PictureFamily in France! Tomorrow in Brasil!
It’s February and usually this is around the time where it is the darkest outside and inside as well for many athletes living their dreams overseas. Each year I’ve encountered these rough moments and they are almost impossible to avoid, especially my first year playing in Finland, first time away from home, in a country where darkness rules the daytime and my family and friends were 5,000 miles away.

It’s the price we pay to live our dreams, pursing a professional career and for some, chasing the Olympics. To leave everything behind with the hopes to iron our sword overseas, hoping to comeback stronger then ever to make an impact with the National Team.

It can be very hard but the dream and the passion pushes us through these tough times, like a flashlight through the dark. I am so fortunate and grateful for this opportunity, the training, the fans, coaches, the new friends and family and of course to be able to do what I love best, which is to compete.

As the last month of regular season begins, I have the best gift of all, which are my parents. As they arrive tomorrow and like every other athlete, it’s Christmas all over again. To be able to share my life here with them and to know the days and nights will be filled with ear-to-ear smiles is the best feeling I can have.

Here are two videos from my year so far in Brazil. The first, I invite you to check out my passion, which of course is volleyball and the joy it is to put on a jersey every Saturday night and compete for Moda Maringa. The second is a quick glimpse into the life outside the court. Hanging out with the team on our last road trip as one of our coaches took hold the camera and had some fun. Hope you guys like it

Brazil has been so great to me, the fans, the volleyball and the overall experience in soaking a new culture. One of the greatest surprises has been the thrill to be a vegan living in Brazil. I live for the road trips, as we are showered with buffets, full of fresh veggies, rice, beans and exotic fruit for desert. The farmer's markets are all over town and are rich with leafy greens and fruit I've never seen before but there has been a downfall and that is the 3 kilo tub of Acai! Haha, I can't get enough of it, sometimes finishing the tub in a week, tagged with chopped up bananas, I need much more discipline. Recently, I took some time to do an interview with a local organization, a vegan community inside Maringa, check it out! (Google translate will help :)http://www.maringavegano.com.br/2013/12/entrevista-dustin-watten-jogador-de.html
PictureA big push into 2014 for Moda Maringa
More then half way through the year and it’s been an unforgettable year so far. Engulfed in some of the best volleyball in the world, I’ve lived the motto; eat, sleep, volleyball, repeat. I’ve loved it though, being surrounded by so much volleyball here, being able to train 2, 3 times a day, having the opportunity to watch video before practice, learning from some of the best liberos currently in the world and of course to be able to compete in one of the best leagues in the World.

None of the steps I’ve taken here have been easy but it’s been a joy to see my progression as an individual as well as the project here with Moda Maringa take off. These 3 days off have been greatly served in some much needed recovery but I can’t describe how excited I am to get back into the gym, help push the team and strive to be that much better.

Our next game will be next Tuesday, the 7th against Montes Claros. Until then, here are some clips of the 1st half of the season and a little sneak peak into my passion, which is being able to put on a uniform and compete at the highest level

PictureThe grind is hard, tough but beautiful, I love every bit of it
Back in Brazil, I was able to visit Finland to see my girlfriend, her family and all of our friends, a perfect, quick mental break. Our team was given a week off due to the upcoming Grand Champions Cup in Japan. This tournament is an invite only to national teams who have recently won their respective continental champions. It’s a quadrennial round-robin competition this year featuring the host, Japan, Russia (Europe), Brazil (South America), USA (NORCECA), and Iran (Asia) and Italy who received the wild-card bid.

Brazil, unlike any league in the world this year, has all of their National team players, playing in the local league, 'Brazilian Super League'. So, instead of continuing the league and having many teams play without their best players, the league decided to take 3 weeks off.

