Dec. 15, 2015
COLUMBUS, Ohio – OhioStateBuckeyes.com is tracking down Buckeye alumni who have moved on to the professional ranks to catch up and see how their playing careers are going. The first ‘Pro Player Profile’ highlights recent graduate Michael Henchy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where did you start playing volleyball and how has it progressed into playing professionally.
I began playing volleyball my freshman year of high school. It was both an excuse to not do offseason conditioning for football and to try a new sport where my height could be used as an advantage. I had a good first year and I knew that I would keep playing at least through high school. My second year I got a lot better and by the end of the season I decided to abandon football and start playing volleyball year-round.
Once I committed to play at Ohio State I started to realize that maybe I could turn volleyball into a professional career. So I practiced and played every day with that goal in my mind. Every bad game made me question my ability to go on and play at the next level, but every great performance renewed my hope. Eventually when I graduated and was looking for a team to play for I knew that I had done all I could do to position myself for professional volleyball, and no matter where I got an offer to play I would go. Now I find myself in a mid-sized city in Greece playing for my younger self and also for my future self.
Wherever volleyball takes me now is just a bonus that I get to enjoy.
How difficult was the transition from collegiate volleyball to professional volleyball?
My style of play has transitioned pretty well from college to the professional level. There are still issues match-to-match, but overall I believe that I have transitioned quickly to professional volleyball. I was fortunate enough to have coaches that understood what tactics would translate into the pro game, and I also was able to play international volleyball with the US Men’s Junior National team for two years.
How did playing for The Ohio State University help prepare you for playing at the professional level?
Nothing beats the environment provided to every student-athlete at The Ohio State University. The facilities are unmatched and the coaching is top tier. This may have spoiled me a little too much once I saw what I would have professionally, but I think all the perks of attending Ohio State gave me a great platform to develop as an athlete and also as a competitor. The coaches ran our team much like a professional team: scouting reports, team and individual video sessions, morning and night practices, and a year-round weight lifting schedule. This helped ease the transition to professional volleyball because I already knew how to function in that type of environment.
What is it like living in another country for seven-plus months without being able to come home?
IT IS HARD. There’s no easy way to cope with physically being away from the people you love and the only country you really know how to fully function in. There are many times where the sadness can be overwhelming and I would love to be home for just an hour to make it better, but usually these feelings go just as quickly as they arrive.
That being said it is also very eye opening. Every culture is different, but here in Greece there is an amazing mixture of rich cultural history and mythology, and the growing trends of the world.
You can go to a coffee shop and hear Greek pop, Justin Beiber, the Beatles, and classic Greek music back-to-back. Adjusting to the language barrier can be difficult at times but it also comes in handy when you just want to ignore the conversations going on around you.
Overall I am loving my life away from home and I know I will thank myself later for going through such a cool experience.
How is the team chemistry when you are playing on a team as a foreigner and not many people speak your language?
I haven’t directly spoken a word to my coach since he joined our team mid-season. This can be very difficult when you want to ask a question that requires more than a one word reply, and it also can create friction when things get heated. Outside of that there haven’t been too many issues with my teammates. Sometimes there are language barrier problems, but normally we can get messages across with the assistance of another person to help with the game of charades it takes for some words to be described. Everyone has a good attitude about these dilemmas and it is rewarding to successfully speak to someone without knowing the right words to use.
What are some challenges that you have to overcome on a daily basis?
Every day brings something new. At first it was finding good places to eat and get coffee, but now that we’ve been here two months we have basic needs figured out. Most times there aren’t any real challenges, but our car can usually provide some issues: flat tire, battery disconnecting, burnt headlight, no radio, broken A/C power control.
After you settle in the daily challenges are pretty much the same things that happen anywhere you live.
What are some of the best things about being a professional athlete?
I love playing professionally and getting the exposure to the world, but the best part is that I get to call myself a professional athlete. It sounds pretty pathetic, but it really is true. The experience that I had at Ohio State was everything you get as a professional athlete minus getting paid. At OSU and as a professional you are treated with respect and admiration, but you also carry a lot of responsibility.