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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 25: Mmmm, maybe bring a light sweater

Jan 25

So we got to Coimbatore this morning a bit before 10am. After meeting up with some of Martin's buddies at the aiport that he played volleyball with back in his salad days, we had breakfast with the head of the volleyball federation in Coimbatore (also known as Cotton City because of the cotton industry located there). After a great breakfast and ewre given more silks and garlands for our visit, we headed to a friend of Martin's house for a quick stop and then it was off to the mountians and a waterfall. The drive was beautiful and had a ton of rural scenery, a side of India I was very interested in seeing. We rode through some very small town where the main domesiles were thatch huts made from the fronds of the coconut trees. Coconuts are a HUGE staple here as cash crop but they provide much, much more than food. Coconut Oil is used in cooking, in linaments, used in hair, the fronds are used in housing materials, the milk is used in cooking and  whatever isn't used is often left on the ground to decompose and become mulch.

On our way to the kopuntain and waterfall we could see the mountains rise up in front of us amidst a light mist. The peaks were amazing and the best way to describe them were they reminded us of the hanging forests from the movie "Avatar" (if you haven't seen the movie in 3-D, so yourself a favor and see it). The water fall was pretty cool but was more of a "stand underneath on a ledge" waterfall and not a "jump in a pool of water" waterfall. The great part was we were granted access to the rocks above the fall with a fat roll of rupees. The rocks above were 10x's as amazing as the falls itself and could see the water coming down the mountain between huge rocks. The granite formations were pretty gnarly and there was even a small temple/shrine to the river god up there. It was maybe 15' x 8' and looked like a cement altar but was cool nonetheless. We hiked around, climbed a LOT and took a ton of great pictures.The visit also included some encounters with monkeys that live up there, small wild chickens and a rooster (Little Jerry Seinfeld as I named him) and a fortune teller whose parrot picked cards out of a stack and the teller read what the cards said. Funny enough it was pretty right on. Mark and I were both told we were going to be successful in what we do and would overcome any challenges. My fortune though, eerily enough, included the work I do youth (Dig 4 Kids and Orlando Gold) and Mark was told he was going to live a long long life. Both of our cards contained different Hindu Bachelor Gods. Awwwwww yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhhhh.....

So after the hike and the mountain we went back to Martin's friend's house for lunch. The house is on a huge coconut farm and it was a beautiful place. Very simple but very nice. Amidst the rows of coconut trees and some workers, there was a cow there (as there are at many houses out here) and some dogs as well. We had a whole assortment of food and had a great visit. The highlight for me was we got to trya dish made frmo goat's blood. Yep, the blood of a goat (not sure if it was the son of a motherless goat). First off it was delicious and I had seconds. Second, if you didn't know what it was you never would've known. I feel like I'm living the life of Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. We are so thankful for all of the hospitality we have been shown. Needless to say, Martin has a LOT of friends and he definitely has quite a bit of juice as we continue to find out.

After lunch, we drove to a secondary school in Tirrupur and met their boys volleyball teams, about 35-40 kids in all, and their staff and physical directors. We continue to be amazed at the receptions we are getting which are nothing short of treating us as dignitaries. Ambassadors of volleyball maybe, but I'm not that big of a deal in my own country, so it's a bit strange and, again, humbling, to get this treatment elsewhere. If we didn't have pictures of all the ceremonies, we don't think anyone would believe us. After meeting everyone we did a group photo with the boys and girls teams and then got absolutely mobbed by the kids who wanted our autographs. Martin again told us we were the first Americans they'd ever met and probably ever will, as well as the first white people. Being so isolated like that within a large community with no outsiders is so far off my radar screen it's hard to conceptualize. We were absolutely mobbed by the kids asking for autographs, saking us questions,  asking how we liked India and welcoming us. It was really surreal and felt like were Kobe and LeBron walking into a high school basketball game.

After a while, we had to get on the road as it was still a 3 hour drive to the resort we are staying at which brings me to now. We are driving to a town called Ooty for the Republic Day Festival tomorrow. The resort, which is a government house, is in a town up a mountain and is has a LOT of tea fields. Mark and I have no idea where we are except that roads on the drive up to the resort (we are quite a ways up, and the road was partially washed out in some parts by rains recently) and the twists and turns make PCH look like a long desert highway. It's very cold here and there has been very little relaxing on our day off. Oh well. Our resort consists of a few rooms that we are all in and Mark and I are sharing a king bed that is really two twin beds and a king sized sheet and blanket. Awesome.

Oh yeah, Martin told us the weathe might be slightly cooler and to bring a light sweater. Uh, yeah. Way cooler than "light sweater" tonight. But as he says, we can get one tomorrow at the stores, no problem.
I have no idea what Martin has planned for us tomorrow: meeting with another volleyball federation president, meeting with another head of something or other, and whisking us off somewhere but I hope it involves rest somewhere along the line. I swear, if Martin isn't the Mayor, he certainly is more important than one,

Good night from cold and chilly Coimbatore.