So, back to Brazil, fresh off a plane from Finland, I was excited, I couldn’t wait to get back on the court, I felt like a kid on the first day of school. The first day back, I was up at 7am, I got a quick 6 minute meditation, showered and was off  to the kitchen to make my morning smoothie. Today it happened to be 3 bananas, some frozen berries, kale, almonds a tomato, a little creatine and topped off with my go to protein suppliment, VEGA One. After guzzling it down, I was out the door and able to catch my 8am bus for our 9am serve and pass. Unlike many other serve and pass I’ve done, where coaches just spin balls, over and over and over again, we are always moving here and the pace is extremely fast, almost as if it was a defensive drill. With 4 or 5 coaches usually at these morning serve and pass practices, we are always moving with constant feedback, no time to think, wander or have our head somewhere else, they push us until the end and it’s great. As soon as our hour of serve and pass is done, we’re up to the locker room to change shoes and out the door to our weight facility, located 10 minutes on the other side of town.

Just like technical training, Brazilians put a huge emphasize on weight lifting (this week we ended up lifting everyday) There is so much emphasize that the team I am on ended up buying a 3 story facility, just because they couldn’t find another facility that had all the right equipment to rent. As we arrived, the morning group of setters, middles and opposites were just finishing and the other 2 coaches were ready for us to get to work. Again, unlike any place I’ve been, our weight lifting program is nonstop, the guys are focused on the task in hand and push themselves every minute in the gym, which is usually around 1 to 2 hours a brutal pace but just like the serve and pass training, I love it!

PictureRolling, rolling and with a view.
It’s 12:00, mid day in Brazil and the other passers and I are done with weightlifting, I finish the rest of my morning smoothie and I head back to my apartment for a quick foam roll and stretch outside by the pool. Which if you don’t have a foam roller, I would recommend picking one up, besides massaging muscles and tendons, the foam roller is able to break down scar tissue, increases flexibility and increases blood flow and circulation to soft tissues. Summed up, it keeps your body felling good even after 3 a days training in Brazil! One of the beautiful perks playing in Brazil and not Europe is the weather, being down here it’s just rolling into summer and instead of stretching inside, I have the amazing option of going outside to my pool, rolling out, stretching and meditating while taking in a quick dose of vitamin D.

PictureDelicious, raw, whole food. Love it!
12:45 rolls around and I leave the pool, shower up and head to the local university that provides lunch for us. Speaking for myself, as a plant based athlete (no meat, no animal products) I can’t say how much I love Brazil, wherever I happened to be there is the freshest fruit, and assortment of vegetables and of course brown rice and beans. The university is no exception, the perfect spot to help me recover with a wide range of whole foods.

It’s 1:30 and I’m ready to leave the university cafe, I’m happy, not too full and I’m ready for what’s next. I decline the ride back to my apartment and choose to walk, still trying to find my legs from the 13 hour plane ride from Europe. Having to commute a ton from lifting, practice and lunch, I’ve gotten big into podcast, my two favorite being Rich Rolls and Lewis Howe’s ‘The School of Greatness.’

Rich Roll is a vegan ultra-athlete and the author who helped lead me into a plant based diet, his show constantly has topics related to plant-based nutrition, meditation and yoga. Then there is Lewis Howe’s show ‘The School of Greatness” he brings in different successful business minds and world class athletes to discuss what makes great people great. I’ll usually spend 2-4 hours a day just commuting, so podcast’s have become a great way for me to unwind from the physical and emotional stress from training as well as giving me some new ideas how I can be better in my daily life.

Back at home, it’s 2:00 in the afternoon, I immediately get to cooking, so when I return home from my night’s training the food will be ready for me. Tonight it’s brown rice, black beans and a mango salsa (cucumber, green bell pepper, tomato and 2 mangos) The beans and rice are cooking and it’s time to make a smoothie. Like I mentioned before, my diet is without meat and without those dense calories, I’m always eating and drinking and it’s great, I love it! Not even really eating, I look at it as I am also fueling my body, recharging it and always making it a priority of what I am putting into my body. This year I've really focused on cutting down on processed foods as well as challenging myself to get gluten out of my diet and reducing any unnecessary inflammation. Today my afternoon/post practice smoothie is composed of 4 bananas, a handful of walnuts, kale, pineapple, berries and a little bit of left over lettuce. Before I leave, I make a little coffee to go and finalize a trade in my fantasy football league (I play with 11 other guys, who also play professional volleyball and I love it! A perfect stress reliever and something to keep us close while we are playing for our respective teams all across the globe). I finalize the trade, pack my bag and I’m out the door. 

