Last Day of Camp

It’s finally here and it’s already here: the last day of Volleyball Camp.  It’s been a long week and yet it seems it has gone by so quickly.  Breakfast seemed to last a little longer than usual as campers and coaches visited.

Laura opened camp with a reminder of our Camp Verse:  Colossians 2:23.  It was exciting each morning to have a different camper volunteer to recite the verse from memory.  Brian got the kids all warmed up and Tayla led the group in some ball control drills.  We followed up with some relays but the kids just didn’t seem to have the energy level this morning so we had to break out the candy.  Nothing like a little sugar reward to bring out the enthusiam sleeping inside of them.

We finished off the morning by breaking into teams based on skill level and playing variations of six on six volleyball, relay races, and finished with the campwide favorite game, laydown tag.

Lunch was our last meal together.  We tried to make a point of connection with each of the kids during mealtimes throughout the week.  After lunch Matiss and Marci herded the kids upstairs to the conference room.  Today Gatis and Ance had an opportunity to share their testimonies.  Although we couldn’t understand what they were saying the kids all seemed attentive.

After lunch we were able to give out this year’s camp t-shirts.  I have to admit Gatis did a much better job of estimating the correct sizes for the campers.  Last year half the campers were swimming in their shirts.  After taking a team photo Marci made herself available to take individual and buddy shots for any camper who wanted them.  There were a lot of kids who enjoyed getting photos with their friends and with the coaches (especially Tayla, Laura and Brian).  Connecting with the families to receive their photos is a great opportunity to follow up after the camp.

The afternoon was pretty laid back.  We played some games, then finished with some six on six games.

The awards ceremony started about 4:40.  Gatis had certificates printed that all the coaches signed.  Each camper was called up and received candy, a certificate and a cup of delicious fresh strawberries.

Then it was time for hugs, high-fives and good-byes.  Camp was great!

As a thank you to the coaches and camp helpers, the Suburban team treated everyone to a delicious dinner at a new Italian restaurant in Riga.  The pizza and pasta were delicious, but the best part was getting together with our good friends.  We are looking forward to leaving Riga tomorrow to head out of town for a Mid-Summer Celebration in Uzava.  We will stay Friday night in Uzava then return Saturday evening.  My understanding is that we shouldn’t plan to sleep much but that’s nothing new for me.  Stay tuned.

– Carol Schaudt

Meeting a Soviet Legend, by Carol Schaudt

MEETING ULJANA

During my last visit to Latvia I learned Uljana Semjonova lives in Riga.  Since then, I’ve wondered if it would be possible to meet the Soviet women’s basketball legend should I return to Latvia.  Uljana was a Soviet Super-star playing for the USSR women’s basketball team from 1971 until 1985.  She was an unstoppable force at 7 feet tall (sources differ on her height from 6’11 – 7’2”).  I never had an opportunity to play against Uljana in international competition, because of the Soviet’s boycott of the 1984 Olympic games, but I did play against her when I was at Oregon State.  In 1979 The Soviet National Team was touring the USA, playing exhibition games against university teams.  The Soviets at that time were dominating women’s basketball.  We lost.  The score wasn’t even close.  

When I learned that it would be possible to meet with Uljana I was excited, and a bit intimidated.  I had preconceived ideas of what she would be like.  I imagined that she would be polite, but maybe a little annoyed at my request, since I’m sure she has a lot of people who want to meet with her.  A plan was made to meet at her office.  I was sure she wouldn’t have her medals with her so I decided not to bring my Gold Medal from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (I had brought it with me to Latvia) since I felt a little silly showing my one Gold Medal to someone who had gone undefeated in 18 years of international competition (no joke).

THE FOUNDATION

The moment we walked into her office all my preconceived ideas went out the window.  She greeted us warmly and had coffee and snacks prepared for our visit.  Still, I anticipated that she might be hesitant to share openly about her experiences playing basketball for the Soviet Union, so I began my questions asking about the foundation where she works.  Uljana explained that when the Soviet Union broke up former Soviet athletes were left without State support.  Many of them live in poverty today.  Her foundation helps to raise money to provide a small pension for about 300 former Soviet athletes.  

