The commentator spoke about playing in the Olympics, the standard of the PVL, and having a women’s league.

You might have heard her fervently describe the action-packed Prime Volleyball League (PVL) across the three legs this season. Ciara Kathleen Michel enjoyed a successful career as a middle blocker and has represented top-division volleyball clubs from Germany, Italy, Turkey, and France. The British-American represented Great Britain in the 2012 Summer Olympics and helped the team to a historic eighth-place finish.

She has since started a YouTube channel and a podcast to talk in detail about the sport and her experiences. Currently commentating on the PVL action in season two, Ci spoke to Khel Now in an exclusive chat. Here is what she had to say.

Playing in the Olympics in front of home crowd

Despite relocating to Miami when she was aged just 10, Ci was born in Taunton. She started her career at the University of Miami and did her masters in Australia. She was a part of the Great Britain volleyball team for the 2012 London Olympics. On being asked how it felt to represent the nation, she answered, “I started playing in high school. Playing in the Olympics was the best sporting moment of my career. It is something that you dream about and work towards.

“When it actually happens in reality you don’t expect to be the one stepping onto the court and wearing that jersey. I was honoured and humbled that they chose me. Just to play with some of the best in the world. By that point, I was playing pro so I had seen what the level was like and what the international game looked like.”

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Switch to broadcasting

Ci decided to stick close to the sport after retirement and said that the transition to broadcasting and commentating did not require much work, “It was a really simple transition. There is very little preparation compared to when you are on the court. It’s great, I started doing the things that I love and combined the two. It led pretty smoothly to talking about volleyball and asking my opinion about it.”

PVL’s quality compared to leagues abroad

Having represented clubs across four nations, Ci has sampled a lot of the sport and different approaches worldwide. When asked about the quality of the Prime Volleyball League (PVL) compared to the other leagues worldwide and how it could improve, she answered saying, “The quality is right up there. There is a huge spectrum of quality throughout Europe and throughout the world.

“The way that they set up the format and the investment that is here, it can get there. With the Club World Championships coming here next year, that will be a good test of the best club here against the best clubs in Europe. There is room for the sport to grow if you have people investing in it. Even if the level is not on par with the most elite, it is certainly on par with a lot of levels in Europe.

“I have seen the potential that these players have. You have to be single-minded and obsessed with the sport if you have to improve, that is true for anything you do in life. If these players are given the opportunity to train year-round, they could improve drastically.”

Indian players’ strengths and weaknesses

The Indian volleyball stars have been the major talking point of the Prime Volleyball League, with players like Ashwal Rai, Jerome Vinit, Rahul K excelling in the two seasons and topping their respective charts. Ci assessed the Indian players and broke down the newly emerging style of play, “They (Indians) are really physical players.

“You get different styles of play depending on what country you are in. In Japan, it is a really fast style of play. They focus on beating the blockers with speed. In Italy, the most important thing is the ball control of every player. You have to be well-rounded. India is finding its own style of volleyball. I think it has a little bit of everything so far, the physicality is there, and the intensity is.

“Maybe a couple of things could be worked on like focussing on the first contact but overall, by and large, I’ve been impressed with the physicality of the players.

Women’s volleyball league in the pipeline

In the pre-tournament press conference, it was exclusively announced that a women’s volleyball league is in the works and should become a reality in the future. Ci believes that given the right levels of investment, the league could be a huge success, “I have not seen any women’s volleyball in India. If the commitment from the powers that be are willing to invest in the sport and the players, the sky is the limit.

“Where we are now is just the starting point. Whether or not the level is comparable to other leagues does not matter in my eyes. All you need is for the people around the sport to invest in it, have faith, commit, and grow. Maybe it takes five years maybe it takes 20 years, but that could be awesome if they do the same thing with women. Especially with this format, the sport can grow in popularity so quickly. The stage is set.”

Enable India to produce players

From what she has garnered this season, Ci certainly believes that there is a ready talent pool among Indian volleyball players to progress the sport to the next level and push the national team to new heights, “From what I’ve seen there’s a great amount of talent here.

“This is a spotlight for those talented players. Now the rest of the world is going to know these names. Volleyball players love volleyball. Definitely impressed with the level. You have to take the best and put them against the best and that is how they get out of their comfort zone and grow.”

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