PictureFinally at the gym and ready to get after it
I check in at the gym a hour early to practice, to get some rehab on my shoulder which I hurt in one of our recent games, I hit a wet spot on a pursuit ball and well.. you can see it here, just unfortunate. Ouch https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=418326761623827&set=vb.100003395199731&&theater

After rehab, I pull out my coffee and take the last 15 minutes before practice to watch some video of a Brazilian libero named Sergio, who is arguably the best to ever play the position. In my opinion, it’s not even an argument, he’s the best and luckily for me, he has continued to play in the league here, so I’m able to watch the video we have of him. Today, I’m looking at his defensive footwork and how he moves around the court  and how I can take what he does and apply it to my game.

PictureWorking for that incredible feeling.
It’s 5pm and we are finally back as a team and I couldn’t be happier, let's get after it!! VAMOS!

6:30 and our coach cuts it short, we are able to do some ball control work but it was mainly used as a day for the guys to get their legs back after a week vacation. Back to the locker room as I am quick to start the recovery process and finish the rest of my afternoon smoothie, I shower up and am off to home.

I get back at 8pm, grab the black beans, brown rice throw in some of the mango salsa I made in the afternoon and recover while I watch one of my favorite shows, “The League” a show about a group of guys in a fantasy football league on FX.

After the show, I close my computer, do a little stretching, a little reading, followed by my nightly meditation and I’m in bed my 10. I’ve always been a night crawler, especially when I've lived in Europe, it’s easy to find yourself up past 1am, 2am talking to friends back home but recently I’ve pushed myself to shut off all electronics at 9:00 and to be in bed at 10, giving my body the best chance to recover and to be able to up early and ready to take on the next day without the slight bit of hesitation.

It was a great day, a lot of quality touches, I got stronger in the weight room and I got to see all the guys again, who I enjoy being around so much. Tomorrow is another chance to be better and I can’t wait!

On another note, here is my team in action the last 3 matches, hope you guys like it and if you have any questions, you can always follow me on my instagram account and ask away there. http://instagram.com/dustinwatten I love connecting with people that are passionate about volleyball and nutrition, especially people who want to push themselves to be their absolute best! Enjoy.

PictureBrazilian BBQ with the team.
So far my journey in brazil has been amazing, the people, the food, the culture and of course the volleyball. Even though I've been kept busy with training and matches, I've had a couple of opportunities to venture out and really see the country and the culture that Brazil has to offer.

Whether its been my trip to Paraguay to get my visa, checking out Cataratas do Iguaçu (the waterfalls intersecting Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, the beach's of Rio or the local Japanese festival, it's been such an unique and amazing opportunity.

Here is a glimpse at some of my life here in Brazil through the lens of my go pro and many, many awkward shots of myself trying to figure out how the go pro works. Hope you enjoy it!

Tune in tonight, Saturday 10/5  ModaMaringa vs Brazil Volleyball Kirin (8:30 p.m. EDT)
9:30 Brazil Time
PictureReally blew that one.
Down the steep stairs, as if we were about to run out of the coliseum, we lurked from the shadows of the tunnel  onto the court, the cheers echoing off the dome and as I turned to see the whole crowd I knew we were in for an amazing night.

When we walked out a hour prior to first serve, half the gym was full, by the time hitting warm ups began, there wasn't an empty seat to be found. Already dripping in sweat, I was ready for the game, well almost... I figured it would be a great time to use the bathroom and officially get all the nerves out. Unfortunately for the only guy on the team that doesn't speak Portuguese, the team was scheduled to take a team picture. Which of course I found later that night on my teammate's Instagram. So I'm 0-1 on making the pre match team picture but I didn't know at the time and as I came back I was ready to get the match underway.

