Their setter, with whom I played with first, was quick to raise her hands toward me. While she was speaking Chinese quite loudly and rapidly, I didn't have to understand it to understand her. She knew how to speak to us in a different way. She showed me sufficiently that she was a setter by following with the setter motion and then pointing at herself. I signaled back that I was a hitter by raising my arms in the correct posture before we continued "signing" all the other players' positions. After that was figured out, there was a series of pointing at the net and court to signal where each girl should go based on the position sign she gave.
I was pretty proud of how quickly we figured it all out, but I was still a little hesitant about playing. As a hitter, it's hard to figure out a good connection with a new setter, even one you can talk to! In every position, some communication is needed.
I think that's why it took me by such surprise. On one of the first free-balls in play, there was a prime opportunity for me to hit the ball. I wasn't sure how I was going to let her know, so I simply started yelling out my call and running toward her. She got the hint and starting saying Chinese words of her own as I started my approach for the attack. Simply enough, we both did our jobs at the right time together and ended up with a successful hit.
As I came down from that first kill, I remember being totally stunned, thinking, "How did we just do that?" We both had no idea who each other was, couldn't talk to each other, and barely had any idea of how the other person played ... but yet we worked almost seamlessly together to score a point.
It may not sound that amazing to you, but for me, it was. Watching all my teammates work with their team was just as inspiring. I saw our passers move in correspondence with the other back-row players, I saw my girls cheer and smile just as loud as they were when the team got a point, and I watched us all teach each other moves without even needing to speak.
It was just so ... COOL!
It's probably the volleyball nerd speaking in me, but I don't care. It was an experience I'll probably only get to live out once. But I'll remember it forever.