By Ang Gilchrist
Alicia Ostrander jumped at the opportunity to experience the volleyball program in China.
As a walk-on volleyball player for the University of Nebraska at Lincoln(UNL), Ostrander met and developed a friendship with Li Shan of China. Shan had spent two months at UNL observing the volleyball team, hoping to learn new techniques and experiences to take back to her home country. China already has earned the reputation of having a strong volleyball team, winning the Gold Medal in the 2004 Olympics.
When it was time for Shan to return home, UNL coach John Cook asked Ostrander if she would like to travel to China to spend over two weeks playing volleyball with the Chinese players. So earlier this summer, Ostrander and Creighton player, Leah McNarry, began their journey overseas. After over 12 hours of flying, both ladies landed in China and were treated to their first meal-McDonald’s! Admitting that she never has enjoyed Chinese cuisine, Ostrander said she was happy to have some “American Food” and she even saved a few of the chinese-printed wrappers as a souvenir.
The girls were soon settled in to very nice dorms, comparable to the “olympic swimming-style dorms, but much nicer,” according to Ostrander. Initially the two American girls met a cold and quiet reception from the Chinese girls, but the ice was broken when one girl “came up and played with my long, wavy hair,” said Ostrander, with a laugh. Soon the whole team had approached Ostrander and McNarry (whom styles her hair in a “fro”) to touch and chatter about their different hair styles and skin complexions.
Then the grueling seven-hour volleyball practices began: three hours of practice in the morning and four hours in the afternoon every Monday through Friday. This is the standard practice schedule for the Chinese team, with the exception that they do not practice Wednesday mornings. Within the 12 days of volleyball training, the girls practiced over 70 hours.
One of the biggest differences between China and the United States is that in China, the government runs the team. Each player is hand-selected and provided room, board, meals and monetary compensation to play volleyball, and they take educational classes secondary to the game.
During the few hours of free time, Ostrander was able to visit the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square, which she said was a highlight of her trip. She developed a strong friendship with McNarry during their stay in China, as they couldn’t use their cell phones and had limited internet access, making communications with family and friends difficult. Experiencing life outside of the U.S.A. was a true eye-opener for Ostrander. “The trip made me realize how privileged we are in the USA, even being from a small town. I am a lot more humble and grateful for what we have here,” said Ostrander.
Ostrander has resumed her classes at UNL, but she has been practicing with the volleyball team since June, when they began conditioning training. The UNL team just recently competed in their Red/White scrimmage and the regular volleyball schedule begins at the end of this month.
By Ang Gilchrist