January 24: All good things come to an end...

Jan 24

Well it;s our last day of training with the teams. We have the girls team early, from 7-8:30, the boys team 8:30-10 and beach 12-1. The girls practice went very well and we worked a lot on serving technique again and then focused on some serve receive games and defense before wrapping up and starting with the guys. The girls have made a LOT of strides the l;st few days and we are excited to see how they do at the national tournament. The guys practice went very well and was really spirited for an early practice after a tough practice the night before. We focused hard on serve receive and some of the new play sets we installed in the evning practice the night prior. We are continually amazed at how quickly the guys learn and adapt to the new concepts we introduce. After the guys practice we hung around for a bit chatting with the players before starting the beach workouts. We just let them play a lot and did a King of the Court work up, switching the top players between courts in terms of points after someone got to 10. After three rounds we took 6 of the best players and let them play against Mark and I. Everything was going well until Mark ran a ball down and tripped on a cement barrier in the sand behind the court cutting a deep gash in his right leg. No stitches were needed but it looks pretty gnarly. Needless to say that ended the playing session and after some on the spot impromptu medical care, we signed the certificates for the playes and had a nice closing cremony with the players, staff and some other volleyball higher ups. Included in thi was a uniform ceremony where we handed out the uniforms to the players and honored them. It is very big deal to represent the state and most players live upwards of 6-8 hours away. After the ceremony we had lunch with the entire camp and got to know the players away fm thre court a bit. They are all very nice individuals and it was great getting to know them. We found out we were the first Americans they had met and quite possibly the only ones they ever will meet. That is hard to fathom but very humbling.

After lunch we cleaned up and went and relaxed and got a massage. Mark and I weren't really sure what was in store for us but we soon found out. After a quick meeting with the owner we were both taken to rooms for our massges and, well, let's just say a rubdown by some Indian guy with a mustache and waxy massage oils while we were wearing paper diapers ain't what we were expecting. I kept laughing because all I could remember was George Costanza freaking out bevause he thought it moved. Trust me, it didn't move. As much as I showered at the place, the inch think bhild up of masssge oil on me wasn't going anywhere. I must have showered for 20 minutes and it still wasn't gone. Ugh.

After another shower at the hotel we went to the coast for dinner at Fishermans Cove, a resort about an hour from the city. The view was beautiful and the sound of the water and waves really helped recharge my batteries. Dinner was outstanding,Mark and I both had lobster that cost about US$12 with some shrimp and calamari for appetizers. It was nice to relax and eat right on the beach and a great way to end a long week.

After the drive back, it was time for bed as we had another early morning to catch a flight to Coimbatore, a city about an hour flight west for some quick R and R. So, from Chennai, good night.

January 23: The never-ending day

As a quick note, Mark and I have changed the name of the blog to Driving by Sonar, It's No Problem. The first refers to the caucophony of horns that people use when driving to let other drivers know they are passing them, to get out of the way, they are idiots, or sometimes, just to honk. It was even more evident on January 26, but we'll get to that later. Let's just say people use their horns here. A LOT.

The last part, It's No Problem, refers to Martin's favorite phrase when we need something. Whatever it is, coffee, tea, no more biriyani, lights on the courts (that were set up by people shimmying up a 30 foot pole), more volleyballs, fewer mosquitos,  rolling up to airport 10 minutes before our flight and getting on the plane, whatever we need, (except some real rest), he always replies, "It's no problem." More on THAT later

SO, without further ado, on to the much anticipated, much needed blog updates.....

January 23

This is a our last full day and let me tell you, it was FULL. We were up at 5:30 to meet a friend of Martin's that coaches Team Customs, a local "pro" team. (As a reminder, we were up til 12:15 the night before because our "15 minutes" at Martin's house turned into 2 hours). We worked with the guys on blocking for about an hour and they seemed to catch on very quickly. The players here are ultra respectful, learn very quickly and do exactly what you ask them too. We talked briefly on some team concepts, chatted with the players for a few minutes and then had to get going back to our teams and the beach guys. We were a bit late getting back but went over some attacking and let the guys hit the rest of the morning and then went over a lot of team strategy in the afternoon: calling out shots for your partner, seeing the court, and knowing when to hit shots and when to swing away. They all seem to like to swing away even if the balls go out. SO changing that habit is something we have focused on all week.

The girls team worked more on swing blocking and team defense and communicating on the court. They are VERY quiet on the court around Mark and I which can be frustrating to a degree but they seem to be open to talking more as the week as gone by, especially when we have specifically designed drills that encourage and reward on-court communication. Their transition game was the focus of the afternoon/evening and then got into a LOT of serve receive into defense transition games and more work on blocking and their eyes.

