Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dear Volleyball... [a letter to the sport that made me who I am today]

Today marks the first official practice day of the 2014 preseason training and it's odd being on the other side. I'm use to waking up and having to move into the dorms for a week, taking time to mental prepare for what is about to come and being surrounded by my teammates 24/7 for two weeks and eventually four months. I never knew how much planning went into the whole event; let's just say I was humbled this past week in our training camp preparation. Honestly, it's odd not being a player anymore, not being a student-athlete or a professional. It's a title that although I did not define myself by I loved, it just felt right. A title I felt like I earned and totally embodied but all good things come to an end and I had made the decision to turn to the next chapter in my life. As a new season starts today signifying a new chapter in my life, I thought I would write a few last words to my player journey. This is not my farewell to volleyball as a whole but more of a thank-you for all it's given me. With the my new season brings new challenges and less time for me to keep all of you up-to-date with me. If you would like to continue snooping in on my life, feel free to follow me on Twitter -- @CoachK_JeterUC -- and Instagram -- k_jete. You'll get to see what it's like from the other side!

"12 years I've dedicated my life to this sport. I've seen myself grow from the "athletic kid" to a skilled volleyball player. From a self-conscious girl to a proud, strong, young woman. Volleyball raised me through my youth, giving me everlasting friendships, life lessons, memorable experiences and the opportunity to travel across the world. I owe who I am today not only to those who believed in me and supported my journey but to those who doubted me and tried to bring me down along the way. You have been a driving force throughout my life, a voice I proudly challenge and use a source of motivation in pursuit of life. It has been a great 12 years volleyball, years I wouldn't change for anything. Weekends I wouldn't want to spend anywhere but surrounded by whistles, yelling, nets, volleyballs and the determination to be great. Thanks for the good times. See you on the court under the lights from the other side. Until we meet again..."

Live your passion :: Love on purpose

Aside from coming back from my ACL injury and being an All-American, having the opportunity to compete in my nation's colors and wear these three letters on the front of my chest while representing the USA A2 National Team at the 2010 Adult National Championship will always be the greatest moment of my career. All the early mornings and exhaustion well beyond worth it for this moment of recognition amongst the nation's best. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Whatever became of the Little Mixed Girl??

Well Hello, hello everyone! Yes, I am still alive and running around this crazy world starting new journeys! I do apologize to all of those who followed my adventure in Finland and were left to wonder what had become of the Little Mixed Girl. After it was brought to my attention that I kind of left y'all hanging I figured I better do an update and what better time than on the eve of the 2014 VOLLEYBALL PRESEASON commencement?! No fear, I did not get eaten by a lynx or drown during an ice swimming escapade. I simply got caught up in, well, life. So sit back, grab something cool to drink and enjoy!

Spring Is Near!

As I sit here in the heat of August, which has actually been rare lately, I can proudly say I survived a Finnish winter. In my last entry I described the beauty of Finland and all the exciting winter activities it has to offer. As the days got longer I was finally glad once the sun stayed up past 4PM, which also meant the light at the end of the tunnel for our regular season. We finished our season in a heartbreaking loss to OrPo putting us in 3rd going into the post season. Since only the top two seeded teams bypass the quarterfinals, our first team up was WoVo alllllll the way in Lapland. In a 2-1 series victory we advanced to the semi-finals to play the top seeded team, the team we had beat for the Suomi Cup but couldn't manage to handle during the regular season: Salo. So I'm sure you could imagine my annoyance, frustration, and hunger to FINALLY beat this team. Semi-final and Final matches in the Finnish league are organized like the NBA, a 7 game series but with matches only a few days apart. In the first match we managed to take a set off of them but lost in four, a loss, which still bothers me to say somewhat, sealed our fate for the remaining matches. After hosting the first match at home we had to go to Salo twice, in their gym and in front of their home crowed, for games 2 and 3 of the series. Despite our efforts we dropped the two matches in 3 and ended at home with a season loss. To know my time with these girls had come to an end hurt more than the loss. I played my ass off for the team, was named team MVP 4 out of the 7 post-season matches and had nothing left to give (I actually think I loss feeling in my left leg after POUNDING the floor with my hip while trying to save a ball, anything to win right?). In true Finnish fashion, we were able to conclude our season by a team dinner at Amarillo's with plenty of margaritas and chocolate martini's then ended the night at the good 'ol Fat Lady dancing the night away. The next few days, and my last, were spent just enjoying life with new friends in a foreign country. I am VERY proud to say I checked "learn how to drive a manual car" off of my bucket list due to my best friend on the team. It was a scary experience but one I'm very glad I was able to live through ;). We laughed, we cried, we spent time in the sauna, had a girls day in Estonia and I even taught them how to play beer pong (with long drink we stocked up on during our trip to Estonia). They were days I never wanted to end and ones I'll never forget. 

Whenever people ask me about my time in Finland I just smile. I had the time of my life. I left a wide-eyed 23-year-old ready to take on whatever was thrown at me and I did just that. I met unforgettable people who I still keep in contact to this day and have developed such a love and appreciation for all that Europe has to offer. My desire to travel stems from my passion for people and love of culture. To know how much World is still out there for me to discover keeps my wheels turning. Thank you to everyone who made Finland my home, without you I would have returned a stupid American. <3 Suomi Forever.

