Overseas Volleyball Survival Guide by Cody Kessel

YNAB — You Need A Budget

The most practical piece of advice I received before I went overseas to play my first year in Switzerland came from Coach Nils Nielsen. He told me that the most useful thing was going to be making and having a budget to manage my finances!

He was right!

The first two months in Switzerland I tracked every time I spent money on my phone. You basically just enter $60 - groceries, or $15 - parking ticket. And then the app does the rest based on the categories and amounts you set. This is especially useful when you are using a mix of cash, your american card, and waiting for your local bank account to be set up in the first month.

There are a bunch of benefits you get from having even a vague budget.

You won’t feel guilty for spending money!
You won’t feel bad about not saving enough- and you’ll know how much you are saving.
You will know if you can go to see your friend in Prague with the Flix Bus on that off-weekend (which you should almost always do) without thinking that you have to only eat rice and beans for the next 2 months.
For me, the peace of mind at the grocery store knowing I had given myself a comfortable monthly budget for myself to eat like an athlete was worth it alone.
Little moments like knowing I could spend $8 and buy two BIG boxes of blueberries at the store and not stress because I love blueberries and I had budgeted for it is an example of these little moments that bring joy in adult life, life overseas, or life anywhere.

Give every dollar a job. Even make one or two “play” or “free” money categories. Even if that starts at $20. This allows you to spend more happily and freely, and be satisfied with what you are saving.

I only did this budgeting for a few months in my first two seasons, but it set me up for financial security, success, and peace of mind for the coming years, and especially the next year when I was making way less money after my injury and difficult first season.

I also recommend a self-education category. Minimum $40 a month. Great books got me through many tough moments. Start investing back into yourself right away. 

My March 2017 reads.

My second year in Lüneburg, I budgeted for a HyperVolt massage gun, for example. Because I had saved for it, it was a big deal to me and I cherished it more.

Here’s the app I used: YNAB link

Checklist Manifesto

The Second Best piece of advice came from Dustin Watten. He was in the National Team gym early and staying late after practice with me basically every day for one summer stretch back in 2015- and before I left for Switzerland he took me to a vegan food truck festival and told me about the book The Checklist Manifesto and how he had adapted it to his career.

Countless millions of lives have been saved by pilots and surgeons using a rather fool-proof checklist for their jobs. We can take the same concept and apply it to our jobs as professional athletes.

The List: 1-2% Better Every Day

Dustin had a 13-year professional career. I am in year 9...

Your first year overseas you will probably feel a loss of structure from your College days. It’s up to you to fill this “down-time” in your day, especially when it comes to January, February, and the dark months of Europe. Are you STILL taking advantage of every day and opportunity to improve?

Dustin’s guidance and use of the checklist helped me so much in my first seasons in order to make sure I was holding myself accountable for the goals I wanted to reach, on top of what the teams were expecting of me.

Different Game, Different Players, Different Incentives

On your college team, more or less everyone shares a team culture, shared structure to your days with class and a social life. You’ve had time to get to know each other, and you’re all fighting and playing for each other or the larger team goals.

That all kind of goes out the window when you turn pro.

“Realize that not everyone you play with has the same values, volleyball background, work ethic, or even similar goals as you.

If you go in thinking that your teammates from different countries will act like your college teammates, you’re going to increase unnecessary suffering.” - Dustin

Other miscellaneous thoughts:

You probably don’t need to pack more than one “sports” or workout outfit. I DO recommend packing two or three pairs of your favorite playing shoes. Plus underwear, maybe socks, and any other playing equipment you use (braces, knee pads, sleeves). It’s very common that ALL the rest of your practice and playing gear will be provided by the club. Don’t hesitate to bring some USA or University gear to trade or giveaway.

Strange things that are actually difficult to find “in Europe”:

American Ranch dressing
American Hot Sauce
Underarm stick deodorant

Many players benefit from making their living space a kind of sanctuary. So don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money in the first month to make your home a place you like spending time. With all the downtime that comes with this lifestyle, you’ll be home quite often.

One of the best investments I made back into myself was through upping my sleep game: investing in better bedding, black-out curtains, and a sunrise alarm clock.

For those of you considering this lifestyle, make sure you check out the other two extensive blogs that Dustin and I wrote:

So You Want to Go Pro? by Dustin Watten

So You Want To Go Play Professional Volleyball? by Cody Kessel

My journey does not happen without the help from my agent, Chiara Castagnetti who can be reached by email at chiarac7@hotmail.com

Bring-It-USA also has a comprehensive and well-written FAQ section on their website on what you can expect from the overseas experience.

The rest of the fun of the journey is figuring out the rest of the lessons for yourself! :) Hopefully then you can write some advice for other ballers coming over to play in your country for the first time!

If you want to read all the best lessons from my long volleyball journey you can also download and read my ebook, 11 Ways to Get an Edge, here.

Leave a comment