We worked with the guys team on a lot more 6 on 6 situational drills. We also played a game called USA where one team had to win 3 rallies in a row (each rally won is a U first, then S, and finally A) and a serve to win a point to focus on some rotations and win multiple rallies in a row. After a quick conversation between Mark and myself about half way through practice, we also put in a few fast tempo sets: shoots to both pins and also a BiQ and a Gap, a fast back row set between the Zone 2 and 3 blockers. Their offense was really moving by the end of the night. We also adjusted the spacing of their middle blockers to a bit farther off the net to give them more room to swing. We really like working with the teams here and how fast they are able to change, never questioning why we do things and how respectful they are. They are learning quickly and have been a pleasure to work with

After practice, and a few technical difficulties, we watched some video of a few international professional matches we found online. We showed the teams on video the blocking moves were taught them, showed them some of the fast tempo sets other teams were running and got the guys, and girls, understanding the reasoning and methodology on why we do what we do.

So, by the time it was all said and done, our day started with practice at 6am, and ended with video at 11pm. Yowza. That is a LOT of volleyball and I am ready for a lot of sleep. Good night from Chennai.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Days 7, 8 and 9 Jan 20-22: The days are just packed

WOW. What a whirlwind. The past few days have FLOWN by. I don't even know where to start. Maybe on Day 7 would be a good start. On day 7 we started changing the schedule again to fit ALL the teams in and two practices a day for each group (beach, men indoor and women indoor) so here is our schedule: 7-8am beach teams, 8-10am mens indoor, 10-12am women's indoor, 2-4:30pm beach, 5-7pm women indoor and 7-9pm-ish men indoor. Yep, that is a loooong day with lots of volley. The beach teams are younger and Mark and I are able to get in conditioing and plyos with them in the morning before getting too in depth with coaching. The girls team is made of the best under-21 players in Chennai and we have ben working a LOT with them on defense, reading hitters, blocking and serve receive. We taught them how to swing block and a put in a newer blocking defensive system for them and it seemed to make a big difference. Between training the women's team and starting off the with men's team, we were introduced to the Men's National Team Chief Coach, Ramana Rao. He is in charge of choosing players for the National teams at the senior, junior and youth levels. We were surprised to have a ceremony with all of the players and Mark and I were honored by the staff of the Volleyball Federation of India where we were given traditional Indian silk shawls and what the called lace garlands which are huge ceremonial neck pieces. It was a occasion and it means a lot to both Mark and I to be honored for doing something we both love.

That night while working with the guys, the best college age players in Chennai, we put in swing blocking and worked a lot on that all night. They got better and better at it and are triple blocking on a lot of sets. Although not a very big team all around, they have a dynamic group of athletes that can really get up and jump. I think we can really get them to a nice level before the 26th when they go to play in the country's national championship.

Day 8, January 21

We did a LOT more work with the older boys team on blocking. We are continually amazed not only at their athleticism, but at some of the balls they can run down and touch. I think it's a function of havin a great group of athletes and that they play on a surface that's a fombination of asphalt covered in dirt and a hard dirt baseball infield. Not ideal for making lots of moves to the, uh, "floor". They are really taking to swing blocking but we are still having some issues getting all of the players to get their hands over the net.

The girls team has been improving by leaps and bounds so far. Even witha  large number of girls (almost 20) were are making a lot of changes and have been working defense to control their moves and really focus on their eyework. Tey have some really nice attackers but we need to really work on their net play and quality of contacts. They too make a of touches on defense but some of them aren't super disciplined on defense so that;s something we'll continue to work on.

Mark and I were beat after a long day and just ate at the hotel  so we could get some sleep as early as possible.

Day 9 (already!) January 22

I'm continually amazed at how many high powered people we continue to meet. They are really rolling out the red carpet for us. This person run this federation here, that person is the head of this, it's truly amazing. I'm starting to think Martin has WAY more juice than he's letting on... I also need to mention how amazing the staff is here with the federation. They are constantly bringing us coffee (which is incredible here) and tea during our breaks and getting us LOTS of water. Our two main guys, Big Kumar and Little Kumar, are two of the hardest working guys here. If some people in the US got it done like these guys (and everyone else) do, cancer, AIDS, world hunger and the meaning of life would be cured and figured out, within 10 minutes. Martin continues to crack us up with his phrase "OK, no problem." Martin, please, nore more food. OK, No problem and then he brings us twice as much as the day before (although we're doing more pushing away than at the start of the trip at this point).

As for training, wow. The guys are getting RELLY good. They are fast learners and take our coaching very well despite the language barrier. The blocking has vastly improved and we are nbow working on the offense to get them to run faster tempos backrow and to the pins. We still have some individual areas to work on with some players but as a whole they are growing leaps and bounds.