[If you want to see more pictures from my time in Finland hop on over to my Facebook page! -- ]

"The Other Side" 
So for those of you who don't follow me on social media or I don't speak with on an every day basis may be wonder what I'm up to these days. During my time in Finland I had a lot of time to figure out what I want from life, how I want to leave my mark. Well, I'm still trying to figure all of that out but I did decide that I wanted to return to the States for a while. Spending so much time away from my family in college and missing out on special family moments really made me think about how I wanted to spend these next few years. After many talks with my life mentors and weighing my options, I decided it was time for me to hang up my sneaks and see what else life had to offer for me. Although my time as a player had come to an end, I knew I still wanted to be involved in athletics in fitness. I mean has run my life for the past 10 years. So I decided to look towards Graduate Assistant positions to get my second master's in Health and Exercise. During my research I came across the University of Cincinnati, they had exactly the program I wanted and it was an ideal distance from home and my southern home (Knoxville). Initially I did not see any GA positions open but I thought, "What the heck, why not contact the Head Coach and see if I can help?" Turns out I couldn't have contacted a better program. My boss and Cincinnati Head Coach Molly Alvey knew me previously from her time at Ole Miss, the assistant coach Phillip White had worked with my younger sister during his club days and the volleyball AD had come from Tennessee! Talk about a perfect! I applied for the program and then discovered there was an assistant coach position opening, which I was selected to fill and can now say I am a Bearcat!

For the past four months I have been getting to life as an assistant coach while enjoying my new home. It has been a non-stop ride since I landed back on American soil, I moved to Cincinnati two days later to begin my job, and I've been loving every moment! The girls are great, my staff is awesome, and being a Bearcat is just like being with family. I could not represent a better program and work with better people. To say I am blessed is an understatement. God has a plan.

Live your passion :: Love on purpose

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter in Finland

Another month has passed and it's finally the end of February and perhaps the beginning of spring here in Finland! The snow has melted and the days are longer, and it no longer looks like midnight at 4:30 in the afternoon. In comparison to the polar vortex that engulf the States these past few weeks – and apparently has returned – I have survived my first winter in a higher latitude, which was extremely mild by Finnish standards. To my dismay I missed out on freezing eyelashes and daily article blasts to the face but don't get me wrong, I made sure to engage in traditional winter activities Finnish style. 

Before I delve into my activities, I wanted to take a moment to mention how beautiful Finland is in the winter once it actually sets in. From about November to January you endure a dark period, the sunrises around 9:45 AM and sets around 3:45 PM. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, I had a issues adjusting to the short days especially once I had returned from the U.S. but with the start of a New Year the days slowly get longer and you’re rewarded with the best winter landscape Mother Nature has to offer. Around the end of January I saw the sun for the first time in WEEKS sunshine and blue skies greeted me in the mornings and said farewell as evening practice began. By the way, it is important to note that this gorgeous scenery is coupled with below freezing temperatures -- -9 to be exact. It was on these days that I became mesmerized by Finland's beauty. It was as though God had taken a box of powdered sugar and dumped it on everything. White frozen trees accompanied by pink sunrises and orange sunsets. Breathtaking. Pinterest pictures did not disappoint. 

Now, once freezing temperatures hit consistently for a number of days the lakes were completely frozen and deemed safe to engage winter activities on the surface. For those who didn't know, Finland is nothing but lakes. 187,888 to be exact which means three things: cross-country skiing, on-lake driving, and ice hole swimming. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to cross-country ski - but I did take a "short cut" with my boyfriend walking across a life about 1.5 miles while carrying a bike, imagine my excitement - or drive on the lake but I DID ICE HOLE SWIM! Yes, you read that correctly. I voluntarily lowered myself into an ice hole in the middle of winter in a bikini. Although this may seem odd to some, it is extremely common amongst Finns and seeing how I have a residence card I'm basically Finnish now. I had wanted to go all winter but when my boyfriend came to visit for two weeks I knew it would be a perfect opportunity to experience together! After two weeks of putting it off -- he was scared -- we finally decided to take the plunge with my roommate, my teammates dad and my other teammate from Venezuela who had previously played in Arkansas, making Arkansas the only "winter experience" she'd known. Hellloooooo geographical culture shock! Many of the lakes throughout Finland have a beach type set up so there was a place for us to change, fully equipped with a shared Finnish-style sauna. The Finnish way to execute ice hole swimming is as follows:

1. Wear socks/foot protection
2. Wear swimming suit
3. Walk out to swimming hole WITHOUT ENTERING SAUNA FIRST
4. Lower yourself into the water for a few seconds via ladder or bravely walk into the water (doggie paddle if you like)
5. Get out and wait for everyone else in your group to go as you freeze
6. Speed walk back into the building 
7. Grab some juice/water
8. Hit the sauna
9. Repeat

Pretty easy right? Once you get the first time out of the way it really isn't that bad, especially after coming out of the sauna. You might think not going to the sauna first wouldn't make a difference BUUUUUUT it does. Going from a 200+ degree steam room into 32-degree water balances much better than depending on your body temperature to keep you warm. In total, we did about four rounds followed by some hot chocolate with a splash of rum. The Finns definitely know how to do winter.

As I wrote about in an earlier post, we play a team from Rovaniemi, which is also advertised as the home of Santa Claus. Below are some photos from the trip my team made to the Arctic Circle! 24 years later I finally got to see where my letters were delivered -- or nah.... -- after all those years and meet the big man himself! You're never too old to believe. ;)



We got to meet Santa!

Yes, that is a GIANT snow man. Handcrafted by Santa's elves of course

My first sleeper train ride: Rovaniemi to Tampere :)

Live your passion :: Love on purpose