During his time of COVID-19 lockdown in Serbia, Olympic Volleyball legend and Special Olympics Global Ambassador Vladimir “Vanja” Grbic took time to answer a range of questions from across our movement—from how to cope with social distancing to how to prepare for an Olympic final. Whether you are still in isolation, emerging from lockdown or reflecting on what the experience taught you, take some inspiration and motivation from Vanja’s story and his words of encouragement.
Jovan Milic, 19-year-old member of a Unified basketball team, from Pirot, Serbia: Could you tell us if you and your family are staying indoors during these times, and what interesting things are you doing together?
Vladimir Grbic (VG): I would like to tell you how I’m passing my time during this quarantine. I’m staying at home and I’m keeping physically active. I know it is difficult, but if we set the goal for ourselves, we can manage to get over it easily! I’m training once or twice every single day and I’m very happy to share my time with my family. We had the opportunity to exercise together sometimes. It was very nice!
Anastasia Swistun, 22-year-old Unified Partner from Poland: When playing volleyball, athletes create fantastic friendships and start spending time together even off the pitch. How can we explain to the athletes that they cannot train together or even meet their teammates during such a difficult time all over the world?
VG: First of all, we have to understand that this is not a prison. We have to be responsible: if we stay home, we will protect many lives and by behaving like this, we will give an excellent example. I believe that you already know something about giving an excellent example, because your passion is an inspiration for the entire world! We still have the opportunity to train and improve. So, when the time comes to see and embrace our team mates again, we will come in much better conditions.
Vanyukhin Adel, 20-year-old athlete from Kazan, Russia: How or with what can a volleyball be replaced while we are forced to stay at home?
VG: Volleyball is generally very nice, but it can cause problems [when played] inside. It’s not only the dust… you can crash something! Very often, I use balloons. Balloons will give you much more time because they fly very slowly: this can help you improve your accuracy and your technical elements!
Valia Vrekou, volleyball coach from Athens, Greece: Could you please describe the psychological preparation before competing in the final of the Olympic Games? How did you prepare yourself and manage the pressure of the game?
VG: I can tell you, Valia: there is not such a thing as preparation for the Olympics finals. I remember my entire body was shaking. The pressure goes through the roof, really, because your mind is inside the game long before the match even started. I could not sleep that night. I may have slept only three hours. When I went into the gym, I was sleepy. I [had to] hit myself to wake up because it was such an emotional moment… You know, fear and anxiety are the things that normally stop us. How can we manage with that? We must not think about what could happen, about what is at stake, or about what could go wrong. We have to think about what we can do about it in that very moment, and focus on what we have to do. If our thoughts are elsewhere, we will lose our focus and we will make mistakes. Not because of a Murphy’s law, but because we were not focused nor completely committed with what we had to do.