It was a great early matchup for us against Canoas who was coming off an easy 3-1 victory in their first math of the year. Lead by one of the most dominant Brazilian middles ever, Gustavo and one of the emerging talents at the setting position for Brazil, Murillo. The nerves were apparent as 4 of the first 6 points came from missed serves. With the crowd getting anxious, both teams slowed down the tempo, grooving the serves, leading to a sideout battle back and forth leading into the end of the set (Brazilian Super League is playing to 21 this year) we made the sub for our 2nd setter, Thiago Gellinski as a serving sub and he came up big, digging their opposite down the line as we converted a long overdue real point. A quick timeout followed as they went back to their opposite, this time trying his luck cross court. As if he was playing on the AVP, Quiroga was waiting and dove with everything he had at the last second closing the first set and sending every fan in the gym onto their feet with a clutch stuff.

With the momentum of the first set as well as the confidence stemming from our fans we got on a roll early in the second set. Lorena (our opposite) had his way, sending balls off the hands into the crowd, slicing balls down the line and getting the crowd involved after each huge rally. Once again, Thiago came late into the set and was able to run off a couple more points, making a timely dig in area one, placing a ball perfectly to me where I was able to jump the 3 meter line and let Quiroga go high off the block. Everything was going right and even when it wasn't our composure lead to a quick sideout.

The 3rd game went by a flash, having Ricardinho as our setter, we were able to dictate the game with our counter attack, early and often. Anything dug  3-6 meters off the net and with enough height is usually perfect for him, having every option our team was relentless and made the most of every defensive effort. It still wasn't enough in my eyes so determined on getting the next point or moving on to the next ball, I never stopped to realize the pace of the game, until it was 20-13 and match point for the good guys. I was able to take a break from my determined focus share a smile with the fans in attendance as they rose to their feet once again.

We got point number 21 and we were able to share our home opener with the crowd in grand fashion as we swept Canoas 3-0. It was a special moment to share with the fans, the city and of course my teammates. The first of many, while I know it will be a long season I know we will be ready for the challenges and battles that await us. I for one, can't wait.
Tonight 9:30 pm Brazilian time, we open the super league against the reigning champs, RJX Volei. We've had two great trainings in Rio and will take advantage of the rest of the time prior to the match to recover and to refocus for tonight's contest. 

RJX Volei, based in Rio returns Bruno (setter), Mario Jr (libero), both fixtures on this year's World League team for Brazil and to further their strengthen their bid for a 2nd title they have added the long time opposite for the Brazilian national team, Leandro Vissotto as well one of the most dominant middles in the world, Rodrigão. It's been a great month of training but I know everyone is excited as I am to begin Super League and to have first crack at the defending champs in their home gym. It should be an amazing atmosphere with some of the best players in the world taking the court.

Here is the link for the game http://tv.onlinemoviesportsandtv.com/sport-tv-1-brazil-live-streaming/
If for some reason it goes down, https://www.facebook.com/pages/USA-Mens-Womens-Indoor-Volleyball-Fan-Zone/293577044082477 usually will find the back up. 

Start times:
Brazil: 9:30 pm
USA (PST): 5:30 pm
USA (EST): 8:30 pm
Finland: 1:30 am
PictureU of Hawaii Alum, Pedro Azenha
This past Thursday we got our first chance to leave the dome of Chico Neto Gymnasium as we traveled up north for two friendly matches. The first thing that caught my eye by surprise was our bus. Going into the trip we knew it was going to be a grueling 8 hours, which I know all about living in the south of Finland and making at least 5, 6 hour bus trips throughout the year. Fortunately for us, we had an amazing bus that had rows of seats, which could pull into beds as well. Our 8 hour trip, was essentially a decent night's worth of sleep. We were able to stop for breakfast and I said my first taste of Açaí, native to the Brazil and the amazon (per 100 g of dry powder) packs 533.9 calories, 52.2 g carbohydrates, 8.1 g protein, and 32.5 g total fat. For a vegan, it's a perfect kick start to my day and I only hope to make it a staple of my morning breakfast here.

