South Florida club volleyball players face uncertain future

Volleyball players in South Florida have been forced to change their training regimens to comply with COVID-19 regulations in place since March 12.

For more than three months, female club volleyball players have not been allowed to train or compete. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) President Roger J. Goudy announced that all practices and events would be postponed or canceled until further notice. This was one day before President Trump’s declaration of a state of national emergency on March 13.

While gyms recently opened, clubs have been mostly closed due to the risk of infection by contact with equipment. Many athletes in South Florida have had to train individually from the safety of their homes. 

“Virtual practices through Zoom have helped me maintain my ball control skills,” said Luciana Macli, a 16s division player from Miami Volleyball Academy. “Nothing compares to the real thing, but at least our coaches can help and keep us motivated in this way.”

If the quarantine were not in place, players would be balancing the life of student-athletes, running from school to practice every day.

Macli smiled as she explained that she was excited at first to be able to stay at home. She found she had a lot of free time on her hands and not a lot of things to do with it. 

Some players have also noticed that maintaining a balanced diet is harder. 

“When you’re stuck at home, it’s easy to give in to boredom and start binge eating snacks,” said Monica Ayesa, a 16s division player for High Voltage Volleyball Academy. “I’ve been trying to stay in shape by watching what I eat and not starting any bad habits.”

The extra time has allowed for more opportunities to focus on strength and speed training, essential in high-intensity volleyball games. 

“Working out by myself is tough mentally because I’ve always worked out with my team,” said Miami Xtreme Volleyball Academy’s 16s division player Maite Alberdi. “But now I feel that I’ve improved physically because I’ve been able to work on things like muscle strength and endurance, something that wasn’t sustainable when I used to practice every day.”

Because the season was postponed on March 12, the largest high-level tournaments that were supposed to occur in states like Texas, Nevada, Georgia, and Minnesota have been canceled. These “qualifiers,” as the volleyball community refers to them, are the biggest opportunity for athletes to be seen and recruited by universities with Division I sports programs.

“I feel there’s a certain age that the reason you play club volleyball is to play at the college level,” Ayesa said. “And though I’ve been updating my online recruitment profiles with test scores and transcripts, the whole process has come to a complete stop.”

Players in South Florida are hoping that the pandemic does not hinder their possibilities of reaching their collegiate volleyball goals.

Volleyball is a team sport where six players must work together to defend their court and score points. A strong team dynamic is crucial to do this successfully, developed through the wins and losses of a competition season. Players on relatively new teams this season are concerned that the quarantine period will weaken team chemistry.

“I was excited to play on a new team this season and we were just starting to trust each other [on the court] before the tournaments were canceled,” said Macli. “And now I feel like we might have to start bonding all over.”

Giuliana La Mendola is currently a junior at FIU majoring in Journalism and minoring in Nutrition. She hopes to combine her passions for writing and fitness to become a free-lance journalist in the health industry.