At the university where I'm doing my summer research Tuesdays mean volleyball. Around lunch time on my first Tuesday there I was invited to play volleyball at the campus gym. I accepted, anticipating a casual relaxed game. The type of game where no one was really that good but if you relaxed the rules to allow more kinds of hits then it could still be competitive and fun. This is NOT how volleyball is played at this university. The first red flag that this wasn't what I was used to should have been when I was asked if I was any good. Assuming a relaxed game I said yes I was ok since if nothing else I am in shape and coordinated. That is enough to make you a solid player in spring break beach volleyball or fraternity intramurals so I thought I would be fine here.
When we (Dr. Paul Weng, the professor I'm working with and myself) got to the gym we jogged a few laps and then began hitting a volleyball back and forth. So far so good. Just warming up a bit before the game began. Then a lady (who was obviously a coach) shouted out some things in French. Everyone stopped hitting to listen. "Now we are going to do drills," Dr. Weng said as the coach selected a couple of players to demonstrate. Drills? Maybe this isn't the casual game I thought I was going to be playing. I got the idea of the drill from watching the demonstration and joined up with a group to go through it. It quickly became apparent that everyone in the gym (about 40 people both faculty and students) was very good at volleyball. Everyone could serve, set, and knew exactly where to be when they needed to be there.
Much humbled by the level of talent around me I spent the rest of the two hours focusing on just not looking too bad and listening to what I was told. This turned out to be a good strategy as I learned quite a bit and had a very good time.
Another big difference between the sports at the university and back home was the level of conversation during the game. With friends in America, trash talking the other team and yelling when you spiked or blocked were just part of the game. Here, all communication was for the benefit of the team working together and when the point ended the ball was just passed back and served again. (Once I began to understand more of the conversation I realized there was a bit more trash talk than I realized at first.)
This was my first experience interacting with French students and seeing the differences between how sports I'm used to are played vs. how the French play.