Former ETSU Volleyball player excels on world stage
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 11, 2008) - Former ETSU volleyball standout Crystal Palmer is enjoying her life as a professional volleyball player in Croatia. Palmer has been adjusting to a different lifestyle both on and off of the court after a successful career at ETSU from 2005-06.


Palmer plays for AOK Osijek, Akademski (Academic)  Odbojkaski (Women's Volleyball) Klub (Club) of Osijek. Osijek is the 4th largest city in all of Croatia, and is located in the eastern part of the country close to the Serbian border. Adjusting to life in Croatia has been difficult for Palmer because of the language barrier, but Crystal has found other ways to communicate.


"It is a totally different mindset in many respects and in order to adjust and understand I have to accept and embrace the differences," Palmer said. "You have to take it and appreciate it for what it is not what you thought it would be or what you want it to be. It's not a situation you can compare to life in the states, doing that would only frustrate you."


For Palmer, playing at ETSU has helped her with the transition to the professional game in Europe. Palmer focused on her career and success with the Bucs when she made the transition to the professional game. Her career at ETSU provided a means to better herself, and to maintain a mindset for success.


The league that Crystal plays in is mainly made up of European players, but there are a few former college players like her that have made their way to Croatia. AOK Osijek finished the fall season in first place, and started the spring season on Feb. 9. The teams in the league are all Croatian teams, but every now and then AOK Osijek will travel to Serbia for a friendly match or two.


Palmer enjoys playing for her head coach, who is also the head coach for the Croatian National Team. Many of her teammates speak English, but Crystal finds that volleyball talk is pretty much universal.


Palmer faces other major differences including practices and drills. Crystal was surprised that her pro team does less drills and lots of hitting with more relaxed warm-ups, but finding a place to practice isn't always guaranteed.


"Gyms are so packed and overbooked in this city that we have late practices, sometimes from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.," Palmer said. "I have never done that before. Also unlike at ETSU we don't have unlimited gym time so practice can't run longer, and there isn't a place for me to put in extra hours like I am used to."


            Another difference Palmer has faced is the difference in conditioning.  Surprisingly lifting weights is not a major focus, and only since the arrival of the current head coach has lifting been part of the routine. Even though the players do lift weights now, they mainly do so in order to maintain muscle.


"Strangely not many of my teammates have lifted before so they think I am superwoman or something," Palmer said. "One even called me a female horse because of my strength."


Recently Croatia has suffered from war that has devastated the country. While playing there, Palmer can see the national pride that the people of Croatia have for their country.


"I feel honored to see an area that was once devastated rebuilding and establishing itself," Palmer said. "It's shocking to see first hand."


            Palmer plans to finish the season with AOK Osijek and then try out for some of the other clubs in Europe, and may get in some beach volleyball in the summer.