She is one of the most powerful middle blockers of the italian Serie A1. Who are we speaking about? We are referring to the american Lauren Gibbemeyer, an absolute protagonist on the courts of the italian championship.
How did you start playing volleyball?
As a child, I played many different sports but basketball was always my favourite. Once I got to high school, I decided to try volleyball for the first time and I immediately fell in love with the sport and the team aspect. From then on, I played for my high school team and also for a local club team.
What do you like most, and what least, about being a middle blocker?
The thing I like the most about being a middle blocker is that I am in charge of the block when I am in the front row. As middles, we work hard on reading different setters and we train our bodies to move laterally and to max jump many times throughout a rally. I like to help the defense behind me by setting up a well-formed block so that they can do their job when and IF the ball passes through!
The thing I like the least about being a middle blocker is that every once in a while, if our team isn’t receiving very well, I am not able to get much action in attack. As a middle blocker, it is important to have an almost perfect pass to be able to attack the very fast and precise sets we get in order to hit the ball around the block.
It’s already some years that you play in the italian championship. What do you like most of Italy?
There are too many wonderful things I love about Italy including the food, language, and the history. However, I really admire the slower lifestyle I experience while living in Italy. The culture here is very family-focused and I love that certain parts of the day are spent enjoying the meals and the other people they share them, without rush. I have truly enjoyed slowing down and appreciating the little things throughout my day.
Did you sometimes go through difficult periods in which you thought about giving up on your volleyball career?
All athletes go through a difficult moment in their athletic career where we question ourselves and wonder if it’s worth it continue to play our sport. In order to play the sport we love, we must make many sacrifices, sometimes we suffer injuries, and we must live in a country far away from our families for most of the year. There have been a couple times in my life when I wondered if it would be best if I stopped playing, but the inner fire and love for the game has kept me strong and wanting more. I believe that when I am ready to be finished, I will feel when the moment is right.
Last year you surprisely won the italian championship with your team (Pomì Casalmaggiore). Which is your most beautiful memory of that success?
The most beautiful memory of last year’s championship was our team’s chemistry and fighting spirit. It was an absolute joy to play with that group of women and although we surprised everyone on the outside of our team by winning the scudetto, we never doubted that we were capable of doing something special. I will hold the memory of that season close to my heart for the rest of my life.
In the 2013/2014 season you played the first part of the championship with Lokomotiv Baku. Which do you think are the biggest differences between volleyball in Azerbaijan and volleyball in Italy?
The biggest difference between volleyball in Azerbaijan and Italy is the fact that Baku had 6 teams (at the time) in their league and Italy had 12. All of the teams in Azerbaijan’s league are in the same city (Baku) so there is no “home” or “away” gym unless you were playing Rabita in their own gym. Despite Baku’s reputation for signing big-name players, I still find that the competition and overall level of play is much higher in the Italian league.
In spring your team will surprisely host the Final Four of the CEV Champions League. Which sensations do you feel in playing such an important competition against important teams?
For my teammates and me, it was a huge surprise to find out we will be hosting. I immediately felt so grateful because hosting means that we are saving our bodies an extra 4 matches! I also think it will be a great opportunity for our little city of Casalmaggiore to experience the top level of volleyball right here at home!
Next summer there will be the Olympic Games in Rio. What would you do to play this competition with your National Team?
To play in the Olympics wearing a USA jersey would be the greatest honor and accomplishment in my sport. After training with the national team for 5 years now, I have a great sense of pride and faith that our team can do something very special. I hope I can be there to witness it!
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I love to cook, journal, and read. When we have a day off, I love to travel and explore new places with my teammates.
If you hadn’t become a volleyball player, what would you have done in your life?
If I wasn’t a volleyball player, I would love to own a health and wellness center that not only teaches exercises for the body, but for the mind as well.
(ph. Michele Baruffi for GetSportMedia)