How to Pack for Junior Nationals (Sort Of)

Tomorrow I'm waking up bright and early (and catching a 6:30 am airport shuttle -- ouch) and heading off to Reno for my first ever business trip! Wow, look at me, sounding all grown up. I'm going to be the communications person on site at USA Volleyball's Boys' Junior National Championships. It's going to be a week and a half of volleyball, volleyball... and some more volleyball. I'm excited! It'll either be really awesome or a really awesome learning experience. Hopefully both.

That being said, here's my guide to packing for junior nationals (written by a total newbie who's really just getting a kick out of all the free stuff she just got).

Favorites Friday: Life at the OTC

I've been living at the Olympic Training Center for a few weeks now, and I've got to say, it's a pretty bizarre experience. We've got elements of "the real world" (working from 8-5 every day), sleep-away camp (everyone more or less wakes up and goes to sleep at the same time, and most meals are eaten as a group), and college (double occupancy rooms, communal bathrooms, and struggling to shave my legs in the tiny shower stalls). As someone who's had her own room and bathroom for the last year and a half, it's been an interesting adjustment back to very little privacy and dining hall food.

But everyone here is wonderful, and it's exceedingly nice not to have hours worth of homework and/or research and/or writing and/or work on the weekends!

And also... I'm living at the freaking Olympic Training Center. It's like I've died and gone to Olympic nerd heaven, where my building is named after a Games most people don't know or care about, and where I realize only after talking to someone all through dinner that he's a bronze medal-winning Paralympian.

Basically, it's the coolest. So I've attempted to condense my constant inner squeeing into a (relatively) short list of my favorite things about living at the OTC. :)

1. This is the first thing you see as you enter the complex, aka where I live.

2. My address is 1 Olympic Plaza. Seriously, is that not the coolest thing ever?

3. People I meet ask what sport I'm here for. "Oh, no, I'm actually here to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day, but I'm flattered!"

4. I can walk past this:

and this:

whenever I want!

5. There are Olympic murals on the walls of the dining hall for London, Sochi and Rio. :)

6. I get to look at Eric Heiden's face on the window during every meal.

This also means I'm surrounded by people who actually know who Eric Heiden is!

7. At least two other interns have read The Boys of Winter, and another wants to borrow it from me when I'm done with my re-read. I have found my people.

8. Exploring all the facilities!

9. Everyone here watches sports. Everyone. I mean, duh, but I've never been a part of a group of people in which you automatically have a) something in common with everyone, and b) rivals. And then there's the experience of, "Oh, you hate the Gators too?! Let's be friends!"

10. Youth/junior national teams come here to train. And practices are open for anyone on complex to come watch. So...

11. I live a short walk away from an official Team USA store. (Hey, this is a list of MY favorite things, not my wallet's favorite things!)

12. I share living spaces with the likes of Allison Schmitt, John Orozco and Vitaly Scherbo, and those are just the ones I know of! 

13. Knowing that some of America's greatest Olympians ever have lived here in the past, and hearing stories about them. It's like the OTC's own urban legends. "When Apolo Ohno used to live here, he would hop up the Incline on one leg!"

...Yep, sounds about right.

EDIT: This blog is Apolo-approved!

"This Is So Sick"

At work these last few weeks, I've been doing a lot for the U.S. Boys' Youth National Volleyball Team. Building bios, cropping and resizing mugshots into every size imaginable, putting together a press kit for their world championships in Tijuana...

Basically, it's been BYNT (almost) all day, (almost) every day. And eight hours in a cubicle is a really, really long time. It can get a little tedious, making sure all the formatting is correct, editing everything into oblivion, trying to get SiteCore to cooperate. And then I realize these boys are 17 or 18 years old and on a national team, and I'm 22 and what am I doing with my life? (Come on, twenty-somethings, you all know this crisis, amirite?)

