Feb. 24, 2010
Athens, Ohio -
In early February, Ohio Bobcat standout Ellen Herman scooped up her passport and traveled with the U.S. Women's National Team to Guangzhou, China. The squad competed against Evergrande Volleyball Club, a professional team in the Chinese pro league coached by 2008 U.S. Olympic Games Head Coach Lang Ping. The matches were held inside the new Guangzhou Gymnasium, home of the 2010 Asian Games.
"We left on the 27th of January and got back on February 3 and played against Evergrande, which is sponsored by the most well-known realty group over there and owned by the wealthiest man in China," Herman said in an interview with OhioBobcats.com. "The match itself was unreal. There was a stage set up on the left side and there were banners everywhere. They had a famous Chinese singer come in and perform a Mariah Carey cover and we were all introduced individually to the large crowd in attendance."
This trip was just another step in Herman's journey to earn a permanent spot on the U.S. National Team. Ohio's all-time leader in kills, points and attacks has been working extremely hard the past few summers in order to realize her dream of competing on the world's largest stages.
"When we traveled to China, I was the youngest girl on the team. Coach [Hugh] McCutcheon saw a few of us play in Anaheim during the summer when there was pool play and training, so he knew I had some experience in the national team circuit. This was an opportunity for me, since some girls are currently playing professionally, to take advantage of a chance to play at the highest level of competition."
The summer process can be a long and arduous one for many players. The objective of pool play is to get as many athletes in the gym as possible and see who can perform and who falters under the pressure.
"There are pros and cons with both ways they operate the summer training sessions. If there are a lot of players that means better competition and less personal coaching. If there are less players, than the roles reverse. My goal is to stay in the gym as long as possible, improve mechanically and fundamentally to where they need me to be and make the 2012 Olympic Team."
As for Herman's plans upon returning back to the U.S., she plans to graduate this spring with a degree in Health Administration and intern at the Doctors Hospital in Nelsonville.
"After the school year ends I will eventually go back to California to train in the summer, commit myself to volleyball 100 percent of the time. I signed with an agent in January, and then decide what professional league to take part in. Currently, I'm looking at playing in either Europe or Puerto Rico."
Sometimes life can wear on a player. The will to compete fights against the knowledge that at some point, real life will beckon and the dream may have to end unfulfilled. The goal for many, if not all of these players, is the same as Herman's and one not afforded to many people. The chance to wear your country's colors.
"People have to make choices. The hardships can be strenuous and test your mental toughness. You are back being a small fish in a big pond but it depends on what you want to do with it. Can you handle it? Can you compete? Then hopefully, down the line, you get the call to represent your country. That's been my dream since I was a little kid."