Mark and I had our first summer together in seven years, can you believe that? Well, if you are a volleyball wife or girlfriend, or the partner of any professional athlete then you’ll know where I’m coming from. If you listened to the Mo Farah interview after he won Gold in the 10,000m at the IAAF World Championship’s on Saturday you would have had a lump in your throat when he spoke of the time he spent away from his family, and how his twin daughters didn’t recognizing him. Sadly, we know first hand what that experience is like, THAT is the stark reality for some athletes in this business. One word, sacrifice.
Now, the idea of never spending more than a week with your partner in the same place during the summer might seem like bliss for some of you, but for us 6 years of never having a family holiday, having to schedule times to see each other, to see family, planning our wedding during that one week off in the summer last year, worrying that I would go into labour on a day that Mark wasn’t in the country, (YES, that happened, he was in Spain on my due date and I was induced 4 days later, he arrived back 2 days before!) it was all really tough going. When it all comes down to it, joking aside, the sacrifice though completely worth it at the time, Mark is an Olympian, not many people can say that, does feel like it was in vain. UK sport decided in December not to fund GB volleyball going forward to Rio in 2016. This decision for us, and for everyone involved in the program, was a real kick in the teeth. Unfortunately, most of the GB Men’s and Women’s volleyball players are no longer playing professionally, perhaps they would have drifted from the professional game anyway, it is a difficult lifestyle to maintain, it’s always about sacrifice, (there’s that word again!) but I think the decision from UK sport was a vital factor in the decision making process of some of these players. Volleyball, in my opinion, will struggle in the UK, lack of funding and national support will continue and the game will suffer. (The Scottish Men’s National Team are fundraising to compete in next years European Championships because they can’t afford to enter, teams in Scotland are folding because they can’t afford the high cost of hall lets)
Mark will continue to play professional volleyball in Europe, it’s his job now. The attitude to volleyball here is such a different one, it’s respected, and though the economic climate is affecting the sport here too, we’re at a great club with a good structure in place and a bright future. Mark’s motivation now is to be the best player he can be….he is still living his dream, yes, but he deserves it, he works hard every day to be where he is now, it takes commitment and sacrifice, still.
So, for the first summer ever and a year on from the Olympics, we haven’t had volleyball on our minds at all. (Well, I haven’t, I can’t say the same for Mark!) Since the end of the volleyball season here in Lyon, (where Lyon got promoted to the top league in France) we have been very busy, enjoying lots of time together, with family and friends. We’ve been to Buckingham Palace, Amsterdam, we’ve attended friends weddings, BBQ’s, we’ve had day trips, been to the beach, cinema, had nights out, nights in, we were tourists in Glasgow for the day, we’ve been to dinner, ate our weight in rolls and square sausage and fish suppers in Scotland, drank a ridiculous amount of beer and suffered the hangovers of it, Mark spent some quality time with Little Miss when he was in Glasgow for a week without me (which was fabulous as it’s never happened before!!). We did everything that all of you do in your everyday lives and think nothing of. It was an amazing summer, one that I will not forget, and a year after the best summer of Mark’s professional career and our wedding day in 2012, that’s saying a lot!
As we approach our 1 year wedding anniversary on the 17th I look back on our year together and smile from ear to ear. The last 7 years have been pretty amazing, the next 70 have a lot to live up to…but I’m feeling good about it!
Enjoy the pics below, we enjoyed making them!