For the last week, they've been living and training at the OTC. Let me tell you -- it's weird seeing these kids I've never met and thinking, "Oh, I know your face. And your name. And your birthday. And your favorite book... And you have literally no idea who I am." But it's been really cool seeing them as living, breathing, volleyball-playing people rather than just words and a photo on a computer screen. And if the laundry is any indication, they were also living in my building.

There was also a washer full of white jerseys. And another washer full of blue jerseys...
Since they were in town, my boss BJ and I went to their practice this morning to do some interviews in person. I was excited to get out of my cubicle and stretch my journalist muscles again, but I wasn't expecting too much. I mean, these are teenage boys we're talking about. The one that lives in my house communicates mostly in grunts and single syllables (love you, Nolan!).

So I sit down with the kid I'm profiling and... I'm actually blown away. He's friendly, and intelligent, and appreciative, and incredibly well-spoken, and has some real depth to his character. I was beyond impressed. I'm excited to write about him!

There's no high like the one you experience after a good interview, so I was walking with a bounce in my step after that wrapped up. I tweeted about it, tagging the USA Volleyball account, and it was retweeted.

A little bit later, I notice that one of the other boys from the team favorited my tweet. So I take a look at his page, and I see this:

That's a link to his bio on The bio I built and formatted and published and worked (probably harder than necessary) to make sure was as close to perfect as possible.

This was one of those moments that make it all worth it, you know? Kind of funny that a teenager tweeting "this is so sick" would have that much significance, but it just reminded me why I like doing this.

Most people that get involved in sports want to work with the big-time athletes, the pros, the Olympians. And, yeah, I'm partially guilty of that myself. But athletes that play for money tend to be... well, you know. Even Olympians and college athletes, to an extent. They're used to being noticed.

As a college graduate it was sort of strange doing media stuff for boys that are barely out of high school. I mean, they're kids! But at the same time... they're kids. They've never been on Team USA before. This is all new to them, it's exciting, it's a big deal!

And I had something to do with it. The time it took me to make that bio translated into a really, really cool moment in that kid's life (and, hopefully, similar moments in eleven other kids' lives).

How awesome is that?

Good luck in Mexico, guys!

To The Dads

Olympians and their moms have kind of become A Thing. Michael Phelps' mom is almost as famous as he is nowadays, and then there's this commercial.

*pauses to wipe away tears*

But what about the dads?

My dad and I. Both in our Miami sweatshirts, obviously. :)
I'm not an Olympian, but when I played soccer, my dad was driving me to practice every week and watching all my games, just like my mom was. And he's all ready for the summer to end so he can come to Colorado, pack all my stuff into Buzz and road trip back to New York with me. (If, of course, Buzz is up to the task at that point.)

This morning in the dining hall, ESPN was on one of the TVs, and there was a countdown of the best father-son moments in sports. As a daughter, I'm affronted (kidding), but it did sort of get me thinking about Olympic dads.

The moment that was number one on the ESPN countdown was actually an Olympic moment; Derek Redmond and his father. Words don't do it justice, so here's another commercial that'll give your goosebumps goosebumps.

Then, of course, there's my car's namesake. :) Buzz Schneider won a gold medal with the Miracle on Ice hockey team, scoring five goals in the Olympic tournament. Twenty-four years later, a movie about that team premiered with Billy Schneider starring as his dad.

This is actually one of my favorite things in the world. 
We also can't forget about the Gary Halls! Gary Sr. swam at Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976, winning two silvers and a bronze. Gary Jr. swam in Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, winning five golds, three silvers and two bronzes. They're the first father/son pair to each make three Olympic appearances. When I interviewed Gary Sr. back in 2010, he told me that he's prouder of his son's accomplishments than he is of any of his own.

Apolo Ohno is, without a doubt, the most famously motherless athlete. He was raised by his dad after his mom left when he was a baby, and isn't shy about talking about how little it affected his life. He has no desire to find her. And he's always saying how wonderful is dad was and is, and how Papa Ohno is the only person he needs in his corner.