GOLD MEDALS

When the conversation turned to basketball Uljana, surprised me by pulling out her Gold Medal from the 1980 Moscow Olympics.  All of her Medals have been donated to a museum in Latvia, but she had “borrowed” this one for our meeting.   I immediately regretted not bringing my Gold Medal.  Uljana also expressed disappointment that I had not brought my Medal.  She really wanted to see it and joked that if the Soviet team had been in Los Angeles, my 1984 Gold Medal would have been hers.  I respectfully disagreed.  We quickly decided that a follow-up meeting would be necessary, so I could bring my Gold Medal and we could take pictures together.  We are meeting again on Monday.  😊

BEING A SOVIET ATHLETE

I was curious what it was like to be an athlete in the Soviet Union.  She had started to play basketball at the age of 13, and by the age of 16, she was playing professionally. Did she originally choose to play basketball, or was she pressured to play?  With a huge smile, she declared strongly and clearly that she played for the love of the game.  In fact, she still loves the game.  And even with her obvious natural physical limitations because of aging , when she watches young player on the basketball court she wishes she could join in with them.  I was also surprised to learn that the national team usually trained for only four months out of the year.  She was the type of competitor that not only worked during the normal practice, but would spend extra time working on her individual skills to be a superior player. During the rest of the year Uljana played for her Soviet club team.

At one point in our conversation I asked if I could change the subject.  She smiled and said “Ask whatever you want.”  She explained that it was so wonderful to be able to talk openly about any subject.  She went on to describe what it was like to be a public figure in the Soviet Union.  As the most well-known athlete on the Soviet Women’s Basketball team Uljana was often asked for interviews.  It was often difficult for her to answer questions because there were all kinds of subjects that she was not allowed to talk about publicly.  Not only was it hard to talk because it was hard to avoid so many topics, it just isn’t her nature to be a close off individual, instead she is naturally open, sharing, and trusting. Just to be safe, she asked her Russian translator to edit her answers if she happened to say something she was not allowed to say.  I got the feeling that request wasn’t necessary since they probably what would have censored her anyway.

Uljana talked about her many travels to the United States as well as many other western countries.  She said she was often offered opportunities to come and live in another country, but she never wanted to leave her home country of Latvia.  Not only are her family and friends here, but everyone in Latvia loves her.  She has a lot of difficulty walking these days, but whenever she needs to get somewhere she always has someone wanting to help her.  She is humble enough to accept help when she needs it, but insists on trying to get around on her own when she can.

During her travels to western countries she was assigned Soviet security to make sure she would always return to the Soviet Union.  Sometimes she was aware of their presence and sometimes not.  She recounted a story of a shopping trip in the United States.  As she exited one of the stores a Soviet security officer was there to give her directions.  She wondered how many others were following her and whether they had followed her into the lingerie shop she had visited earlier.  We all had a good laugh at that story.

BASKETBALL HALL OF FAME

Uliana was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.   She tells a story of meeting, fellow inductee, Julius Erving.  She was walking a ways behind him when he turned and recognized her.  He immediately stopped and introduced himself.  Uljana recalled that she was very surprised Julius Erving knew who she was.  She said it made her feel so good.  

In her acceptance speech, she spoke only four words in English.  At the very end of her 4 minute speech, (given in Latvian through a translator) she said: “I love this game”.  That short phrase was met with a rousing round of applause.  She explained to me that later someone from that NBA approached her and asked if they could use that phrase for the NBA.  She was flattered and said yes.  As you may recall that exact phrase became the NBA slogan in the mid 90’s.  

A WOMAN OF FAITH

I was curious to hear from Uljana about her experience with Christianity growing up under Communism.  She warmly expressed that she is a Christian.  As close as I could understand she follows an Eastern Orthodox brand of Christianity.  She explained that her parents were also Christians.  Growing up she was not able to go to church in the Soviet Union, but because she traveled so much with basketball she always tried to go to church when she was visited any western country.  She explained how it was so good for her heart to be able to go to church and light the candles.  

PASSION FOR PEOPLE

I asked Uljana if she felt that her strong passion for people was because of her Christian faith, or if it was just her nature.  She felt that is was part of her nature.  She explained that her mother had such a soft heart.  Even with six children, Uljana’s mother would always open her home and her heart to help others.  Uljana explained that her mother was often hurting for the hard situations of others under Soviet rule. This caring nature is found in abundance in Uljana through her work with the foundation as described above, and also in her passion for providing opportunity and eagerness for today’s Latvian youth to enjoy basketball. For example, her name headlines on an international girls basketball tournament that is named after her that is held in Riga, Latvia.

Our conversation went on for over an hour.  My poor interpreter, Gatis, had a very hard time keeping up with us.  I would ask a question and Uljana would enthusiastically respond, but before Gatis could translate everything, she would add more and more to her response.  I wanted so badly to understand Latvian, because I knew it was impossible for Gatis to translate everything.  Fortunately, much of communication is accomplished through body language. There was no misunderstand that Uljana Semjonova was a person filled with passion and joy.  Her openness and kind heart cannot be diminished by Communist oppression or the difficulties that aging brings.  She is truly a Champion.