Mark and I have also been catching the end of a FIVB coaching course on the use of technology in analysis. Many coaches here had no idea you could use video for opponent preparation and scouting and self-analysis to your won teams benefit. We've already used our cameras and the federations video camera to provide players with immediate on what they are doing and how to improve it and it is helping them out greatly. Without having seen some other teams in India, I think this group could really have a great tournament. The only downside right now seems to be that both Mark and I would love to have more time with the players. We really think they could give someof the top NCAA men's teams a VERY competitive match if not win one.

We also put in swing blocking with the girls tonight and after a while it's starting to take hold. They are making better moves and really pushing through the net. It's going to take a lot of mindful repetitions to get them out of some of their old habits but they have some nice players in key positions which will be great for them. Their defense is improving greatly drill by drill and their coach is really enthusiastic and has been a great help in explaining what we are saying to the girls.

One nice surprise was Little Kumar ran to get us lunch and brought us, you guessed it, INDIAN QUESADILLAS! Just a nice extra bright spot in the day. I can't say enough about how great everyone is here and how great we are treated.

After the guys practice, we went to Martin's house, had some dinner and chatted with him and a few other people. We were tired and wanted to go back to the hotel to sleep since wehad to be up at 5:30 and he says, of course, 15 minutes, then i'll take you back. 2 hours later, we got back to the hotel but we aren't complaining. We had some great home cooked food and learned how to play Carrom, a game that kind of combines checkers with billiards. Mark's team won but my partner, Prabakar, and I are going to have a practice session and maybe shoot some video to get ready for our next match up.

One thing that really throws me off is being 10.5 hours ahead of home and having absolutely NO concept of what day it is. I know dates but couldn't tell you if it's Saturday, Sunday, Monday or whatever for all the tea in India (which, trust me, is a lot)

I know I am forgetting a LOT right now but it's about 1am here and have been up since 5:30am. I'll be back tomorrow with upates on Jan 23 and 24 and have asome more in depth and coherent thoughts. I can't believe we're already on our last day of camps. Never thought I'd say it but I am really bummed about it.

Ok, cheers from India

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 7, AM: LOTS of kids

So the morning session began a little closer to 8am as all the players began filing in. We have 10 girls and close to 52 boys. On two courts that is a LOT of people. We found out that close to 20 of the boys are here only for the beach portion (and explains why some of them weren't wearing any shoes, LOVE IT) which will make the afternoon portion much more manageable. We will work with the older players from 4-6 and work them at a higher level and then 6-8:30 with the younger players and girls. We got a LOT done this morning working on all of our passing keys: wrists and hands together, arms straight and simple, face the ball, angle the platform, shuffle and see the server, see spin. It certainly helped that the coaches knew english and could help translate for us but the kids seemed to understand us pretty well. They made a LOT of changes and got better at passing. We still need to work with them on communication but that will come. After a short break we're about to head over and start the beach camp. One thing we are both excited about, these kids definitely have some ability to play. We both agree, we can't wait to see the overall progress at the end of the week.

Two things we are definitely getting more of and soon- sunscreen for the day and bug spray for the evening.

One funny part about the coaches translating to further explain things was there are LOTS of english words mixed when it comes to volleyball. In this case, when explaining skills, less is definitely more for us. They also LOVE the high five when they do well.

So long for now.

Day 7: Time to Work

Day 7 January 20

A full nights sleep!! Slept til 6:15 when we had to get up to head over the stadium to begin our day. The schedule today is 7-10am for the camp for the indoor players, 10-11 we are going to teach the group some basic weightlifting and strength training exercises, 12-3 we have the beach players camp, 4-6 we are training the older group (19+) of indoor players and 6-8:30 we will have the younger group (15-19). The coolest thing is we found out some of the players have been traveling over night to come here. One group began traveling last night 7 and was 250 miles away. It took so long because some of the roads are great for traveling and another group came from the southernmost tip of of India over 500 miles away. This was an area that was greatly affected by the tsunami in 2004. Only now is beach volleyball starting to come back to the area. It's very humbling to be able to be a part of it.
Day 6 January 19

Today was another early morning as both mark and I are getting over jet lag. Falling asleep is fine, it's staying asleep past 5 that's been an issue. After breakfast we went over to the stadium and did som more work until about 2pm when we headed to lunch. Mark and I were talking to Martin about traffic again and decided to add one thing to our earlier analogy to the traffic here being like the start of a marathon just adding in cars, trucks, etc. One thing we needed to add was to now imagine everyone running in different directions. We went to smaller restaurant in a hotel that was down an alley. I have no idea HOW we made it down the alley with hitting anything. Lunch was very good however we had told Martin we wanted something light sicne we weren't all that hungry. Well, we ended getting, biriyani, again. WHICH is never a bad thing but there was just so much of it. And that to the shrimp and other things and it was a HUGE lunch. Again.

