Saturday, February 6, 2010


Hey all, I'm working on a wrap up post but here are some pics from our trip. Highlights include: Our shower/bathroom, Mark in the airplane restroom, my crooked pictures at the Taj Mahal, monkeys, puppies, biryani (like I wouldn't have pictures of biryani in here!!), eating off banana leaves, coaching, and life in India. ENJOY!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feb 1: As Elmer Fudd would say, "Ahhhhh, Some west and wewaxation"

Today was nice. We got to sleep in a bit so instead of giving you a bloe-by-bloe account of our adventures in India, we thought we would just string together some random thoughts from our trip. By the way, our night ended with Martin's brother in law, George, saying, "Damn! That was some bloody good ice cream. With the chocolate chips and chocolate syrup...I could have licked the plate clean." George is 72. And now, on to some random thoughts...

The human race needs to stop procreating, specifically in India. There needs to be a 10 year ban on having new kids. And a lifetime ban if you are homeless. -Mark

You know you're in a third world country when sidewalk vendors out number actual shops. -Mitch

If you're complaining about a bed, remember, YOU'RE COMPLAINING ABOUT A BED. 40% of Indians (ok that might be a stretch) are happy with a nice piece of cardboard between them and the sidewalk. -Mark

If nothing else, homeless pople in India are fantastifc sleepers. I've never seen anyone sleep completely covered in a thin blanket with the caucaphony of horns that follows driving in this country. -Mitch

Of all the mustaches we've seen, I am anxiously awaiting seeing the "Snidely Whiplash"

If New Yorkers drove as many mopeds and motorcycles as they do here in India and adopted the same traffic laws, traffic would run a lot smoother and everyone would be much less stressed. -Mitch

I am hoping to rin into the Indian Ben Bailey and be on Indian Cash Cab in the back of one of the covered trike taxis.

Watching sandlot cricket games with kids living in the middle of nowhere where every house has a cow or three, makes me nostalgic to when kids used to actually call friends to play pick up games, not call them to play online video games. I hope India never comes to that. Of course that would unclog many of the streets...-Mitch

India's Hollywood culture has not evolved because everyone keeps seeing our B an C list movies here on their English channel (except for the recent showings of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade). -Mark

I now completely trust any and all cab drivers in the US from foreign countries. Seeing how people drive here in India with an almost wild-west-type, every-man-for-himself atmosphere makes everything we see in the US make sense. It's not dangerous, it's called get to where you're going quickly, the lanes don't mean anything to me.  -Mitch

I hate mosquitoes. They're nothing more than blood sucking bastards. -Mitch and Mark

A reminder of things NOT to do in third world foreign countries: Travel down strange allies, follow strange tour guides up dark staircases into buildings with the promise of money, forget toilet paper. -Mitch

The old addage of "if you don't understand what the other person is saying just nod your head and smile" should NEVER be followed. It doesn't get anyone anywhere (This is how Jerry Seinfeld became the first pirate and wore the puffy shirt). -Mark

Mirinda is delicious and if it ever came to the USA Coke and Pepsi would be detroyed. -Mitch

The US is really in bad shape if Mark and I went to visit the US Consulate in Chennai and saw NOT 1 American! We are even outsourcing employees of our own embassy. Yeesh. -Mitch

If an 11 yr old boy can have his house washed away by a tsunami and come to develop a nasty cut shot on the hard court while wearing no shoes, your problems probably aren't as bad as you thought. -Mark

No matter how many pictures you take, they will never tell the story. Experience as much as you can and relive the good times as much as you can. -Mitch

Mark looks like Zac Efron and is now the heartthrob amongst a group of Indian schoolgirls. Read that, out loud, and try not to giggle. I can't do it. -Mitch

The only things worse than the above statement is Mitch knew who Zac Efron was and Mark didn't so by that statement, Mitch has more in common with Indian school girls than once thought. Awesome.-Mark

Americans need to get over the phobia of going barefoot. -Mark

If Indians can get around safely with virtually no laws, riding 4-5 people on a motorcycle, and paying no attention whatsoever to "lanes" or using directionals on their cars, I think we can get rid of some of the traffic  laws we have in the US that are meant to further plunder money from its citizens. hey police and politicians, WE ARE NOT ATM's there to provide you with more money, Use what you have more efficiently. -Mitch

Try learning a few words in the country you are in. Any time you use them the people you are with will like you even more. -Mitch

Have I mentioned Mark was compared to Zac Efron? -Mitch

Being in India has made us both realize one thing. Get over yourself. Whatever you are going through, even if it is difficult, there really are people worse off with much better attitiudes about their situation. Just find a way.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jan 31: Long car rides, Swindlers Row, Traffic Police with sticks and oh yeah, we saw the Taj Mahal.