 

Volleyball Camp Day 3 | 6-21-17

Day three was full of adventures and new experiences for our team. Tomorrow is our last day of camp, which is one day shorter than last year due to Latvia’s annual mid-summer celebration. We will hopefully provide an update for the mid-summer celebration, which we have the opportunity to attend this upcoming Friday/Saturday. Let’s get into day three!

Before Camp

Our team is slowly adjusting to the time difference by waking up later and later (today we woke up at 7). Everyone was mostly on their own morning schedule due to sleeping in longer but we all made it to the Olympic center on time. For anyone curious about the temperament of the rat birds…they were well behaved.

During Camp

The coaches and the campers definitely fell into a rhythm during day three. The campers knew the daily routine and some of the drills that we would repeat to reinforce, as well as the warm up and cool down sequences. Because of this, the campers started to become bored by the end of the day (they are in middle school after all). Tayla and Laura did a good job mixing the activities up to keep the campers engaged and enjoying the process of learning how to play volleyball.

The campers are progressing in their volleyball skills considerably. We have subtly divided the campers into skill groups today in order to maximize the efficiency of their progress. Laura and Tayla intentionally include entire group activities and drills as well to have campers get to know one another better.

We were missing two members of our crew during the morning session. Carol and Marci had the opportunity to visit Uljana Semjonova, the greatest basketball player in Latvian and Russian history. During Soviet occupation of Latvia in the 80’s, Latvian born Semjonova played for the Soviet Union. She is 7ft tall and never lost a game in her 18 season career. Carol will be writing a special blog about her interaction with Semjonova, but I will give you a hint that it was good enough to get all of us invited back to visit on Monday.

Our breakfast and lunch times are becoming more socially interactive with each day. It is interesting to ask them questions about what types of things they enjoy doing and how they were raised. Our team typically splits up as much as possible during meals to spend more time with the campers.

During the post lunch portion of practice we played interactive games with the campers and Tayla and Laura shared a story from their time as volleyball players at Oregon State. They told the campers about the struggle of having a winless season to making it to the sweet sixteen (which was the best performance in OSU volleyball history). During the post lunch time we have also been playing a series of “I am second” videos for the campers to watch.

After Camp

When camp concluded we were picked up by Kristaps, who used to be an integral member of the Latvian link team with Mathews and Suburban. He drove us from camp to a go-cart facility, where our entire team (including Erik) had the very unique opportunity to race go-carts with Kristaps. To give you a better idea of how it went, I will put a sentence that most likely describes each individual’s experience during our time at the facility.

Carol Schaudt: “Slow and steady does not win the race”

Marci Bacho: “I should have been a race car driver”

Tayla Woods: “I actually followed the rules”

Laura Schaudt: “Don’t do go-carts with siblings”

Brian Schaudt: “Go-carts are not bumper cars”

Erik Simmons: “My knee hurts”

Kristaps: “Don’t take Americans go-carting”

After go-carting we went back to Lido, a buffet style restaurant with endless possibilities of excellent Latvian cuisine. It was nice to spend the evening with Kristaps, who before today we had never met. He is now added to our long list of amazing friends from Latvia who have provided unbelievable hospitality to our team.

As we go into our last day of camp tomorrow, our hearts are set at having once last opportunity to strengthen relationships and build new ones. Emotions will certainly be high as we have assuredly grown closer this year to the campers then the year before. We look forward to updating you tomorrow for our last day of volleyball camp!

  • Brian Schaudt

Volleyball Camp Day 2 | 6-20-17

We had another excellent, but exhausting day at volleyball camp. Based off of last year, the (younger) campers tended to fade in energy on the second day afternoon session and we definitely witnessed that today. Last year they also rebounded strong for the third and fourth days, so we are hoping that is the case tomorrow! Let’s get into day two!

Before Camp

Our whole team had an increase in sleep quality Monday night, which made day two even more enjoyable then day one. This was probably due to us being extra tired Monday, as well as a less aggressive amount of squawking from the local hoard of seagulls, which I affectionately call “rat birds”. Normal morning routine with Erik, Marci, Carol and I having breakfast and chatting ,then our team walking to the Olympic Center to have breakfast with the campers.

During Camp

The campers inhaled their food like they did the day before and we immediately spent 45 of the 60 minutes dedicated to breakfast/camp prep having free time in the gym. Again, even though this part of the camp is not officially planned for in the program, it is a crucial time to develop better relationships with the campers.