And if you think I'm going to neglect to mention what's probably the most famous father-related moment in American Olympic history, you're very much mistaken! Jim Craig had just won the gold medal and, instead of celebrating with his teammates, skated away to find his dad in the stands. If seeing him searching the crowd and asking, "Where's my father?" doesn't tug on your heartstrings, you have no soul.

Oddly enough, ESPN's countdown might've been onto something -- why are there no father/daughter moments on this list? Hmm. I think I need to do some research into this. But, just for fun, here's Aly Raisman's mom and dad watching her compete.

I wholeheartedly agree with the cackling in the background. :)

Happy Father's Day!

Breaking the Rules

I'm not much of a rule-breaker. I didn't drink before I was 21, I put my blinker on for all my turns, I don't miss deadlines... you get the idea.

But then there are the rules of logic, convention and chance that, well, I have a storied history of not really paying attention to. Thumbing my nose at, actually.

Last semester, I took a sports reporting class. Every couple of weeks, my professor brought in industry professionals to talk to us about what it's like to be a sportswriter/editor/media relations rep/etc. Every one of them, without fail, said the same thing: YOU NEED TO KNOW SOMEONE IN THE INDUSTRY IF YOU WANT TO GET HIRED. (More or less.)

It got pounded into my head all semester. You have to have a contact in the right place to help you get a foot in the door. You won't have a chance of getting a job without knowing the right person. Don't just apply online, they'll never pick your resume out of the bunch. Network, network, network.

Well, I sort of didn't listen. I mean, I heard it and properly panicked and took it into account, but I also scoped out sports job boards, found a bunch of internships, and applied online. Couldn't hurt, right? I got a couple of rejections, which I was totally expecting. But the folks at USA Volleyball emailed me about setting up an interview! Kind of ironic timing, too; I read that email in the press box of Marlins Park moments after receiving one of the panic-inducing lectures I mentioned. I was so relieved I wanted to cry.

So, while it might not be incredibly likely, IT DOES HAPPEN. You CAN apply blind, online, without having a contact, and get asked to interview for the position. Anyone else who was/is as afraid about this as I was, please take note. I swear. You're not screwed if you don't have a contact where you want to work. Apparently something on my resume caught their attention, and if I can do it, you can do it. Seriously.

The interview was quite the experience as well. Let's just say my phone chose an absolutely awful day to glitch and not let calls through, and when it did, the reception in my room was so bad I ended up running around the apartment asking, "Can you hear me now?"

Slick, right?

It was awful. I thought I blew it. But, merciful souls that they are, they didn't just write me off because of my technical difficulties. And after that, I figured that nothing I could say could make things any worse, so the pressure was gone. Either that or the bizarre bonding experience of a dropped call or two completely broke the ice, because once the interview actually started, I was super confident. I mean, I was prepared and really wanted the job so I knew what to say and didn't have to fake anything, but I think my malfunctioning phone actually worked in my benefit. I hung up feeling pretty optimistic about the whole thing.

Lo and behold, the two people on the other end of that mess of a phone call are now my bosses and are sending me to Reno at the end of the month to cover boys' junior national championships for a week and a half.

Probably not the traditional path to employment, but I'll take it!

So, why am I writing this? Honestly, if it can make any recent college graduate feel better about the job search, I'd be thrilled. And hey, once my internship ends I'm going to need to do this all again, so if I can make my future self feel better, that's cool too.

Basically, if someone tells you, "you HAVE to do it like this" or something equally as stifling, don't listen. But I'm not claiming to know it all -- far from it, in fact. I'm totally making up my life as I go along.

But if I'd listened every time someone told me something like that, I would never have tried out for Endurance, volunteered for London 2012 Ceremonies, interned for USA Volleyball, lived at the Olympic Training Center... I mean, should I continue? The best things I've ever done in my life have come from an Adam Savage quote; "I reject your reality and substitute my own."

