The title pretty much explains it all. Every few years the Sniatyn District (of which my town is the center) organizes a friendly sports competition between teachers from different towns and schools in the district. Since I’ve been playing volleyball every week or two with the pupils after school, Anatoliy Oleksiyovych, one of the gym teachers, recruited me to play in the teachers’ tournament.
Saturday morning, men and women filtered into my school’s gym between 9 and 10am. At 10, all the participants lined up and the District Head of Education and a few school directors gave a welcome speech. My school director, Viktor Mykolaiovych, aptly pointed out that this tournament is a great way for pupils to see some teachers leading by example and practicing a healthy lifestyle. (We had Saturday lessons at school so luckily lots of pupils were actually around to witness the teachers in action.)
Let the games begin! The men went to play “mini-football” (soccer) and we women commenced playing volleyball (the men played volleyball after us, and there were also table tennis and chess competitions). There were only three teams — mine, the Sniatyn team; a team from Budyliv (PCV Janira’s village); and a team from Dzhuriv (PCV Sarah’s village). We played Budyliv first. My team won the first set handily but then lost the second two sets to drop the match. Budyliv was impressive in their hustle and scrappiness. So was Dzhuriv — they also beat us, quite handily.
In our defense, both the Budyliv and Dzhuriv women practice together a couple times a week; this was the Sniatyn team’s first time playing all together. There were three teachers from my school (me, Yulia Petrivna, and Natalia Mykhailivna); two from Internat (the boarding school — Lilia and Inna); and two from School No. 2 (Ira and Halya). Some decent skills — Natalia Mykhailivna is probably in her late 40s or early 50s but is quite athletic and has nice hands; she also played in the table tennis competition — but not the prettiest volleyball you’ve ever seen. Middle-school or JV style, at best: scrappy, some underhand and some overhand serving, not very much hitting, lots of tipping. But it was a blast to play and represent my school and town (even though we lost) — and show off my skills, of course (the competitive/show-off instinct came out in front of all the spectators; I felt that familiar rush of adrenaline when we began the match).
While playing, I found myself yelling in a mix of English and Ukrainian — I definitely don’t have the Ukrainian sports-playing vocabulary down yet, so my English popped out occasionally.
I watched a few minutes of one of the men’s volleyball matches and I’d have much rather played with them — some decent athletes and a bit higher level of play.
Results: There was a short awards ceremony at the end. The Sniatyn teams took second overall — out of 4-5 competing groups — and I was awarded “Best Sportswoman” (найкраща спортсменка) for volleyball! (I think they gave these out in honor of upcoming Women’s Day on the 8th of March…start the celebrations early.) Afterwards the Sniatyn teams went to the nearby cafeteria to spend our winnings on a tasty communal meal. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.