Jan 31

I would like to tell you all in great detail about how wonderful the Taj Mahal was but since we were there for only about an hour, I'll get to that later since there was so much more to the day. We were told to be ready to leave the "hotel in the alley" at 7am sharp and got to the lobby at 7:02. Expecting our ride to be there we waited. And waited. And waited. At about 7:45 they showed and we left. Awesome, great start to the day. We were told it was about a 3 hour drive to Agra and with our flight being at 8pm tonight we figured that would give us a solid 4 hours or so at the Taj. We saw the India Gate, a large ornate arch, on our way out of Dehli an then drove. And drove. And drove. And drove. Well, we stopped for food around 10am and got back on the road, figuring we should be an hour or so away since we had been driving around 2 hours. Yeah, we couldn't have been more wrong. We hit ridiculous traffic jams in small towns that were seemingly built on one road made up of cattle, cars, huge trucks, buses, pedestrians, sidewalk vendors, mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles and traffic cops wielding large sticks that they would hit insolent drivers with. I am not making that last part up. Read it again. TRAFFIC COPS WOULD HIT DRIVERS WITH LARGE WOODEN STICKS. And every one of the cops looked like Saddam's twin brother right down to the beret and mustache. Yes, our driver got hit at one point on our way to Agra while trying to turn left amidst a total cluster F of other cars, motorcycles and bicycles. (Quick sidebar: what is it with third world countries and mustaches? I guess it's a testosterone thing showing virility but come on! EVERY guy here has a mustache from the 12 year olds trying to look a man. Here's a quck list of them: The Wyatt Earp, the Uncle Rico, the Un-waxed Rollie Fingers, the Molester, and the Saddam. It's insane!).

Worst part of the trip there, (ok, not worst but most disturbing) were the dressd up monkeys at the place we stopped at for breakfast. One had on a dress complete with make up and the other had a painted on mustache (oops, forgot that one, the Monkey with a Painted on Mustache). And don't try and take pics of the monkeys either (I didn't take pis of the dressed up monkeys, I am neither condoning nor supporting that retarded activity). The owners or handlers or swindlers, whatever they are, will try and get you to pay money. Don't. In fact, don't even get out of your car driving to Agra because someone witll try and get you to buy something or pay money for looking at something the wrong way.

So, when we got to Agra and parked, we walked to Taj, fended off a metric ton of people wanmting to give bike cab rides to the Taj, give us a tour or sell us a photo. Oh yeah, one quick note. We arrived at 12:30. 12 F-ing 30. Yeah, our 3 hour ride took us almost 5 hours with one 20 minute stop. This is NOT good, it's not even close to being good. That means at the last we need to factor in 4.5 hours on the drive back so we can make our 8pm flight which means we need to leave no later than 2. So that gives us a whopping hour and a half to take in all we can at one of the 7 modern wonders of the world and walk around. Did I mention we had been driving since 7:45am? I did? OK, just wanted to be clear on that. We bought the tickets to get in, which by the way cost Americans more. Had I been Canadian it wold have been Rs 250 (rupees), about US $5, but no, it's Rs 750 if you're from America (US$15). Evidently foreigners are willing to spend money on guides at the Taj Mahal since one guy and his 14 teeth was just sitting there waiting at the ticket counter for foreign tourists offering his tour guide services. After turning him away since he was charging Rs 975 for a guided tour (the other guy we had gotten down to 400 for each of us before we sent him on his way) we agreed for his buddy to show us another entrance for Rs 400. It was WELL worth it since the other line was an hour long but the funniest part was as we are walking the guy we are following starts walking up a dark staircase. I stopped dead at my tracks and said, "Whoa, where are we going?" He said the other entrance was through an alley (another great sign that Mark, me and our rupees were never going to be seen again). But true to his word he was right and we went right in saving us a TON of time.

So we walked around and it really is magnificent, don't get me wrong, but Mark and I both agree, when visiting the Taj Mahal, you need more than about 75 minutes. We were less than happy with our host as he is trying to go from one place to another and we both said at one point, "Hey, this is our trip, we'll go where we want, when we want while we are here." For whatever reason, leaving late, a small force of swindlers large enough to occupy Lichtenstein and only 75 minutes at the Taj Mahal made us a bit cranky. So, the 2pm bell arrived and we headed out and back up Swindlers Row. This is the path that connected the street where we parked to the Taj entrance with everything from people trying to sell me photos to old guys trying to get us on their bicycle taxi to kids selling Taj Mahal snow globe key chainsIf you haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, do it. The part with the tourists by the Taj Mahal is absolutely correct and eerily accurate. Two little kids walked with us, one all the way to our car where our driver literally had to grab the kid's arm and take his arm out of the car trying to sell us the damn taj Snow Globe key chain. The only english they know is please Mr. Please buy, I give you a good price. They are nothing short of tenacious. At one point tonight Mark and I decided it was like the scene from "Airplane!" when Captn Rex Kramer enters the airport and starts fighting off all the people offering him information on one thing or another. It's crazy.

