In a special interview for volleycountry.com, Kristin Richards shares story about her volleyball experiences.
When did you start playing volleyball and why did you choose this sport?
I come from a volleyball family so I started playing volleyball when I was very young. Both my parents played in college and were coaches when we were young kids so there was always a volleyball around to play with
How did you feel when you left your country for the first time? Your first experience abroad was in Russia. What are your memories (experiences) of the time?
Leaving to go to Russia after I graduated college was pretty difficult. I had never lived overseas before and Russia can be a challenging place to be alone. I, however, made incredible friends and memories and really ended up embracing the experience. I resigned for another two years and luckily got to play with Jen Joines Tamas one of those years and Stacy Sykora the next which made everything a lot more fun.
Then you signed a contract with the Lokomotiv Baku. How was your stay in Azerbaijan?
My stay in Azerbaijan was good – the league was still pretty young but the great thing about it is that there is no foreigner limit, so the level is pretty high. There was also a lot of americans (many of my great friends from the USA team) in Baku when I was there so it was really a lot of fun.
After playing for a year in Azerbaijan, you moved to Italy. How do you look back on this choice?
Italy is one of my favorite countries in the world – and I have always wanted to play professionally there, so I was really excited when I had a contract opportunity there. My first team had a lot of financial issues and ended up closing by Dec 31 but then I was offered a new contract with Piacenza where Nicole Davis was playing, so I joined that team and finished out the season with them, finishing in 3rd place. The italian league has always been a strong, a lot of good players and coaches are there, so it was a great volleyball experience for me. I also got to learn the language and really enjoyed their culture.
Now you are playing in the Turkish league. Can you describe what you like about playing and living in Turkey and what you might dislake?
I really like living in Istanbul – the city has so much history, and culture and I really love the energy here. I have enjoyed this season so far. My team has had some struggles, especially when I broke my finger earlier in January, but the girls compete and work hard which is most important. The turkish league is strong – especially the top few teams – but it will continue to strengthen itself next year, because there will be 3 (as opposed to 2) foreigners allowed on the court.
Do you have any dreams related to where you would like to play in the future?
No – I am open to playing anywhere. There are so many places to explore in this world, and I am so blessed I get to see so many of them through this sport.
In your opinion, which league is the strongest in Europe right now?
That’s a difficult question… I don’t have a concrete answer as I think that there are a few GREAT teams in each league (Turkey, Italy, Azerbaijan, Poland, Russia).
Have you got a favourite volleyball player (a role model in volleyball)?
Favorite volleyball player? I have always looked up to my dear friend and teammate Stacy Sykora for the passion in which she plays the game.
Which national team or club do you like the most for the way they are playing?
Being a part of the USA team is a really special privilege because it’s composed of amazing people that work hard and dedicate themselves to a cause. The amount of energy and passion that is in our gym every day is incredible, and it makes the atmosphere to work in ideal. I also find it amazing that I get to compete with my best friends as a part of my job. Pretty special stuff.
And the last question. If not volleyball, then…?
If not volleyball, then…. I’d like to start a family with my husband. I want to prioritize being a mother to my kids, and then of course when I have time I will explore other career options. I have ideas but we will have to see where I end up!