Culture Across the Net

Britney Dixon, Managing Editor

The turquoise blue water was clear enough to see every ridge between the rocks and the breeze through the treetops made zipliners feel like birds in flight.

Eight days just wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t nearly enough to experience the entirety of the Costa Rican culture. Although, women’s volleyball head coach Danielle Soubliere’s prior experience there gave her knowledge to pull the team to the hotspots of the country in the amount of time they had to explore it.

“It’s a great experience and it’s definitely worth the money,” Soubliere said.

Just a few days after graduation last May, the RWU women’s volleyball team took their first ever trip under Soubliere’s coaching.

Some of the team’s activities included ziplining and swimming under a waterfall, but according to Soubliere, the coolest thing they were able to do was peer down the center of a volcano.

“Just the overall experience was a lot of fun,” Soubliere said.

As much fun as the team had, they were there to work. They played three games while abroad. The courts were in an open gym without walls. During play, the Hawks could feel the mist of the rain falling next to them.

The way Costa Rican competitive volleyball works, according to Soubliere, is that each town has its own professional team and they play in a countrywide tournament that ends with playoffs. During RWU’s visit, they played three of these teams in a separate tournament.

“For the returners, it was good to see a different culture across the net,” Soubliere said. “They weren’t doing anything we weren’t used to.”

The rules abroad were very similar to the NCAA regulations that the women are accustomed to. Similar to their competition at home, the Costa Rican play was aggressive.

One of the goals — missions, as the team is now referring to them — of the trip was to challenge the team. Soubliere rotated positions in the tournament, and because the games had no impact on the fall season, the pressure was off — so much so that Soubliere was even able to play in a game herself.

According to freshman Allie Welch, the team is just trying to become a powerhouse competitor in and out of Commonwealth Coast Conference play.

“I think we walked away from the season and all those cultural goals we wanted to achieve, we definitely succeeded,” said Soubliere. “How do we continue that legacy and what does that mean?”

The biggest mission the team is working toward is getting all the newcomers on the same page. While they want to work towards an NCAA appearance, they need to start with the basics.

Every summer, Soubliere has the team read a book. This summer, the book was “Legacy” by James Kerr. Kerr tells the story of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team and their core values that encompassed their legacy.

This facilitated getting every player on the same page by giving them something to talk about when they returned for preseason. It also helped them learn what they’re doing consciously versus unconsciously.

“My goal is for [the reading] to help them on the court, but maybe also off the court,” Soubliere said. “It’s all about ‘leaving the jersey in a better place.’”