Monday, September 9, 2013

Lauren Gibbemeyer Steps Into Justin's World

We're going to venture away from softball today to focus on one of the finest volleyball players wearing the USA uniform today. I've been saving this one for today and, ladies and gents, it's a good 'un!! Lauren Gibbemeyer is a middle blocker who has been a member of Team USA since 2011.

 Gibbemeyer was not on the 2012 Olympic team, but that also gave me the chance to ask her objective opinion about the United States squad in London. She's been playing for Team USA across the globe since, and doing an excellent job across the board! I have a strong feeling we'll see her in Rio in 2016, wearing the red, white, and blue!

I was saving this for today for a special reason - yesterday was Lauren's birthday!! Since I don't usually post on the weekends, it had to fall to today, but if you didn't have the chance to wish her a happy birthday yesterday, I urge you to do so through one of the links in the interview below.

A star on a professional stage as well as an international one, Lauren has played for pro teams in Japan and Italy, as well as across the world for Team USA. She starred at the University of Minnesota prior to it all, and was a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, among many other awards and accolades.

I had the pleasure of asking Lauren about why she chose Minnesota; her Olympic dreams; the proudest moment of her career; her thoughts on volleyball in the 2012 Olympics; who would play her in a movie; and much more! Check it out and enjoy it below.

Why/how did you choose to attend college & play volleyball at Minnesota? What about the Gophers program appealed to you?
I grew up 10 minutes from the Minnesota campus and my parents would always take me to volleyball games. I immediately fell in love with the program and with the campus. Minnesota has always been a strong program and Dr. Mike Hebert was a well-known coach. I knew I wanted to play for a team that could make it to the National Finals. Also, as a recruit, the coaches and players were very welcoming and made me feel like I was a part of the family before I even got there! 

As you became a collegiate star, and even before that, was playing volleyball professionally something you had interest in doing? Was “the dream” always to be a pro athlete?

As soon as I began playing volleyball, it quickly became my number one passion. Of course in the beginning, I always thought it would be absolutely amazing to be able to play my sport professionally and make a living, but I wasn't so sure it was an attainable goal. However, throughout college I kept improving and becoming more confident in my abilities and at one point I thought "Hey, I can do this. I can definitely play volleyball as a career". So, to answer the question, I had always had that dream in the back of my mind but the possibility of attaining that goal didn't come to be until halfway through college.

Although you had an uber-successful college career & are now in the middle of a tremendous professional career, what are your dreams and plans for your athletic future? I’ve heard some say we might see you in Rio in 2016?
As I've learned over the years "man plans, God laughs". I am an OCD planner person and I like to know where I will be a week, a month, and a year from now, but I have come to realize that life doesn't work that way. Therefore, I like to keep an open mind about what my future holds because anything can change in an instant. However, I do have a major goal for my athletic career and that would be making the 2016 Olympics in Rio and helping my team win a gold medal. 

What are the biggest differences and changes between playing volleyball in the US & playing overseas?
WHERE TO BEGIN?! This question alone would take up about five pages so I'll try to cut it down. First of all, it really depends on what part of the world you are playing in. Europe is a little more Westernized and therefore the culture is a little bit easier to adjust to. Asia, on the other hand, is very different from the US in regard to food, training, traditions, and of course the language. In Japan, you must always take your shoes off when indoors and must bow to your elders as a sign of respect. The training in Japan is also different from the US in that they follow a "more is better" type of mentality. I remember days when I entered the gym at 8am and didn't arrive home until 8pm! Don't worry, that wasn't straight practicing, we were given lunch and an allotted nap time! 
As you can imagine, another huge difference between playing in different cultures is the food. In Italy, it is very common for people to eat pasta every day and load up on carbs as the bulk of their diet. In Japan we ate rice and fish for almost meal of the day! It is very important as an athlete to know what kind of food is available to you in each country you play in order to maintain a balanced diet to ensure peak performance.
Finally, the most obvious difference between countries is the language. In Japan, very few people speak English and therefore, I had to have a translator follow me around constantly when I played there. The language barrier definitely made it a challenge to communicate with teammates and coaches but it was an unforgettable experience and taught me how to live alone in a foreign country! As for Italy, many people can speak English and the language is much easier to pick up on. One of the greatest things about playing overseas is being able to immerse yourself in a different culture and learn different languages.

Is there a certain athlete who you’ve modeled your playing style and on-court attitude after, or one that you’ve been told is similar to you?
One athlete that I would consider a huge role model of mine is Christa Harmotto. Christa Harmotto (a first-time olympian) played for Penn State while I was at Minnesota but is two years older than me. In college she was a beast, and the best middle blocker I had played against. I will never forget one time after a match against Penn State when I received a message on Facebook from Christa. Her message was short but her words stuck with me and really made me believe in myself. She told me that I was a great player and that I would go on and do great things. Hearing that come from not only a rival player, but one of the best middle blockers in the country only made me respect her more. Now, I have the privilege of playing with her on the USA national team where she teaches me not only to be a great volleyball player, but also how to be a good person. 

If you could play another sport professionally, which would it be?
If I could play another sport professionally it would probably be tennis because they always look cute when they play, they are in ridiculous shape, and they can make a great living!

What is the proudest/awesomest/most memorable moment of your career?
I would have to say my most memorable moment of my career was my senior year of college when we beat our biggest Big Ten rival Penn State in 5 sets after losing the first two. It was a pivotal moment for me because it was senior night on our home court where I literally felt myself change into the player I had always wanted to be. That match alone made me realize that I could become something really special, and it touched my teammates and me in a way we will never forget!

Give me your thoughts about the volleyball matches in the 2012 Olympic Games.
My thoughts about the 2012 Olympic Games go a little like this: First of all, there is no doubt in my mind that we had the most talented and athletic team in the world. We had the technique, the height, the experience, the best training, but from what I saw in the gym every day during the summer and while replaying the gold medal match several times, was the lack of chemistry at times and the mental strength when things got tough. It hurts to watch that match over again because I know how much hard work everyone put in the gym every day and I know how much they deserved that gold. However, something Karch Kiraly told me was that a team can do EVERYTHING right and still not achieve the final goal. It's a huge risk that everyone must take in order to achieve the final goal. There is no doubt in my mind that team USA will get that gold medal in the near future.

If a movie was going to be made about your life, who would you cast in the role of Lauren?
Hmmm… Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy from Modern Family) not necessarily because we are that similar, but because I love her personality in Modern Family.

Say you were Aladdin and the genie agreed to grant you three wishes – what would you ask for?
1.) Unlimited wishes (beat the system)
2.) That I could teleport anywhere in the world in a second
3.) Having enough money to take care of everyone I care about for the rest of their lives

How can we keep up with you? Website/FB/Twitter
Twitter: @Lauren5Gibby FB: Lauren Gibbemeyer

1 comment:

  1. Man, now you're going to start talking volleyball? You really are tailoring this blog toward me.