We made it to the hotel, where we were given some time to nap, a quick lunch followed by more napping (if you're a athlete on a road trip, you nap and then you'll nap some more) so of course after lunch a little more napping and then we we're off to face São Bernardo. Just like our gym, Chico Neto it was a dome and it was HUGE, so far it's been a libero's dream to compete in these gyms. Think Walter Pyramid ceiling, there's no way your shanking a ball to the ceiling nor punting at that. Unlike our first friendly, this gym couldn't be more empty and we were able to get after it right away. Just like Vivo/Minas, São Bernardo was able to dictate the match with their serve receive and defense, it didn't matter who was defending, they refused to let anything touch the ground. We fought and we scrapped to a 2-2 finish, deciding recovery would take president over a 5th game. We shook  hands and to my surprise they had former All-American on their team, Pedro Azenha (Hawaii). We were able to catch up a little bit and throw around some mutual friends but just like everyone I've been able to meet here, he couldn't of been nicer and wished me a warm and prosperous stay in his home country.

The next day we we're up early, breakfast finished and on the bus, to get a morning lift with our team trainer, Flavio. I'll try to speak eventually about the lifting culture here in Brazil but what I have learned is it's a staple and foundation at least with our team. Back to the dome and we we're able to get after it, just like a mentioned before, being a staple of our team, the guys don't take any days off. Even if they aren't feeling too fresh they still commit to their lift and it's a pleasure to be apart of an environment with no excuses and no explanations, the guys here refuse to take days off and I know it'll pay dividends throughout the season.

After weights, we we're able to grab a nice bite and then it was nap time once again as everyone went back to their respective rooms for hibernation. Checkout time came at an extremely awkward time and left us in the hotel lobby for 2 hours to fiddle and for myself, Moomo and Renan, time to experiment with my Go-Pro, which you can see more of below. The time finally came to head out to the gym as we took on a younger 1st division team, São Caetano. It was clear that we had been marked on their schedule for quite some time as they competed with their lives on the line and took the first two sets. We we're able to come back a take the next 2 with strong play from Thiago and Rennan but as the match concluded, we knew our presence of mind wasn't acceptable and wouldn't be when we open up the season in a week. Overall, it was great to get on the road with the guys, to bound a little bit and to see what still must be addressed before our opener next Saturday. Below is a little video documenting the week, after awhile I let some of the younger guys take control of the Go-Pro and what I got back was a lot of shots of the floor, sandals and the ceiling but with the power of editing I was able to put some clips together to show what it is like for life on the road. Vamos Moda Maringa Volei!
I've spoken a lot about our first match and the amazing atmosphere that was present in Chico Neto Gym, their was a buzz throughout the whole day and it was amazing to see the gym almost full and to see the passion on display by our fans. Unfortunately, this camera view caught the only section that wasn't full last Thursday night but more importantly, I'm glad I can share some of the better moments of our first match with friends and family at home as well as my many Brazilian friends who missed this match. I hope to see more and more fans throughout the year, I know I can speak for the rest of the team that we will always give our best for the beautiful city of Maringa.

Eu tenho falado muito sobre o nosso primeiro jogo e incrível atmosfera que estava presente no Ginásio Chico Neto, o seu era um zumbido durante todo o dia e foi incrível ver o ginásio quase cheio e ver a paixão em exibição por nossos fãs . Infelizmente, essa visão da câmera captou a única seção que não estava cheio na noite passada quinta-feira mas o mais importante, eu estou feliz que eu possa compartilhar alguns dos melhores momentos de nossa primeira partida com amigos e familiares em casa, assim como meus muitos amigos brasileiros que perdeu este jogo. Espero ver mais e mais fãs ao longo do ano, eu sei que eu posso falar para o resto da equipe que vamos sempre dar o nosso melhor para a bela cidade de Maringá.