One thing about where we ate lnch was that on our back we went through a very poor area of town. The biggest difference we saw between that and other areas was it much smaller and much more crowded. Here's a basic rule I have, if there are stray chickens running around in the streets, you're either in a very rural area, a poor area, or a third world country.

After lunch we went to a relative of Martin's house. The place was beautiful and we watched part of the India-Bangladesh Cricket match with Martin's nephew George who was very helpful in us getting our visas and George's dad Simon. Also, there was Simon's dog Jude. A HUGE Great Dane that look like a gigantic dalmatian. And I mean gigantic. After some time at Simon's we went back to the hotel to relax for a few minutes and then went over to the courts and played with the team again.
The highlight of the day was beginning to learn some words in Hindi such as: Hello, Goodnight, and goodbye which were Hello, Goodnight, and Goodbye (no thank you to the British). Actually we did learn some other words such as nandri (nahndri) which means Thank You, Mudile (moo-di-lay) which means alligator (good for when we teach the players how to gator the ball), andrum which is a forearm pass and aprem which is setting or a fingering pass. I have no idea how these words are spelled but it's a rough translative spelling
After a long day we were both pretty beat, we got a very light snack and had a beer with Martin before calling it a night. We have a long day tomorrow.
Good night from Chennai, India

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 5: Jumbooooo!

Day 5 January 18 PM

This is a quick post before heading to sleep but we wanted to share a few funny moments from tonight. We went over to watch some of their younger players train, about age 15-19. They were better than we expected so we ended up playing with them a few sets. By far the funnest part of the trip was teaching the players english through volley lingo. While doing so warm up hitting I hit a few jumbo shrimp (high arching shots to a corner) and yelled JUMBOOOOOO! As I hit it. Well, the players thought this was simply the greatest ever so they started doing it too. Excpet now they talk about it ALL THE TIME and all Mark I can make it the whirlwind of Hindi is dadadadadaadadad JUMBO dadadadadadadad. The highest of high comedy. They were pretty excited when one of the players actually hit one correctly that scored. They will be sorely disappointed when we tell thm it is NOT an indoor shot (even though we are playing indoor rules, 6 vs. 6 outside) and should never be used. We are having fun though.

Two other quick funny stories. First Mark and I demanded to have a very light dinner with all of the food we've been downing and quickly decided to start cutting back on the biriyani before We're the first people EVER to travel to India and actually gain weight. Hell, the people here can barely gain weight.

And lastly, Mark and I were talking in the car still trying to describe the driving and road situations. Mark has perhaps the best description ever: Imagine the start of a marathon or 5K or whatever running road race with everyone leaving and jostling for position at the same time. Got it? Good. Now imagine the start of the race where every is bunched up (think beginning of the NYC Marathon crossing the Brooklyn Bridge). Now add motorcycles, mopeds, cars, and all of the spectators to that image. Now imagine that all of these people, runners, and drivers were Indian. Welcome to India. JUMBOOOOOO!!!!!!

Day 5: Indian Quesadillas and Indian Kilts

Day 5 January 18 (Day 2 in India...I think?)

Either my body was telling me it’s time to get up we have a long day ahead of us or jet lag is setting in...I think it’s jet lag since I woke up at 3:15 after about 3 hours of sleep and couldn’t go back to sleep. After some reading and two trips up and down the Indian TV channels I played Scrabble on my computer and caught up on some podcasts and then got breakfast with Mark. Evidently he had been up for a while also. It’s now 4pm-ish here and I’m not really tired so we’ll se how things go tonight. After another breakfast involving some fry bread, tea, toast and other things we were picked up by Martin and headed over to the stadium, a whopping 30 second commute to the building across the street. We worked on the schedule for the week for beach and indoor clinics (Jan 20-Jan 24) and also for the coaches clinic (Jan 27-31) and the university physical directors conference (Feb 1-2). We also got USB wireless connectors for our computers so we can have email access.We also met for about 5-10 min with the Secretary for Volleyball in India. He’s basically India’s equivalent to Doug Beal with USA Volleyball. All of the offices are located in the stadium and it was a great honor to meet with him. After a few hours of work we went to a restaurant known for it’s biriyani, the rice and meat dish Mark and I had yesterday for lunch and is the oldest restaurant in Chennai at over 100 years old. We had some lamb biriyani, Chicken 65 (because it was first made in 1965), and what I called Indian Quesadillas which is flat bread filled with spiced ground lamb and grilled. I’m only on Day Two in India yet I think I could have biriyani every day and still not get tired of it.