After the warm up we did a refresher on ball control that we had worked on the day before. The campers seemed more competent in their ball control skills. Today’s goal was to practice serving and spiking, which are very similar movement patterns. The kids seemed to really enjoy and pick up the spiking drills, which was great because of the “day two sandman” described in the beginning of this blog. If we were to work only on skills like digging or setting I’m not sure we would have been very efficient with the attention span/energy of the campers.

The campers also seemed even more relaxed today then yesterday. The first day last year they were very hesitant and warmed up about the third day. This year, we started off day one like day three last year. We are entering uncharted waters with the comfortability and depth of the coach-camper relationship.

One of the local pastors interning at Matthews Church, Matiss Babrovskis, has been doing an amazing job of organizing a pretty long break in between sessions of a full two hours. Besides games to break up the times spent in a chair, he has also been showing some short videos (I Am Second) which opens an opportunity for Matiss to share some more in depth challenges for the kids to think personally about.

During lunch we probably had/will have the best lunch of the camp (TBD). We brought in a local magician/illusionist who has connections with Matthews church. None of the Americans could understand him, but the kids were laughing and he had some pretty impressive tricks up his sleeve (pun intended).

Riga Volleyball Camp - Matthews Church - Suburban Christian Church

Riga Volleyball Camp - Matthews Church - Suburban Christian Church

Riga Volleyball Camp - Matthews Church - Suburban Christian Church

Immediately after the performance, Carol Schaudt shared her testimony. The main message of her talk was relating athletes to Christians. As athletes we have coaches that we trust even if we don’t understand why they are doing something, we know that they are doing it to make us better athletes. The same logic applies to our relationship with God; it is impossible to fully understand God, yet we know that He is doing it to make us better.

The afternoon session consisted of more progressive serving drills and then 6 v 6 volleyball games. I’m not sure how the other groups did, but I was impressed with the volleys that came from the group that Marci and I were with. I also had campers tell me that they really enjoyed putting their skills together to play some actual volleyball games.

Of course, since this is camp, it means that volleyball isn’t the only skill taught. Tayla and Laura can teach and entertain in almost any fashion.

After Camp

When camp concluded we were invited to eat dinner at one of the camper’s houses. A good Latvian friend of ours, Roberts, drove us probably a total of an hour and a half to and from our dinner invite location…Thank you, Roberts! Once we got there we were immediately spoiled in multiple ways. Their house was beautiful, they had an awesome family, served us an absolutely delicious multiple course meal, and most importantly had a drum set which myself and one of the boys thoroughly enjoyed thrashing on. The generosity and hospitality of time and resources that the Latvian people have blessed us with last year and this year continues to amaze me.

That about does it for day two! Thank you for supporting us and the campers by reading this blog…we are very blessed to be here and hope to make even more lifelong friendships and continue to spread joy and the opportunity to know Jesus a little bit better.

  • Brian Schaudt
  1. Erik Update: Erik Simmons furthered the conquest of his “special project” by spending the day with Laima (who was actually at suburban Christian church in March of this year). The bulk of the day was spent attending the Latvian national art museum, which they covered head to toe. After the day’s immersion in Latvian art and history, he had a very productive meeting with the leaders of Matthews church to discuss the entire scope of the project and a project plan on how to achieve it.

 

Volleyball Camp Day 1 | 6-19-17

Hello Suburban and anyone else following our trip! This is Brian Schaudt, token male for the volleyball camp. We had our first day of camp and it went very well, minus a potential concussion (more on this later). Our total enrollment is 48 kids and about one-third of them are new to the camp. Reconnecting with our friends from Matthew’s church yesterday and the campers today filled our team with much joy.

Before

We started our day off waking up ridiculously early, partially because Latvia experiences about 3hrs of actual darkness this time of year as well as the lingering effects of jet lag. Erik, Marci, Carol and I were able to catch up and enjoy each other’s company and prep for the day, while Laura and Tayla, who were coming from different time zones, woke up at an appropriate hour in the morning.

During

Our volleyball camp goes from 9-5, with the order being breakfast, training session, break, lunch, activity, afternoon session. We arrived at the Olympic Center and immediately started rekindling friendships with past campers from last year. It was pretty awesome getting to see how some of them have changed physically, mentally and emotionally from one year ago.

Below is Gatis registering kids for the volleyball camp.

After breakfast we jumped right into our first training session! The kids typically scarf down their breakfast in 10-15min, leaving 45-50min before the actual volleyball starts. This leaves them time to change into sports clothes and have free time with the volleyballs in the gym. Personally, the free time before our morning and afternoon sessions is my favorite time of the camp. Most of the campers tend to be very shy when you approach them at breakfast or lunch and it’s amazing seeing how their guard comes down when you put a volleyball in their hand and give them a gym to run around in. I’ve developed more relationships with campers during this time then during all other parts of the camp combined…and today was no exception!

