I know who to turn to

Barbora Hošková

When I saw that my older teammates were leaving after high school to go to America, I thought I'd like to try it too. Thanks to social media, I also saw how they lived, and it looked great. I just wanted to experience it.

But my parents couldn’t quite imagine that I would play volleyball in college. They rather saw me at a prestigious European medicine school in France or Germany. By the way, that's where I applied after high school at Christian Doppler.

Academically and sport-wise, I was prepared for America, but my parents told me that I should arrange everything myself if I really wanted it. At the age of 17, I started to search for what I had to do and started looking for information.

Of course, I knew that there are agencies that can help you with the process of being accepted to an American university. But my parents insisted that I arrange everything myself and show them that I was serious. Looking back, I'm grateful for their approach.

I signed up for all the necessary tests and started intensively learning English because the high school English I knew was completely different from the English required by American universities and the one I know now. Of course, I still played volleyball.

During my senior year, I started writing emails to coaches from universities. I wrote about 500 of them. I'm not joking. It was terrible work and I only got a response from about a quarter of them. On the other hand, when I read them now, I probably wouldn't have responded either.

Now I'm dealing with offers for a continuing study program and can use the experience and, especially, the contacts I have gathered. But when I look back, how I got up at six in the morning for school, where I was until five in the afternoon. Then afterwards going  to training, getting home at eight and emailing coaches and learning English, math, and revising for the necessary tests, it was probably the hardest period of my life.

From the original 500 emails, I started receiving serious offers from individual universities during my senior year of high school. Before graduation, I knew I had six options, but I ultimately decided on Long Island University, which is located in the heart of New York and has a volleyball team that plays in the first division.

It was pleasant that my friend Karolína Nová, who was also my teammate from Prague's Olymp, received the same scholarship. I can't imagine surviving four years in New York without her. I'll get to the reasons later.

I came to America with the intention of studying medicine, but in the US, every student must complete courses that are not related to their intended major in their first year. This is to ensure that each student is sure of their chosen major.

Therefore, I had to complete courses such as business management and it started to interest me so much that I ended up finishing my bachelor's degree in accounting and marketing. This was also a big shock for my parents, but they accepted it.

Regarding volleyball, I was selected for the best team division after the last season. But at what cost... Our entire team constantly complained about the coach for four years, but the university's athletic department ignored us because we had good results.

If we lost, we might not get a meal on volleyball trips. He also bullied us mentally and physically.

For example, he threw and kicked balls at us, but no one wanted to hear anything because we were one of the most successful teams at our university and we were actually making money for the school. I found out that university sports is a business. No one was very interested in how he treated us.

Today, the former coach was very skilled in shifting his personality. Outside of sports halls, he could be incredibly kind, which unfortunately worked for him for too long.

At the end of last year, my teammates and I decided we wouldn't train and play anymore. It was just too much. Finally, the leadership started to take more interest in what we had experienced for the last four years. We had to describe everything that had happened to us in a letter and why we didn't want to play anymore.

Eventually, videos helped us, showing the coach throwing, kicking, and hitting balls at us. In America, there is a strong emphasis on preventing all forms of violence, whether psychological, physical, or sexual. The school's leadership ultimately fired the coach due to physical violence.

They announced this to us during a video call on Friday, January 13th. It was probably my best day at the university in four years. Since I'll be finishing at Long Island University soon, it doesn't have much significance for me, but I'm extremely happy that other players won't have to endure his treatment.

I am now dealing with my relationship with volleyball because of my former coach as he has really ruined it for me. I hope that I will fall in love with volleyball again during my next study program.

When deciding between offers now, I'm thinking a lot about who trains and how the players feel in the team, so I don't have to experience something like this ever again in my life. I have quite a few options, but the environment is what will ultimately affect everything.

I want to find love for volleyball again, I want to be motivated to work hard, and I want to enjoy the sport again. I missed that in New York and didn't want to go to training. So now I'm contacting players to tell me something about their coach, what they like about the school, etc.

I even watch university games that are interested in me to see how the coaches react when a player makes a mistake. I just want to be well prepared to make the right choice.

That's why I decided to work for Sportegy Futures because I don't want anyone to experience what I went through. Of course, I know that not everything is always ideal, but I don't want it to happen to someone else because I wouldn't wish it to my worst enemy.

If something similar were to happen, I already know who to turn to, what options the school has, and how to handle every situation. Thanks to my journey, which started at a high school in Prague, I believe I can help other young athletes to access great opportunities and have a positive experience in America.