Of the highlights of lunch, either watching Mark get the business of a hot chili or me asking what the dish was that was being served and replying “Oh, it’s like an Indian Quesadilla”, were up there but by far the best part was us foregoing the western practice of using silverware and diving in with our hands, Indian style. There is certainly an art to eating with your hand and here’s a nickels worth of free advice...if you eat with your hands in India, make sure it’s with your right hand. Let’s just say that traditionally, people use their left hands for some hygienic purposes if you don’t have toilet paper. In fact, it is also considered very rude to shake hands with the left hand as well. We had a great conversation with Martin at lunch on Indian culture. I still find it very hard to even come close to describing our trip with any sort of clarity. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here barely two full days as both Mark and I feel much more comfortable here...and we even have toilet paper! one question we had was on dress and attire. All the women wear Sari's, traditional Indian dress but some of the men wear jeans and others wear only what we could describe as Indian kilts. Martin told us that is a traditional Indian style as well since it cooler and more, "breathable." Well then, here's to Indian kilts and getting some air movement down there.
Oh yeah, to keep ourselves busy, Mark and I have started coming up with sports to compete in while we are here based on what we have seen and this is our list: Ping Pong (or as the Asians and Christopher Walken call it...Ping Pong), badminton, swimming, boxing, Brahma Bull riding/rodeo, a taxi race with each of us in a competing three wheel taxi, and while I’m sure we will find more, our last sport is a death match winner take all race on a motorcycle on the main road for 100 feet. You will get minus points for hitting pedestrians since they are all over the streets and the object is to simply make it safely since I am firmly convinced that if you crash or hit something you will die. Have I mentioned the drivers are crazy here? This might be a reason why cab drivers in the states do so well. Trust me, driving in New York is a leisurely stroll in the country compared to the streets in Chennai. Have I mentioned the drivers here are nuts ?

We’re about to head over to the stadium (this time we’re making the 200 yd trek by foot, not auto and braving the insanity that is known as the street in front of our hotel. Wish us luck. Wait, maybe this is a new event in our decathlon, the 50 foot sprint of death. Actually, it's like an intense game of Frogger. Just call me George Costanza.

Day 4: Things NOT to do in a foreign country

Day 4 January 17 PM

So we went down to lunch and had the Chicken Biriyani and Vegetable Pulao, Samba which is like a sauce and nan which is a traditional Indian bread. The food was very good and we decided to take a walk and check out the town. Chennai is the third most populous state in a country that has over 1 billion people. Chennai alone has 150 million people. The streets are crammed with vehicles of every imaginable size from bicycles to mopeds carrying upwards of 5 people (yes, we regularly see entire 5 member families riding on mopeds that shouldn't be ridden by individuals of large girth), small motorcycles, the cars, the trike taxis and buses that are ridiculously overcrowded and even bull drawn carts. Anyone driving here has to have a mixture of courage and insanity. So on our little exploring jaunt we went to the Chennai train station and walked around then went to an open air market. The most surreal sight here is just how many people live on the street. To them it’s just basic existence. Very little begging as we were walking around, but just a lot of people doing their thing and living where they do it whether they were cooking food, selling items, washing their clothes or whatever. I’m wondering if they ever aspire to anything else like in Slumdog Millionaire, or if this is just all they know.

As we were walking we headed out of the market down a road that runs along the back of the stadium, basically breaking every guidebook and common sense rule one would apply when traveling to a foreign country, let alone a third world country. I’m glad the crime rate is relatively low and let’s just say we wouldn’t be doing this in 90% of other foreign countries. Hell, there’re are places in the US I wouldn’t do this. Coolest part of the journey definitely was seeing two brahma bulls right on the side of the road taking a break from pulling their cart. After looking down one street I told Mark there aren’t enough rupees in India for us to walk down that street. Good thing since we asked Martin on our way to dinner if there were places we shouldn’t go and he pointed down that street. That’s my Miller Lite Great Call of the Day.

After a long nap we went to dinner with Martin at the Madras Cricket Club. It reminded me of our version of a country club. It was very quiet and peaceful, a complete opposite of what was going not 200 feet away from us on the streets. It was very dichotomous. The streets are crazier at night then during the day. We saw a family of 5 on a moped, an minimum of 10 people in one of the trike taxis and buses packed so full I had no idea how they moved. Every imaginable synonym for “a lot of people” applies here: throngs, masses, gaggle, whatever. There are a just lot of F-ing people here and they are all over the place. After a nice dinner of some fried fish (think fish sticks) some cooked prawns and dosa (traditional bread of India that is pretty much a stiffer crepe with some dipping sauces) at the Cricket Club we stopped to get some coffee and talk, picked up about 10L of water (YES!) and are now back at the hotel getting ready for the clinics and camps to start in a few days.

