Our professional athlete interview series continues. Each week in June, learn how Vega ambassadors and professional athletes got their start and what it takes to go “pro” in a range of sports.
When did you decide that you wanted to go pro?
Betsy Bailey is a professional volleyball player most recently competing for Asul Lyon Volleyball in Lyon, France. For the summer, Betsy is back in the States travelling and competing in a number of tournaments. Her latest victory: a win at the USA Adult Volleyball Championships in May in Minneapolis. A committed vegan, Betsy also writes a blog to help the world find vegan athletic equipment – from volleyballs to running shoes. www.veganvolleyballer.com
While playing in college, I always dreamt about playing professional volleyball overseas, but I didn't know how to go about doing it. Also, I had this crazy idea in my head that I needed to get started on a "real" career after college, so I went straight into corporate America in New York City after graduating. While I was working, I was still playing volleyball, but at a recreational level (a professional indoor volleyball league doesn't exist in the US). I got antsy and was frequently jolted awake at night from dreaming about diving for balls on the court! So after several months of waking up at 5 AM to go to the gym before work, I went on a try out in Europe. That was three years ago!
What steps did you need to take to go pro?
I was working long hours at my job in NYC, so like I said, I would wake up at 5 AM almost every day to go to the gym and train...lifting weights, doing interval training on the treadmill, plyos, jump training, etc. After work, I was playing in a recreational league two or three times per week. I decided to be very frugal with my money in order to save up a lot before going on the try out. I knew that my first year playing wouldn't be lucrative (and it still isn't!), so I wanted to have an emergency backup fund...or worse case scenario, if I didn't make a team, I wanted to travel around Europe for a few months on the money I'd saved!
First, I went on a "tour" with a volleyball agency that places players overseas. I spent ten days with about 20 other players who were thinking about playing professionally. We played against teams in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Just traveling was a big inspiration for me. Two things, I love are playing volleyball and traveling and I thought if playing volleyball professionally will also allow me to travel – it's a dream come true!
Walk us through a day of training. How many days a week? Hours a day?
It depends on the team. My first year playing, I had training five times per week for about two hours and matches on Sundays. Since I had training in the evenings and a lot of free time during the days, I would go to the gym to do extra physical training as well. It was the same my second year playing. This past season, I only had training three times per week for an hour and a half, but I had access to a great health club that I took full advantage of in my free time!
What is the biggest challenge being a pro athlete? What is the biggest reward?
I'd say my biggest challenge is trying to feel "at home" when I move to a new place. Sometimes, it takes a while to make close friends in a new place and it's difficult to be away from my family and old friends in the states as well. However, that aspect is also rewarding because it requires a lot of self-reflection. Some other rewards include learning about other cultures, their language and just the fact that I get to do what I love for a living!
When is your next competition? What is your goal?
The season generally goes from September through April, so right now I'm off season. Though I can re-sign with the same team I played with last year in Lyon, France, I'm currently looking around to see what other opportunities come up. My goal for the moment is to play in a higher division. Also, I would really love to play in Italy!
What is your greatest accomplishment to date?
I consider giving up a good job in NYC and making a team in Germany my first year a great accomplishment!
Tell us a little more about yourself!
Well, I don't really have a permanent home. During the off season, I spend time traveling or visiting my parents in Michigan, where I grew up. I'm not married and don't have kids or pets for the moment. It would be a little difficult to manage that being that I move around a lot. I studied music in college and continue to play the guitar and sing with friends when I have the chance. I love traveling, learning other languages and trying out veggie restaurants when I visit new cities. I also write veggie travel articles occasionally for VegDining.com and do some other freelance work when I have time. I've been vegan for quite a while and truly believe that this has helped me accomplish my athletic goals (not only physically, but spiritually, mentally and emotionally, as well)...of course with the help of Vega too :)