So it's 2pm, we're on the road back to Delhi and were making pretty good time. I was thinking at some point we might make it back to the airport by 6 to get some food, relax and get on the plane. Once again, I was completely wrong. We got caught in traffic outside Delhi because of the wonderfully organized roads, construction on said roads and buses and road side shops and said roads. Well, 6pm was out, hopefully 6:30. Nope. Neither was 6:45. Or 7. Or 7:15. Ummmm, did they know our flight was at 8pm? Apparently yes and our driver was doing his best to get us there braking numerous traffic laws (well, if they had any here and almost running over any number of pedestrian or two wheeled vehicles).

So we pull up at 7:30 and what does our host tell us? "Please hurry, flight is leaving." Wow, really? We had NO idea, thanks for the update. And then again as we are waiting for the gentleman with the large machine gun to check our tickets and passports and let us in the airport he tells us again to hurry. Once again, thanks homie.

So again, for the 2nd time in as many weekends we made the flight by the skin of our teeth except no exit rows seats this time so Mark and I folded ourselves up in the regular seats and laughed at how crazy the trip had been and how much we wanted to get back to Chennai. And then the guy sitting in front of me, who looked like an Indian Jerry Stiller (George Costanza's dad on Seinfeld) leaned his seat back all the way back in my lap. And somehow, my trip just got a little bit better. The 2nd time Indian Jerry Stiller did it we asked him to lean forward a bit since his plaid shirt and dyed orange hair was giving me vertigo and he was NOT happy (OK, I made the part up about the vertigo but he WAS wearing a loud plaid shirt, he DID have orange highlights in his hair and he was NOT happy). As we were getting off the plane he gave me a nice long glare. Evidently he being all of 5'8" needed the leg room more than me. Sorry, my bad.

And now comes the end of the 24 hours from hell. Total tally from 8pm Jan 30 to 10:30pm Jan 31: 5.5 hours of flying, 11 hours of driving in the back of a rather small car, 6 hours asleep in a hotel whose entrance is in an alley, and 75 minutes at the Taj Mahal. Saaaa-weet.

Jan 30: End of the coaching clinic and off to Delhi!

Jan 30

We trained Team Customs in the morning again from 7-8:45. This time we worked on offense mostly and warmed the guys up with pass to attack footwork and then got into a Pass-Don't Pass drill where they could actively work on their footwork and the setters could work on their set tempo to the hitters. After that we worked with their middles on tempo and footwork as well before getting into a defense vs. hitters drill called +7/-7 to end the day. We had a great practice and the coaches want us to come back (seems to be a re-occurring theme, we must be doing something right!) and met with their team manager. We had a great discussion on why it is necessary to change the way we do things to improve and break the time tested mold every once in a while. the whole if it ain't broke don't fix it thought but the problem is here, it is broken and we need to fix it.

Our last day of the coaches clinic. We covered the last part of the theory including hydration and nutrition in training, using one voice in practice if you have multiple coaches, competition and training period practices, periodization in training, strength and conditioning and plyometrics, and practice design. After that we had the coaches design a 2 hour practice that they would use on the players outside. After our 11am tea break, which has been the great part of our week since it hepls us block the theory sessions easier, we finished the practice plan and went to the courts to get the teams started. Since it was running short on time, players didn't get to the courts until almost 12:30, we had about 5 coaches that wrote down the practie plan lead things so after they had the players line up guess what the coaches had them do...yeah, stretch. Evidently NOTHING we had talked about the whole week got through and they weren't even following the practice plan that we had put together. Lost in translation I guess. After we got everything straightened out things went pretty smoothly. We had a quick lunch break and then took the coaches to the sand courts with some of the older players. We talked to them about the importance of using sand training as a training tool both physically and mentally and showed the coaches some basic drills.

After the beach portion, we handed out certificates to coaches and players and took a LOT of pictures. One great part of the clinic was we had the very first national team beach players from India for the men and women. We had a great conversation with them including Mohammed Grouse saying he loved visiting Sant Monica Beach in Cali because it reminded him of Baywatch. Once Mark and I had stopped laughing (well sort of, because we were laughing about that for a LONG time, we talked more and they invited us to their town at another time to do a 15 day beach camp. We are definitely excited about that.