Our first full day in India is almost in the books. Not coming in expecting anything I am definitely more aware of things and in a place so crowded you almost become hyperaware of your surroundings. Mark and I have yet to come up with anything we could call an accurate description of our trip. I’m still amazed by the fact that I’m even in India. Then the all the honking from the vehicles reminds me yes, I am definitely in India.

Day 4: Hey, who wants Indian food?

Day 4 Jan 17 am

After a pretty solid two or so hours of sleep we’re up and moving. We went down toi have breakfast and guess what they guessed it, INDIAN FOOD! It was pretty good although I have absolutely no clue as to what we ate although the fry bread and savory donuts were pretty solid. I do know they had sambala there which was good but the highlight for me was the pulled tea. It’s a bit like chai tea without the chai psices but it’s very good. My taste buds got a pretty good wake up though since the food was pretty spicy already. You’d think a country so close to the equator and is hot all the time would have cooler food. You’d be wrong. Today is a rest day but we’re trying to get as adjusted as possible so we might go do a little exploring on our own for a while. Oh yeah, after flipping around channels for a while I finally found some english TV and guess what- Tom Hanks! A nice solid 80’s Tom hanks movie alwyas warms the heart.

Also, while flipping around channels we came across The Sandlot 2. I was left with so many questions. Why did they do a second one, wasn’t The Sandlot good enough or was it too good that they thought they could cash in on a second one? Who greenlit this idea without having remotely seen let alone read the script? Why were both Luke Perry and Meatloaf so prominently involved? Why did Luke Perry’s character turn down so many other lucrative offers from other teams to stay with the Dodgers if he was a future Hall of Famer? You’d think the Dodgers would’ve ponied up some more scratch for a future HOF’er. This movie was so indescribably bad I can’t believe we allowed this out of the country. Hasn’t there been enough carnage in our country because of the people who sat through that piece of crap? Did we really need to allow more people to suffer? And in India no less. Suffering is all over the country and now we give them The Sandlot 2? That’s just cruel. Can we all agree that Meatloaf should no longer be allowed in, around, or anywhere near any more movie sets? Good, glad that’s settled. And to answer your question, yes, I really am watching TV in India.

Mark walked in and asked if I had showered yet. When I said no, all he said back was, “Lemme know how that goes.” Awesome. OK, off to try and shower in the bucket. Cheers.

Didn't use the bucket but as it turns out it wasn’t that bad other than getting used to showering literally in the bathroom itself with water going everywhere. I figured I’ll take a little extra water going everywhere as opposed to a bucket being used like I was washing a car. Plus with the two drains that were in there I figured that may have been the original intent.

Note: I am now a HUGE fan of my shower. Lots of room and I don't care if water goes all over the place, the whole room is a shower. Plus, since I like multi tasking, I can shower, shave and deuce in the same room, at the same time. Wait, forget that last part.

Added note: Mark said he tried the bucket thing and said he liked it. Hmmmm....

Day 3-ish: Wait, what day is it again?

Day Three-ish still…I think it might count as Day Four though Jan 16 into Jan 17

Got in to Chennai around 3:30-4am. A quiet, uneventful flight. Mark and I both did some work for the coaches clinic but I ended sleeping more in between trying to figure out exactly what the Indian movie that was on the plane was all about. After we landed and got through customs, we met Martin outside of the airport, got to the car and then the fun began. I have never seen so many people outside of an airport with no cars. Most airports have a bustling array of taxis, buses, rental car shuttles, limos etc. but not here. Just throngs of people 4-5 deep. And that’s just in front of the terminal. Around the corner where cars are parked there were more people lined up with airport carts that one would usually see in the airport to help them with their bags. But the people just looked they were waiting, not sure what for. As we got to the road, we just raced along, I don’t think we stopped more than 4-5 times and it was more of a slow down. It makes thr California rolling stops look somewhat legal. Everyone on the road is out for themselves, you pass someone by honking, they fly through intersections after honking and the one main rule I picked up on is if you’re in a car and going fast, you usually have the right of way. And honking is VERY common as a means of saying I’m passing you or get out of the way, not a conveyance of anger. It reminds me of when Monty Burns from The Simpsons learned to drive and he yelled “Get out of my way I’m a motorist!”

The taxis here are motorized, covered three wheel rickshaws that we blew past and we flew by a number a of people that were just out and about. India just finished their harvest festival which is similar to our Thanksgiving. Our hotel is across the street from the stadium where we’ll be training and coaching, which is convenient. Our rooms are small, much like a dorm than a hotel, the beds are thin and the bathrooms are, well, interesting. There’s a sink, toilet, shower head and faucet…but no tub. Or toilet paper…for now. We do however have a bucket and pitcher type thing that I’m guessing we use to dump water over our head to wash our hair. Saaaaaa-weet.

