By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
In sports as in the workplace, team bonding is important for productivity and meeting benchmarks. And Sharonda Pickering, a Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles Volleyball middle blocker, will enter her senior season like none other in her collegiate career, after recently wrapping up an 11-day tour five countries tour in Europe with her team, where they played in six games in three of the five countries.
Besides playing in Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, they also visited Austria and Italy, as the tour offered a bit of history, culture and most importantly team bonding, as they prepare for the rigors of the 2018-19 season.
“We compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference and we have fallen short by placing second for the last three years. This year, we only lost one senior, so the core of our team is basically returning for the 2018-19 season,” Pickering explained. “Our coach planned this trip as an opportunity for us to play more as a team and be stronger as a steam as we prepare for the fall.”
The Eagles who had a 22-10 record and 10-4 conference mark, began their tour in Budapest, Hungary, where they came up against MTK Budapest, a team of 17-18 year olds. The Eagles walked off with a four set victory, 25-23, 23-25, 25-12 and 25-10 victory and they also won the next match, 25-20. 25-20, 22-25 and 25-15.
In their next encounter, they faced the Slovenia National Team in Maribor, lost the opener 26-28, before taking the victory, 25-21, 25-18, 2025 and 15-11
Across the border against a Croatia junior select team in Pula, they needed five sets to prevail, 25-9, 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 and 15-8, in a match treated as a scrimmage. They followed up with a 20-25, 23-25, 25-19, 26-24 and 15-9 victory. They didn’t play Vienna, Austria or Venice, Italy.
The trip was a good bonding for the Eagles, Pickering said.
“For us as a team, we usually spend all day in class and then come onto the court in the afternoon and practice. This trip allowed us to enjoy different cites, different cultures and explore during the day while still competing in the evening. This trip allowed us to enjoy each other’s company on and off the court.”
As she enters her senior year, Pickering said the trip gave her an opportunity to play against great teams and also provided an opportunity to face a different style of volleyball. It also allowed her and her team to understand the purpose of adjusting quickly and finding different ways to approach the game and finding opportunities to win.
“At first, it was challenging as a team for us to adjust to a different ball game, different ball game and a few rule changes, but after a couple of points, we were able to find a god rhythm against challenging teams and to fight our way through sets,” she explained. “Our overall trip was great. We had members of our FGCU staff and family which made this trip balanced with business and pleasure. The practices that led us to these games and the games that we played helped us to be better prepared for the fall season. Nevertheless, the adventure of being in different countries, using different currencies, trying new foods and embracing different cultures made us learn a lot about ourselves and others around us.”