Lay up!

Team Sports in Vladivostok

Published: December 31, 2012

VGUES has strong sports tradition and students find attending college games there enjoyable. Below are a few that SRAS students have experienced while studying abroad in Vladivostok.

Volleyball at VGUES in Vladivostok

Jonathan Rainey, 2016

Each Saturday and Sunday evening at the VSUES gym, students gather to play volleyball. The practice is free and open to all students. On both evenings, practice begins around 7:00 pm.

While the practice is open to all students, the core members and attendees of this gathering are the BlackHawks. The BlackHawks are unaffiliated officially with the school, but they still play competitively with other teams around the city. The BlackHawk’s coach, Alexey, also plays on the VSUES official men’s volleyball team. He keeps the BlackHawks as his side project.

Although only in his first year at the university, Alexey is already proving to be a dedicated leader for the team that he has created. He affectionately refers to them as his “children,” and purposefully works alongside the players throughout warm-ups, drills, and practice matches.

In fact, this is the most interesting point. Rather than just providing a venue where people show up for a few games to have some fun, the whole session keeps a structured focus, with ample time spent on warm-ups and drills. Repetition serving, setting, and spiking has helped my game quite a bit recently. I have never considered myself to be anything above basically competent at volleyball, but the regular practice has made for some marked improvement. The skill range of players varies quite a lot. Some of us are still working on setting the ball consistently and accurately (read: me), while others are adept at high-velocity spikes. It can be a little bit intimidating in the games, but everyone has a positive attitude and the good players don’t expect everyone to be a volleyball wizard.

In addition to the volleyball, this environment is also a good place for language practice. The nice thing about sports is, provided you already know the basic rules, you don’t need much to get started. Like with nearly every activity, there is some specialized vocabulary associated with it and asking questions about different aspects of the game is always helpful to add a few extra words to your vocabulary.

Overall, I would say that this is one of the better kept secrets that I have found at the university. It is not advertised, and word of it spreads only organically. The people are very friendly, however, and it has been a great way to meet new friends and get some exercise on the weekends.

VGUES Basketball in Vladivostok

Jordan Bryant, 2012

One thing to which many Americans, raised on fantasies of Superbowl rings and World Series pennants, may have trouble adjusting when in Vladivostok is the sheer lack of familiar sporting events. Especially if one lacks as a TV (as most do if you’re living in the dormitories as I do), this can be a very real source of dismay for the sporty foreigner. Luckily, there is a solution, one that I came across not too long ago: VGUES has its own basketball team!

Now of course there are some citywide soccer events (although it is no secret that Vladivostok’s home team is terrible!) and also some hockey games, but these are often at pretty far away stadiums, and are almost always extremely cold: the soccer games because they are largely played outdoors and the hockey games because they are inevitably played at an ice rink. Besides, nothing strikes at the heart of an American sportsman like basketball, a sport that, for all intents and purposes, we consider our own.

Thus I would recommend that you, like me, start going to some college games! If you happened to be stationed at VGUES, you can see the home team play on a fairly regular basis in the sports hall that is actually about two steps away from the international office and is therefore equally close to the dorms. By Russian standards, VGUES actually fields a pretty good team (they have won several championships in recent years), and the play is often rather aggressive and foul-filled, so there is lots to cheer about and get excited over in the course of a game. Now this is not to say that one should go in with the expectation that what you will be watching is anything akin to NCAA matches; basketball is not the nurtured and developed sport in Russia that it is in the US, and thus really only professional regional teams play at a very high level. However, if you are looking to have some fun, make some friends among the crowd, and/or show your school spirit by supporting the team, these games are the perfect platform!

Home games are usually at night, starting at around 8 pm, and are a great diversion if you want to avoid that pesky Russian homework that most American students have piling up as the semester gets under way!

About the author

Jordan Bryant

Jordan Bryant is a recent graduate of Harvard University (Go Crimson!), who specialized in both Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Classics. In order to deepen her knowledge of the Russian language and study the culture from a perspective different than the ones she had already experienced in the "two capitals", she has journeyed to Vladivostok, which is on the other side of the country! After she returns from Russia, she hopes to matriculate into law school and work in the field of international corporate law in Eastern Europe.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

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Jonathan Rainey

Jonathan Rainey majored in History and English at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. While at Francis Marion, he was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, National History Honors Society and worked as a reporter for The Patriot, the university's newspaper. Jonathan will be serving as an SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar in Vladivostok for the 2015-2016 school year. He is pictured here at Vladivostok's annual celebration of "Tiger Day."

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Jonathan Rainey