So in my first experience into being in a third world country, I can’t say it’s eye-opening, shocking, or anything. I had no expectations or pre-conceived notions. Just a blank slate to look at and experience. In a word it’s very humbling. You really don’t know how great you have it until you see things here. It’s a big city and driving through it’s a mixture of businesses stacked on top of each other and people stacked on top of each other in terms of living quarters. The streets aren’t the cleanest, and the buildings look like ones you would find in some of the lower income communities in the US. So right now it’s a bit after 5am and finishing up today’s entry and drinking some tea they brought up for us. We are getting up for breakfast at 7:15ish, then going to back to sleep for a little while to try and get as accustomed to the time change (+10.5 hours from the East Coast) as we can. It’s been a smooth trip so far and I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks bring us. Time for a quick nap. Good night from India.

Day 3: Wait, what happened to Day 3?

Day Three Jan 16

What happened to Saturday?? We left Fri night Jan 15 at 10:40pm flying east over the Atlantic. I vaguely remember seeing SOME daylight out the window but by the time we landed it was a little after 6pm and already dark out. I'd rather lose a Tuesday or Wednesday, not Saturday.

So, now we're in Qatar. It's a beautiful airport but, still an airport. We got a great view of the Doha skyline getting off of our plane and saw a beaustiful mosque lit up in the night sky on the shuttle to the terminal (oh yeah, quick sidebar...we exited from the front AND the back of the plane. Plane was emptied in about 15 min. Wow, efficiency!). So now we're waiting for our flight to Chennai. We have a pretty full three weeks ahead of us including us getting a chance to experience the Indian Independence Festival on Jan 26 which celebrates India's independence as a country. I'm really excited to learn more Indian culture, see the level of volleyball, the exchanging of ideas in coaching and training. It's almost time to start making non stop jokes about going out and getting Indian food. Mark will definitely hate me by the end of the trip.

Time to board our flight to Chennai. Next stop...India!

Day 2: Embassys, consulates, and visas...Oh My!

Day 2 Jan 15

Ah, dreary old Manhattan. After getting two passport photos for our visa, and one very sour look from a traffic cop telling me to move along while I was parked on a corner, we got to the right building to submit our paperwork. Big ups to our man Charles that took care of us and got us in ahead of the line and we proceeded to submit our passports, paperwork and $113.00 for Conference Visas. We headed back to the consulate that night to see if everything got approved and had a very entertaining trip on the E train that was highlighted by a Subway Preacher on our train who spoke little to absolutely NO english (good times!) and an adorable singing two year old named Cheyenne. Everything got straightened out, we were given our visas and we were back on schedule, albeit a day late. We called the airline and our girl Soribel took care of us and got us on the flight, even getting us exit rows, much needed accomodations for a 12+ hour flight.

(OK, here's a little plug- Qatar Airways absolutely crushes international flights. Every person at the desk that we encountered on our two trips to the airport was uber friendly, extremely helpful and very accomodating. Add that to the endless amounts of entertainment on the flight (movies, tv shows, video games, music- I slept to the Star Wars soundtrack just like when I was a kid) and actually palatable food and the 12 hours flew by (no pun intended). It was quite enjoyable. Some US airlines could learn a thing or two, or three.)

Since our flight left at 10:40pm, there's not much else to Day 2 except Mark and finding out our exit row seats had foot rests and our personal TV screens lifted up from arm rest. Yeah baby!

Day 1: Off to NY and then India...we thought...

Day 1 Jan 14-

Got to New York around 3pm and after some delay getting my bag, met up with Mark and headed to the practice facility in Brooklyn. Their facility is a converted Army Air Base field and hangar. It was really neat and had a TON of things to do there: a nice fitness center, two smaller indoor soccer fields, two ice rinks, a climbing wall, two volleyball/basketball courts, two aereobics rooms, and a huge gymnastics room. Add that to the football and soccer fields outside and that was one really big complex. Mark said that the owbner of the NY ISlanders offered tio renovate the property with the understanding that if the US ever went to war again and it was needed it could be converted back with in a few days. Still really cool.

So after a couple of good practices and a good workout, we headed to the airport and this is where the adventure began. We got the counter ready to check in and were told we couldn't check in because we didn't have the visas on us. After explaining the situation and finally getting a hold of Martin, we were told by the airlines that we be stopped at customs in Chennai and forced to fly back because we didn't have visas, even though Martin would be picking us up.

Sooooo, we got to spend the night in New York at Mark's house and applied for emergency visas online filling out paperwork. After getting all of our paperwork done that night and moer than several conversations with Martin and his nephew George and a letter of invitation from the Indian Volleyball Federation, we needed to head to Manhattan to the Indian Consulate to apply for emergency visas.