My Athletic Career
My athletic career started in Sofia, Bulgaria in the 1980s. I began playing with my mother, who is also a former professional volleyball player. I was only two years old, a little bit taller than a volleyball, when she first took me to the gym. I guess we did not have a babysitter, so I spent a lot of time there during her volleyball practices. I have breathed, eaten and lived volleyball for as long as I can remember. I had no choice – I spent my early childhood with my parents and around their teams, games, training camps and travels.
My dad is also a former professional athlete and after his active career was over, he managed a professional basketball team in Europe. I remember I used to ‘train’ with grown men trying to outrun them on the track or in the gym. I used to tell my classmates in middle school that I actually dunked in the basketball…because there was always someone to lift me up with a ball in my hands. So I loved the culture and to this day I still feel at home interacting with it.
Later on, I played junior club volleyball for Levski, Sofia and Slavia, Sofia. I got accepted to the National Sports Academy there but after three semesters, I decided to transfer and play in an NCAA team instead. I landed in North Alabama where my team and I went to a Final Four during my freshman year. I had one thing missing from the scenery in AL that I was passionate about – the beach. So I looked for it! And literary found it – Long Beach State offered me a full scholarship and I was on my way after my sophomore year in Alabama was over.
I loved the idea of playing on the sand. However, there was still no college beach volleyball teams. At this time to play beach, one had to live in California or Florida. I started training on the sand at any given opportunity. I remember I was even getting in trouble with my coaches because instead of resting on our days off, I was playing CBVA tournaments at Huntington or Laguna beach.
Soon after I graduated, I signed a professional contract in Europe and for the following three years, I played in Valencia, Spain. Then I went to Beziers, France for a season and to Paralimni, Ayia Napa, Cyprus. Now that I look back, I was always choosing the teams I played on depending on the location and weather conditions.
I still love playing small events in Hawaii but most of all, I am inspired to teach young athletes how to avoid the many mistakes I had made in my career, how to stay on track to achieve their goals in athletics and how to become active advocates of their own sustainable future and the future of our species on earth.