And in my reality, rules are meant to be broken.

10 Tips for Living in Colorado Springs

Okay, so I've only lived here for, like, two weeks. (Oh god, is that really it? It feels like it's been two months.) But nonetheless, here's what I've learned during my brief time here so far!

1. Water. Carry it with you pretty much everywhere.

2. Chapstick. Carry it with you pretty much everywhere.

3. What other hydrating things am I missing? Eye drops, lotion, a humidifier... Basically, your skin will flake and your nose may bleed and your throat will get scratchy and your contacts might stick and your lips will crack and you will dehydrate. IT'S REALLY DRY HERE.

4. You need a car. But drivers are actually courteous here, so there's that! And parking is ridiculously cheap!

5. ...But you might also have to try really, really hard not to crash said car while looking at the mountains while you're driving. (SO PRETTY!)

6. 40 degrees in the morning at 80 degrees in the afternoon is not only not unheard of, but totally normal. So good luck figuring out what to wear every day.

7. One word: sunscreen.

8. I don't care what anyone says. This is not a city. This is a town.

9. Everyone is friendly. Everyone. It's a little weird at first, but don't be alarmed. Go ahead, be chatty. But staying away from the homeless people is still a smart move.

10. The Incline and/or Pike's Peak might kill you. But you're going to climb at least one of them anyway and be glad you did. (At least, that's the hope...)

I'm actually thinking about making training for the Incline my summer fitness goal to give myself motivation to work out. It's a mile of stairs straight up the mountain. I'm a little bit terrified.

I hope you've all been at least mildly entertained and informed about the places I've lived. :) It's been a fun retrospective for me, but I'll be back to my regularly scheduled posts (lol, do I have such a thing?) this week!

10 Tips for Living in London

I miss London. So, so much. Every day. It's kind of an issue because IT HURTS. I really think I'm going to have to move back there at some point in my life because, really, you'd think the homesickness would've faded by now, right?

1. Buses run all night, but be careful not to drunkenly fall asleep on the 25 or you'll find yourself in Ilford at 4 a.m.

2. The tube is your best friend. The map actually makes sense, each line has a different color and name... I could wax poetic about the tube forever. But it closes at 12:30, so plan accordingly.

3. However, avoid rush hour if at all possible, unless you enjoy being crammed into a car like a sardine and standing with your nose in some strange person's armpit in a hundred degrees. And if you MUST travel during rush hour, avoid the Central line. And Bank station. And Liverpool Street station. And... ugh, just avoid rush hour, okay?

4. Big Ben never gets any less beautiful.

5. Out exploring in the city for a day? It's entirely possible to not spend a dime (other than for food and transportation).

6. For as much as I love the tube, it's a ridiculously walkable city. Do yourself a favor and wander.

7. ...Because there are MAPS! EVERYWHERE! Pretty sure they were put in for the Olympics, but it makes the city laughably easy to get around. If you're in a main area of the city, there's a map posted every couple of blocks. It's impossible to get lost (and that's coming from me, born without a sense of direction).

8. What Londoners call "rain" isn't actually rain. It's more of a gray, drizzly mist that you're not really sure you need an umbrella for. But you WILL most likely be wearing long pants through most of the summer.

9. Fish and chips. High tea. Just do it.

10. Appreciate the fact that this is the greatest city in the world.

Ugh, now I'm a little bit depressed. Seriously, if I had the money for a plane ticket...

10 Tips for Living in Miami

Funnily enough, I'm posting this on the first day it's rained/been even a little bit humid since I've been in Colorado. It was much more the London variety (gray, damp and chilly) than Miami, but still. It's like someone knew my hair hadn't been a poofball in several weeks. Which brings me to number one...

1. Girls, don't even bother doing your hair. Humidity.

2. See this?

It's a tiny umbrella. Buy one. Carry it with you everywhere.