After free time I led the group in a rousing dynamic warm up then it was the Laura and Tayla show! Gatis Olte, the Latvian director of the camp, introduced us and translated for the morning. Laura explained the purpose of the camp and told them about our camp bible verse: Colossians 3:23. Tayla, who was Laura’s teammate at Oregon State, led most of the drills today. The goal of the day was ball control and Tayla masterfully blended the appropriate amount of games/drill ratio to keep the campers engaged yet productive.

One of the games involved kids getting into groups and forming a circle, where one member of the group ran around the circle until they got back to their group, then went through the member’s legs to the middle of the circle to retrieve a volleyball. Needless to say, the game became intense with crawling, diving, and a small pile up leading to a camper breaking his glasses and bumping his head.

After the morning session there was a small break for the campers to rest, then we ate lunch as a group. After lunch was the Marci Bacho show! Marci has been our official social media/photographer for the trip, but also serves a more important role of working with a friend from Matthews’ church, Matiss Babrovskis, to coordinate the post-lunch time. Today, we opened with a game then I shared my testimony followed by some interactive and cooperative games. The main point of my testimony is to not settle for your faith as boring because church can be boring (especially at their age). I encourage the campers who have accepted Jesus to find fun in their faith to create sustainability. To those that have not accepted Christ I told them that Jesus is waiting right outside their heart and all they have to do if they want to have a relationship with him is invite him to come in privately, publically, or however they want.

After lunch we did a short warm up and resumed the Laura and Tayla show, working on ball control via a combination of games and drills. The campers took to the drills well and showed improvement by the end of the day despite their obvious exhaustion. We closed the day with a fun massive volleyball game to put the ball control skills together.

After

When camp was concluded we walked to Gatis and Ance’s house. Ance, who is now Gatis’s wife and helped us tremendously last year and today, is a current professional volleyball player for the Latvian team. They fed us pizza and we were able to relax after camp and tell stories, laugh and get to know each other better. Thankfully another friend of ours, Hardijs, came to pick us up from the house and take us our apartment. We probably would not have made it back on foot due to us most likely getting lost and/or being pretty tired from camp and jet lag.

Overall our team had a very promising day today! Compared to this day last year, we are heads and tails ahead of our progress in our relationships with the adults and campers, as well as the drills. We are already looking forward to tomorrow…and until tomorrow, have a good night (or day).

 

  • Brian Schaudt

 

PS. Erik update: Erik Simmon’s had a good first official day working toward his “special project” that our church is planning for Matthews church’s 150th anniversary this fall. He has lots of information to take in, places in Riga to visit, many one on one meetings and even a super-secret covert mission to Estonia (don’t tell anyone).

We are excited for…

What a way to start a new day and week in a new country (for me, most of the team has been here before) with worship at Matthews Church! My ears are still enjoying the music they shared.

Directly following service, our team and Latvian cohorts walked over to the gym facilities to make last minute preparations and plans for the camp that’s happening this week.

We spent the evening having traditional Latvian food. The food was awesome, but that wasn’t the highlight. People and relationships with them are, which is why we are so thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of this Latvia church family. It is so good to share the same goals and work together in pursuit of showing the love God has for each one of us and how it is so worth following Him!

One More Day….

Surprise! The Volleyball Team isn’t leaving today after all!

Team member Carol Schaudt has the blessing of being the first name on the team’s airline reservation. So she was contacted late yesterday and told that the first leg of the team’s flight to Riga was detained and would arrive in Portland too late for them to make their connecting overseas flight from the East coast.  Re-booking was the order of the night. Carol stayed up until the wee hours (actually until about two hours before we planned to leave Corvallis this Thursday morning) working with airline booking agents to get the team to Riga on Friday. It was a no go. Instead most of the team will leave for PDX tomorrow morning, Friday, June 16 and arrive in Riga on Saturday, June 17.

Please pray for:

  • the revised reservations to work and for the team to arrive safe and sound on Saturday, June 17
  • one team member, not traveling from PDX, will arrive late Friday night. Arrangements are in place for this member to be met at the Riga airport and transported to the team’s Air BnB. Pray travel mercies for this team member and peace in an unexpected situation
  • last minutes details — there is opportunity in this change, pray that team members will capitalize on that opportunity as the Lord leads
  • our friends from Matthews Church as they also juggle plans and schedules to adjust to the changes.

Thank you for your prayers and please keep on praying! We trust that this change is an answer to your prayers. We know that God is the Master Scheduler and even United Airlines can’t overthrow the plans of our Lord!