March 26, 2013
Just three months after graduating from Colorado State with a degree in business administration, Megan Plourde is in Croatia, playing professionally.
The All-American at CSU began playing overseas in January, and will remain in Europe into May. She took time this week to talk with CSURams.com about being a professional athlete, adjusting to a different culture and more.
Q: What made you want to play professionally after college?
MP: Volleyball has been such a big part of my life for so long, and I have so much passion for the sport. I wanted to continue playing and pursuing my dreams of playing at the next level. I knew if I didn't play professionally after I graduated I would miss it too much.
Q: How did you decide to play in Croatia?
MP: It was quite the process getting to Croatia, and initially finding a team to start playing with right after I graduated. Professional leagues start in August and go through May, so since I graduated in December, I had to find a team that would pick me up midseason.
I first had a tryout in Puerto Rico, which I thought would work out perfectly because they're the only league that starts in late January. I went to Puerto Rico for a week-long tryout in December, and everything went really well and I made the team. I was supposed to move out there a couple weeks after my tryout, but a few days before I was scheduled to fly back I heard from my agent, and he said they had signed another player. This was a big letdown for me, but is the norm for professional volleyball leagues, so I was going to have to get used to it.
I then went on an European Exposure tour with about 30 other American girls hoping to find teams to get picked up by. We did two weeks of traveling through Europe, including Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Czech Republic and Switzerland. We played a variety of different club teams and were able to do lots of sightseeing. By the end of the tour my agent said that Croatia was looking for five American players, but it wasn't a set thing yet, so I flew back to the U.S.
I didn't set my mind on going to Croatia right away since I had learned my lesson from the experience with Puerto Rico. After a couple weeks of being home I heard back from my agent, and within two days I was flying back to Croatia. I was very excited to have found a place to play, and for the next chapter of my life to finally start!
Q: What is your overall impression of European volleyball?
MP: European volleyball has a different style to it than college volleyball, and certain positions have different roles. For instance, the most important role for a right-side player is to hit, and they are expected to be the "big hitter" for the front and back row. The middles have to serve and play defense because liberos are not allowed to serve. Also, teams have a very limited amount of subs per game, so they rarely use subs.
Q: Outside of volleyball, what types of things have you been able to do in Croatia?
MP: Croatia is a very beautiful country, and I am lucky to get the opportunity to live here. Not only is Croatia very beautiful, but it is said that Split is the nicest city in Croatia. In our spare time, which we have a lot of, we like to go to the beaches (about a 15-minute walk from where we live) and walk to the Diocletian's Palace, which is a famous palace built by the Romans. In the palace they have lots of shopping areas and a large market that sells everything you can imagine. Right next to the palace is an area called the Riva, which is a row of cafes along the coast line; we like to go here to get coffee. We also have gone hiking up Marjan Hill. At the top of this hike, there is a view of the whole city of Split. We have also had the opportunity to travel to a few cities surrounding Split to do some sightseeing.
Q: What types of friendships have you built?
MP: I’m so thankful for all the people I have met and the new friends I have made here. We have four Americans on our team and one Canadian: Lucy Charuk (middle blocker, Houston); Alyssa D’Errico (libero, Penn State); Dani Helu (outside hitter, Nebraska); and Cola Svec (setter, Nebraska Kearney). All the local girls on our team have been really nice, and can also speak English, which has been very nice for us since our coach does not speak any English. One of the coolest things from this experience is the new friendships I will have for the rest of my life, and friendships that are from all across the world.
Q: What has been the hardest part about living in a different country?
MP: The hardest part about living in a different country is the language barrier. Although most Croatians can understand some English, it is hard to communicate, especially when you meet those who don’t know any English; you get pretty good at charades. The other hard part of living here has been not having Charlie, my dog, with me.
Q: What does an average week look like?
MP: An average week consists of two practices a day—one in the morning and one late at night; sometimes we have fitness instead of one of the practices. We just finished our first series of games, and we were only playing one match a week. Now that we are beginning playoffs, we will play 2-3 games a week. Since we practice at 10 a.m. and then again at 9 p.m., we usually have the whole day to occupy ourselves, so depending on the weather, we find something fun to do in between. If the weather is nice it is easy to stay busy because we usually go to the beach.
Q: What types of teams/competitions to you play?
MP: We start our playoff games this week, which are very important. Our club took second last year, so our goal is to make it to the finals again. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be a best-of-three series, and the finals are best-of-five. We play our first match against Zagreb this Saturday, and then will travel there Wednesday, which is about a five-hour drive. We have traveled all throughout Croatia playing teams so far, the furthest being about six hours away.
Q: Who do you live with?
MP: I live with Lucy, the other middle. It is pretty random that we are roommates because she and Dana (Cranston) were roommates previously when playing for Team Canada. We live in a two-bedroom apartment.
A few differences from living as a college student in America include drying our clothes, hand washing our dishes and the showers. Croatians rarely have dryers for their clothes, so after our clothes are washed we have to hang them all up on a drying rack or clothes line. We also don't have a dishwasher, so we have to hand wash all our dishes. The showers in Croatia are simply a handheld shower head and tub. The shower took some time to get used to, but these will be some good life lessons for us!
Q: How did playing at CSU help prepare you for playing professionally?
MP: The biggest lesson that I learned from Tom (Hilbert) is to be your own coach. After two months of playing professionally, the only words I have heard from my coach are, ‘block Meggy’ and ‘serve strong.’ The Europeans have given me a new nickname, and like to call me Meggy. It is very important to be able to coach yourself, and to make changes for yourself when you play at this level.
Q: After your current contract ends what are your plans?
MP: My contract goes until the beginning of May, and at that time I will fly home. I am not sure what my plans will be after this. I have been just taking in the whole experience and enjoying every moment. I will make a decision when I get back home as to what I want to do next.
I am so thankful for this experience. I have been so blessed to get the opportunity to travel and see the world, and to make new friends and memories that will last a lifetime!
Plourde played for CSU from 2009-12, leading the Rams to four Mountain West titles and an NCAA tournament appearance each year. She became CSU’s first four-time All-MW selection and four-time AVCA All-West Region recipient, and in 2011 was named an AVCA and Volleyball Magazine All-American. She ranks second in CSU history for career blocks, and led the nation in blocking as a junior.
Plourde’s home games can be streamed online. For more information on Plourde’s professional career in Croatia, view her blog.