3. ...Because it rains whenever the hell it wants. Weather app says there's a 10% chance of rain? It's going to rain.

4. Wear Uggs (or any other winter clothes, really) and prepare to be judged. (Fun fact: it's never cold enough for Uggs. Put them away.)

5. Use public transportation only if you have a couple of extra hours to spare.

6. ...But really, the metro is no sketchier than any other public transit system in any other city. Just don't be an idiot and you're perfectly safe.

7. Wear Gators or Seminoles clothing and expect the dirtiest looks you've ever seen. Depending on the person, you might even get a snide remark or bald-faced insult. Basically, just don't do it.

Grab the pitchforks!
8. Bring a sweater with you everywhere. It may be a billion degrees outside, but the air conditioning inside is set to negative a billion degrees. Your sweat may form icicles.

9. You WILL sweat like a pig. Even if you're just standing outside. And 70 degrees is a perfectly acceptable temperature to break out the long pants and sweatshirts, because it's your only chance to wear them.

10. Watch out for the lizards.

(Yes, I recognize that most of my tips are about weather and transportation. But they're two things that are in every city! And, let's be real... they're both super important. Or they are to a person that has to struggle with both!)

Because the weather is so British today, I've decided that London is up next. :) Happy Wednesday!

10 Tips for Living in New York

In the last calendar year, I've lived in four (very) different places; London, New York, Miami and Colorado Springs. I'll no longer be able to say that starting June 9th, as that's when I left London, so to commemorate this pretty awesome (if I do say so myself) feat of mine I came up with this little series. I'll be offering random little tidbits on living in these places, starting with "home": New York. I may have never actually lived in the city, but growing up in its shadow definitely makes me a pseudo-local!

1. New York City = "the city." Embrace the inherent arrogance.

2. Nobody that's actually from New York calls the city "NYC" when they speak. It's the city. To avoid sounding like an outsider, avoid saying "NYC" at all costs.

3. In the city? You're going to have to take the subway.

4. ...Unless you're rich enough to want to pay for cabs. In that case, have fun in the traffic.

5. On Long Island? You're going to need to have a car.

6. Upstate and downstate are two very, very different worlds. (And Westchester is upstate. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.)


8. You know that place you're going right now? You need to have been there yesterday. If you're on time, you're late. MOVE MOVE MOVE. FASTER.

9. If you're walking in the city, for the love of god, do not stop in the middle of the sidewalk. You WILL cause a collision and everyone will assume you're a tourist. Pull off to the side.

10. The subway map? Yeah, still can't really figure that one out. Good luck.

Up next is Miami -- stay tuned! :)

A Mile High

What's got two thumbs and is NOT an unemployed graduate living at home with her parents?


(I would apologize for the fresh-out-of-the-shower hair, pajamas, and bags under my eyes, but listen, the real world ain't no picnic.)

I feel like the world's biggest slacker for not mentioning it here, but I'm spending the summer as a communications intern for USA Volleyball out here in Colorado Springs. I also happen to be living at the Olympic Training Center. *brushes shoulders off*

I've been in Colorado for about a week, living at the OTC since Tuesday, and it's been awesome so far. Everyone is really nice, my address is 1 Olympic Plaza, work is good, I have friends, and I may or may not be sharing a dining hall with the likes of Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and John Orozco.

But all of this also means getting up at 6:30 every day, full days in a cubicle (that's all mine!!!), and rush hour commutes. So by the time I get home at 5:45 pm, all I want to do is eat and go to sleep. Which, basically, is what happens (because I'm on a floor with all interns, and we're all in the same boat. We all crash uber early.) Blogging is not so much on the agenda.

Right now it's midnight (and the latest I've stayed up in a whole week!) and I'm exhausted (see Exhibit A: those bags under my eyes). But I wanted to get something out to the universe ASAP so, while I may not be functional enough for words, here's my week in photos!