Not just volleyball. We had a chat with Alessio Sommacal, student-athlete from Cal Poly Pomona (California State Polytechnic University) and part of the men's track and field team. Alessio has recently improved his personal best and is preparing for both the CCCA - CALIFORNIA COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION Championships this weekend and the NCAA outdoor finals at the end of the month. His impact in the States, the goals, ambitions and sporting differences between Italy and the United States.
First, tell us your story. You experienced a "particular" situation for your departure, you studyed your first year from Italy and then landed in the States! Give us an overview also with telling us the sensations you had.
Studying the first year in my room was very difficult, because I could not realize that I was a student of an American university. There was a nine-hour time zone and I saw people on a screen speaking a different language than the people next to me spoke while I was following the lessons. Among other things, Italian students were at university in their various cities throughout the year, so I felt even more isolated because I didn't have the chance to see anyone my age. I met some of my teammates in the weekly Zoom meetings at 10pm, while it was lunchtime at their place. There were days when I had a lesson until 3 am, with maybe a final quiz or something. Let's say it wasn't a walk in the park, but it made everything even more satisfying once I got there.
What was the impact with the American reality. The very first sensations both in terms of sport and of life and study. What differences have you noticed compared to Italy?
As for the sport, there is a huge difference in how it is experienced. In Italy we focus a lot on quality work, here in the States we do a lot and we focus on quantity. Furthermore, since sport is included in the school context, there are more concessions for student athletes that allow them to manage a truly full schedule. Following the trend of the sporting method, the courses are not determined by a single final exam as in Italy, but by the sum of all the assignments, the midterms and the final exam. So the school system is based on constancy and the ability to always be equal. Finally, the life of the student athlete, being a life full of commitments and with little free time, is very intense, but the best thing is to have a team full of people who share your same passion and who can understand your priorities and your needs.
What support did Sportlinx360 offer you?
Sportlinx360 first of all helped me in the process of finding a university, then followed me up to the moment I landed in the United States. He helped me to carry out the paperwork, to complete all the bureaucratic procedures, to deal with the scholarship; It was a key resource.
What do you expect in terms of personal growth from this experience?
I expect to become an independent person and able to find a solution to difficulties without anyone's help. Living thousands of miles from your home and family helps you realize that you are able to do things I previously assumed were only feasible for mum and dad. I am only at the beginning of this journey but I think I can say that I have already learned a lot.
Instead, what do you expect from a sport point of view? What are your goals and what do you think are the opportunities compared to Italy? Did you find big differences in terms of training and preparation for competitions?
The difference between training in Italy and training here is abysmal, already in the way they are experienced. In Italy we are used to dosing energy and motivation, while here we go all-in every time we put on spikes. I hope this experience teaches me to see track & field from another point of view at the exact opposite of what I had in Italy, and then be able to find the perfect position by combining the two worlds. What is certain is that here I have the opportunity to challenge great champions at least two / three times a year, which probably would have rarely happened to me if I had stayed in Italy.
If you look back, what are the aspects that convinced you to embark on this adventure?
I certainly don't like the way sport is underrated in Italy. I believe that there is not enough gratitude towards the athletes and especially the student-athletes. I know a lot of talented people who have been forced to give up track & field because during high school or especially university everything seemed to be rowing against them. Maybe it wasn't just an impression, since educational institutions don't give any help to student-athletes. Here, instead, there is a whole other philosophy. Sport is something to put on the curriculum, which demonstrates the value of the person and the tenacity that distinguishes him. Being still kids, sometimes we just need a pat on the back and a little bit of gratitude, which is never lacking here.