So after quick showers, Mark and I were off to the airport and a 3 hour flight to Delhi where we would stay overnight and then head to the Taj Mahal in Agra the next morning for a quick little 1 day trip on one of our 2 days off (Jan 31-Feb 1). After an uneventful flight we were picked up by one of the guys with the Volleyball Federation of India and a driver and drove about 20-30 min to some random hotel in an alley (it was nicer on the inside), told the clerk we indeed wanted a room with twin beds and not a room with one king (we've already shared a king bed the previous weekend in Ooty so we were good), and had to switch rooms immediately since the room they gave us was musty, stale and couldn't have been used in a solid 30-35 years judging by the smell. The one bright side was Road to Perdition was on at the hotel, so that was a good end to the day. We're fired up for the trip to the Taj Mahal tomorrow!

Jan 29: The most powerful person in Chennai

Jan 29

An early morning for us as we had agreed to train the Customs Team we. We worked with the previous week. What did the guys start to do as soon as got there? Yep, you guessed it, stretch. Although their coach is not at the clinic it's something we talked about the previous week as well. So after we quickly put an end to that, we got started and covered serving and blocking with the guys. The coaches all say they need help training at a higher level but when you only practice 2 hours and 30-45 minutes are spent NOT doing anything related to volleyball it's easy to see why.

After the practice we started the coaches clinic and covered a bit more of the theory: Specificity vs. Generality, the importance of proper bio-mechanics, learning how to coach watching players and not the volleyball and, or course, continued our vast discussions on warming up for practice some more. One great part of the Indian We then headed outside to work with the players on transition footwork, blocking and had the coaches work more with the players. Two things we are REALLY struggling with are we have too many kids on too many teams there (5 teams worth of kids) and too many coaches trying to coach. We'll ask 2-3 coaches to run a drill and when one player is trying to be corrected there are about 5-6 other coaches piping up with a cacaphony and the kid's head is just spinning around, no idea who to listen to. Mark and I are really on our toes making sure there is minimum conversation, only keys being used from one coach per player.

At night we had dinner with Martin and his wife. She is a line judge for the ATP and was in Australia for the Australia Open the past few weeks, even doing a few matches Centre Court. We had a phenomenal dinner at the one of oldest hotels in Chennai. It was a great evening and Martin's wife is hilarious. If Martin's the most powerful man in Chennai as we joke about, his wife is the most powerful person. She's a riot and loved our stories from the past two weeks.

Jan 28: Day 2 of coaching clinic

Jan 28

Day 2 of the coaches clinic went well. We talked a LOT about the use of skilled warm ups for practice instead of the old run and stretch method. Apparently this was taught to Indian coaches about 30-some years ago and and has ingrained itself in training methods. The coaches seem shocked you can actually train and play effectively without running stretching prior to practice but instead by doing some volleyball activities. Even with Mark and I warming a team up in the afternoon and not stretching them, the coaches were still asking us questions: What about pulled muscles, what about sprained ankles, what about other injuries??? Ugh. Evidently wacthing us and reading about studies that SAY running and stretching are unnecessary aren't good enough. Add in to that that some teams take 30-45 minutes to run and stretch and warm up and that adds up to a LOT of wasted time. Overall the day went well though. The coaches were much more engaged, we went over attacking and serving in addition to covering more theory principles. One thing we found out is there really hasn't been a lot of coaching training here. Many coaches still use the "this is the way I was taught method" and seem very hesitant to change, which is understandable. they seem very open to new methods and when we talked about the benefits of change and being different they really took to that concept.
After the clinic Mark and I both stayed around to play with the juniors team and called it a night to try and get a little rest before tomorrow morning since we have an early wake up to help train Team Customs, a group we worked with earlier in our trip. Gnight from India.

Jan 27: Coaches clinc and change

Jan 27

It was our first day with the coaches for our coaches clinic. We went over a lot of classroom materials: motor programs, methods and principles of coaching, blocked vs random practices, and the importane of using keywords to deliver chunks of information rather than overloading the players with too much at one time. Some of the coaches were pretty engaged and interested and others had a bit of a glazed over look so we went pretty slow. I know the language barrier is tough, mostly because of the American accent vs. British and Indian accents they are used to but we got through everything. We also covered passing and using key words to coach. Coaching in India is VERY different. They demand respect from the players and there seems to be little dialogue from athlete to coach. It's very much coach says, player does, no questions. After the theory portion we worked a lot on the practical and taught the coaches how to pass using our key words. Some of them seemed to pck it up pretty quickly.

In the afternoon we had the coaches with the players working on passing. We talked a lot with the coaches as they taught the players our key words while passing to ensure ONLY key words were used. Many of the coaches really laid in to the players when they didn't have straight and simple arms or they were trying to correct the players feet when we were focusing on their wrists and hands being together. We are going to have a LOT of work ahead of us this week to focus the coaches eyes on passing form and make sure they are using LOTS of positive reinforcement since that does not seem to be a cultural trait.