After being in Sniatyn for almost a year, I finally mustered up the courage to ask my pupils about volleyball. I knew a lot of them played but didn’t know when or where or if I was allowed to come. Luckily, in a 10th-form lesson the other day one of the speaking points was about after-school activities. When Oksana began talking about playing volleyball after school, I took this opportunity to grill her on when, where, and if I could come. When I returned to school later that day for English club I heard volleyballs bouncing in the gym and stopped to take a look-see. The gym teacher, Anatoliy Oleksiyovich, came over and invited me to play. I couldn’t then, but I told him I wanted to and promised to attend on Thursday.
Thursday. About 20 kids, 60:40 boys:girls. Some younger pupils but mostly 7th-11th formers. Another young teacher, Yulia Petrivna, also came to play, so it was nice not to be the only teacher there. After some jogging and other dynamic warming up, we did classic Soviet-style “stretching”: “raz, dva, tree, chotyry” repeated movements — think old school aerobics. Maybe not the healthiest way to stretch, but it gets the job done. I struggled to keep a straight face while doing these silly-looking exercises. Next came ball warm-up (throwing, hitting out of hand, the usual) and variations on passing: set back and forth, set to yourself then set to your partner, pass off a partner’s toss, pepper with tips, full-on pepper. Some things are international.
The match. Girls vs. boys. [Note: we, the girls, won three sets in a row. Who says boys are better at sports?] How sophisticated was the play? Not very. Think JV volleyball. Each person plays where they stand (rotate only to serve); setter directly front and center at the net; left and right fronts pinched in at the 10m line; left and right backs back in their respective corners; middle back directly in the middle of the court. The two girls who are setters carry the ball every time (think setting “like a guy,” from the chest, but holding the ball for way too long). Attempts at getting three touches on each side but sometimes it digressed to a volley-back-and-forth-on-the-first-ball war. A couple girls have nice serves and swings.
I had fun. And used some muscles I haven’t used in a long time. I will be sore tomorrow. I will go next week, if just to mix up the winter workout routine. It’s not quite the level of play I’m used to and prefer, but it gets the job done.