July 12, 2012
Former Gopher great Lindsey Berg is busy preparing for the 2012 Olympics set to begin on July 26th in London. One of the biggest names on the international volleyball scene, Berg first starred as a setter for the Golden Gophers from 1998-2001. A three-time All-Big Ten selection, Berg was a four-year starter at Minnesota and still ranks second all-time in Big Ten history in both services aces (283) and assists (5,913). She has also been twice named USA Volleyball Indoor Female Athlete of the Year, winning the award in 2008 and 2011, and last year was also inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame. Team USA's captain, Berg is currently being coached by future Gopher head coach, Hugh McCutcheon. Here's a question and answer session by Berg.
Q: This will be your third trip to the Olympics and first as the starting setter. How has your past experience helped you prepare for London?
A: Even after the first one, most of the overwhelming emotions of just the Olympics in general, you’re able to control better after the first. It’s all about preparation. The reason you’re there is to medal or to win gold and if you are able to control those emotions at the Olympics in general , it helps your game and your concentration. Obviously those two have helped heading into this one and concentrating on the team and make it as best as it can be. Personally, I want to be the best I can be to help this team. I think we believe that we have a gold medal team and the concentration to get it and to work our hardest to get there.
Q: You're one of the veteran leaders on the team. What's some of the advice that you've been able to give going through the Grand Prix and heading into the Olympics?
A: Fourtunately the core group, we’ve had this whole quad together so we’ve have been preparing for the last four years. Every summer we’re together and Grand Prix we’re preparing so when you get to play in those tournaments under your belt, it makes it a lot easier to prepare for the big show. The younger women are really great and haven’t needed or asked for that much guidance. I think they follow by action and I think that it’s great. We’ll have a couple talks leading up to the Olympics as we already have, but we’re always available for them. But with this core group playing together has really be preparation in itself.
Q: Team USA has high hopes this year at the Olympics. Describe the team dynamic.
A: We have high expectations because we’ve done so well these last few years and have won almost every tournament that we’ve been involved in. Those expectations are earned and we’ve worked really hard to get those. Our potential, I don’t think we’ve reached yet. Even when we did well at the Grand Prix, we definitely didn’t play our best, yet still beat some of the best teams in the world. Everyone just has an excitement around it. This team is just great. We’re very deep, we have a lot of energy. We’ve got some veterans, some newcomers and in betweeners and we’re a really fun team to watch.
Q: Who is Team USA’s biggest competition going into the Olympics and who do you think could be a surprise?
A: This Olympics is really difficult considering the pool we’re in. To me, you have to beat everyone to win it all. Whether it’s early on or later, doesn’t matter. Brazil is always strong and No. 2 in the world and China has gotten better each year. They were peaking last World Cup and are playing well. Italy is always strong. Turkey is a surprise. They won the European and competed in the Grand Prix. We really don’t have an easy game in pool play. It’s going to be tough.
Q: Other than competition, what’s the best part about the Olympics. Do you get to do anything?
A: I wish I could say I have one. We really don’t get to do much free time. We go to opening ceremonies and leave early since we play the next day. Throughout we don’t really get to see other events since we’re playing every other day and practicing. It’s really all about business.
Q: You've obviously played in numerous countries and cities. Where's your favorite place to play and why?
A: I had a great experience just a few weeks ago in Brazil. That was my first time there, surprisingly, and the support for volleyball is absolutely incredible. It’s something we lack here in the United States for indoor volleyball. They have an appreciation for what we’re doing out there on the court. It’s nice to play in front of that, even if they are rooting against you.
Q: After the Olympics, Hugh McCutcheon is coming to Minnesota. Have you been able to share any past stories with him on your days at Minnesota?
A: Hugh has really kept it separate right now, which I think is right. He has a commitment to finish with us before he gets there and we really don’t talk about it.
Q: What can future Golden Gophers expect from Coach McCutcheon?
A: Hard to say since it’s two different levels. He is good at coaching and handling a team, and knowing the level of that team. I don’t know if he’s going to exactly handle a college team like he handles us. College is a lot different than at the professional level. He’s a great coach, a great communicator and he’s going to be successful.
Q: Another Minnesota connection in Lauren Gibbemeyer has played through USA Volleyball. How has she made her mark outside of Gopher Volleyball?
A: Obviously after Nicole Branagh and I were there, Minnesota and Hebert started to build a program there and a lot of great athletes have come through there. They’ve made it to a lot of Final Fours and been successful over the last 10 years. It’s always amazing when you have players make it to the national level and international level who also went to your same college. Gibby is doing great and has a lot of potential and a long career in front of her is she chooses to go that route.
Q: How has your experience at Minnesota prepared you for the next level?
A: Leaving Hawaii in general made me grow up, more so in life. I did have a great coach there in Hebert, but the experience of every place has gotten me to where I am right now. It was definitely a part of the process as to how I got here.
Q: You’re getting inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Fame. Talk about receiving this honor?
A: I got into the Hall of Fame in Hawaii as well, which was huge as well. Any time you’re recognized with a group like this is humbling and amazing. The fact that I’m getting recognized with athletes that have accomplished as much or more in life is an incredible honor and there’s not much more you can compare it with.
Q: You’ve played in Italy for several years. Talk about your experience playing internationally and getting used to a different culture?
A: It’s life-changing. Other than Hawaii where I grew up, it’s the place that I spent the most time. It’s turned into my second home. If you’re willing to embrace the culture and embrace different people, it becomes an experience that is priceless and changes your life. Getting that opportunity and actually seeking it when I almost stopped playing volleyball, I look back and can’t imagine if I didn’t take it. I’m so thankful for having that opportunity and so thankful that I took advantage of it.
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