Professional Volleyball: Catching up with Amanda McKinzie

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech volleyball has another former student-athlete playing professional volleyball overseas in Amanda McKinzie. The Michigan native began her first match this fall and has enjoyed her time so far in Switzerland.

McKinzie, an outside hitter at Tech from 2013-2016, currently plays for Val-de-Travers under head coach Luiz Souza. The squad owns a 7-4 record and has three more matches left until the regular season is finished. If the team finishes in the top four of its league, it will make the playoffs.

She lives in Couvet, Switzerland, which has a population of approximately 2,750 people. McKinzie is the lone American on the team, while two other foreigners hail from China and Greece. The rest of the club grew up in Switzerland.

For more on McKinzie’s journey, read below.

What was it first like moving overseas and how quickly did you adapt to a new environment?

“It was difficult, but I got lucky with Switzerland being extremely beautiful and I was fortunate enough to have family members be able to visit. So, that was really nice with being able to see more of the country. It’s hard to adapt, especially with a new language because I live in this very, very small town and everybody speaks French. No one speaks English, so that is extremely hard, like, even going to the grocery store. I got lucky with how all of my teammates can speak really good English or at least a little. But that was the biggest, I would say, and toughest part to adapt to.”

You spoke on the grocery store aspect, so what are some of the things you try to regularly eat and have you ate some new things?

“I think I’ve been okay with trying different things that I have not tried before. So, I give myself credit for that but some things I just can’t eat. Like they eat horse and I tried it but it’s basically like that where it’s tough to eat regularly. But most of Switzerland’s normal food I like as well, I typically enjoy it. Pizza is obviously super common here and fondue. I haven’t really had too much trouble with food as far as ordering and liking what I order.”

What is a typical day for you food wise for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

“Well, I’m not a good cook (laughing) but breakfast I usually have yogurt or cereal with toast and jam. Lunch wise, during the week I get delivered one meal to my apartment. So, I use that with whatever I try to make, most of the time it is pieces of chicken. A common meal that I make is pasta with the chicken. And then I kind of have that as my bigger meal before I head to practice around 6:30 p.m., and then before that I’ll just do a smaller type snack, whether it will be fruit or yogurt. Then I go to practice and once I get back, I try to have something smaller, whether that would be heating up some pasta that I made or I’ll do some type of chicken stir-fry with rice or tacos are pretty common for me, too. I have a very small kitchen and a very small fridge, so I can’t keep a lot. Therefore, I have to go to the shop very often because I can’t buy a lot with not that much room.”

Is there an embarrassing moment that sticks out so far during your time in Switzerland?

“Nothing really sticks out, but I get a little embarrassed when I try to pronounce things and I’m completely wrong. So, once again that goes back to the language aspect. It’s funny because they have a hard time pronouncing R and I can’t do that sound. I guess any time I try to speech French, I might say something way wrong. But honestly nothing, knock on wood, has been too embarrassing.”

Is there a favorite moment so far in your journey overseas on or off the court?

“Off the court would definitely be when my family and boyfriend got to visit, as we got to travel on my days off. And like I said, literally every town here is beautiful. So, I will always remember that. It was nice when they visited me because they had a car and we were able to go find new places.

“On the court I really like my team, so after any win is always an exciting moment for us. We all like each other and get along well.”

How did the team welcome you to the club when you arrived?

“I think I was extremely lucky with the team that I was given because right from the start I felt like they were very welcoming and I felt comfortable right away. Any time off that they had, they were always excited to go and do stuff. I’m particularly close to one teammate, which I’m really grateful for. Anytime she has work off or anything, she comes and picks me up and we try to go do something fun. So, I was definitely lucky in that way with how I get along with every single one of them and I felt comfortable literally the first day of practice.

“What I think is cool about the team is that we have a wide range of ages. We have an 18-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old, then we have a 33- and 34-year-old. So, it’s a ride range but we all click.”

Are you starting or playing well statistically speaking?

“I’ve been really happy with my performance. I do start and don’t come out. The other outside and I are kind of the main go-to attackers, which I love and consider it a huge role. But I have been happy with how I have been playing and I think not only attack wise but defensively I would say I have added a strong leadership role.”

How have you seen your game evolve since your arrival?

“I think I really have grown and have kind of realized my role. I know I had a big role at Virginia Tech, but I think I have just gained a huge amount of confidence. Here I am now playing for the experience and the love of the game. So, I just take some pressure off of myself and understand why I am here to help this club and enjoy everything that I can. I have definitely grown in confidence to where I kind of know what my role is and how I see my attitude where I want it so I can perform at my best.”

How much do you get a chance to watch Virginia Tech volleyball online with being on a six-hour time difference?

“Oh yeah, not only do I get to follow the Instagram and Twitter account but I follow along by watching on the WatchESPN app. I think I watched every single game besides one because I was playing. But yes, I definitely followed all of the matches. Some nights were late with being up until 3 a.m. (laughing), but it’s always fun.”

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