The NVA takes pride in its ability to provide a home-base professional league for all the Americans who have gone overseas to play. Whether it is in-between seasons or its finally time to settle down, the NVA is always appreciative of having players with international playing experience. One such player for Team Freedom is Christopher Nugent, a Pennsylvania State Alumni and previous player for VK Ostrava in the Czech Republic. He took some time to share some stories about his time abroad and the events that have led him to the NVA.
The year he graduated and finished his career at Penn State University, Chis shipped off overseas with the help of his agent Rajko Jokanovic, securing him a contract in the third-largest city in the Czech Republic, just on the eastern border with Poland. Chris described the size of the league where even him, a 6’5″ outside, was considered one of the league’s tallest players. Thus, the play’s speed was much faster, with a ‘GO ball’ being the average tempo, which meant Chris had to learn how to approach for a set that was even faster and placed more inside. He described, “I was pushed every day to run those sets, which required me to jump into the ball as I swung. I would end up getting chewed out if I ever went line since it was the coaches’ thought that there is always more angle.” He also expressed the struggle that many US players have switching to the international Mikasa balls after using Moltens in the NCAA.
Unfortunately, Chris had the obstacle of not having anyone on the team speak English, which can be difficult for anyone living abroad with no familiar faces. The only other international players on the team were two Polish players who spoke Russian as their second language. “I did my best to learn Czech, but it started tough with their word for yes being ‘Ano’ which was hard to get down being an English speaker” Nugent explained.
The team did their best to create a better sense of home for him, getting to know three of the local players’ parents and them holding a thanksgiving celebration. One huge plus was traveling while he was there, taking trips to Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Greece. He even was able to see his old teammate and USA National team player Aaron Russell while he was playing in Perugia, Italy.
In the end, though, Chris only stayed for one year, deciding that it was not the lifestyle he wanted. Chris’s experience is just another example of how diverse every team and country are and how it can be a roll of the dice to find the right fit with a club. “I don’t regret playing at all; I felt like I really needed that year for myself to do a ton of traveling and still get better at the sport I love,” he said.
Currently, Chris has enjoyed being back home. He has started to build his life here again, getting ready to buy a house and soon to have his wedding with fiancé Kara Michelle. As he put it, “I hope to be playing volleyball for the rest of my life, but it’s time to build my volleyball career around the life that I want to live!”
Follow Chris and the rest of Team Freedom on social media and the NVA app.