Women’s Volleyball Travels to Brazil for Foreign Tour

The team at the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Point Loma Nazarene University’s women’s volleyball team went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for a foreign tour this summer. The team left San Diego on Aug. 1 for eight days of training, vacationing and serving others.

The NCAA allows teams to take a foreign tour every four years. The last time the Sea Lions took a foreign tour was in 2018; however, due to COVID-19, the team’s tour was moved from 2022 to this summer.

When deciding on a foreign tour destination, Head Coach Jonathan Scott said that he considers three components: vacation vibe, training and ministry, noting that ministry is the trickiest component. 

This year, the Sea Lions partnered with Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Brazil. FCA Brazil was a direct link to the Christian ministry component and provided the team with a representative to help navigate the city. The team’s FCA representative was named Anderson. 

“Anderson was the hands and feet of Jesus,” said Scott. “There are valuable lessons learned from interacting with servant hearts like his.”

Every morning, Anderson held devotionals for the team, providing a space for the team to connect with God and each other.

“With every morning devotional, we did some sort of small group within our team that allowed us to share all the different emotions of the trip along with the highs and lows that we have struggled with between volleyball and in life, which allowed our team to get a lot closer,” said fifth-year MBA student and middle blocker Grace Hicks.

After the devotional, the Sea Lions went to beaches, saw historic monuments or did other tourist activities, like visiting the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. 

“I felt like we got a full experience from food to interaction with some of the locals to just being able to engage with the scenery and be a part of the beautiful country,” said Hicks.

In the afternoons, the Sea Lions hit the volleyball court. Every day provided them with a different opportunity, whether it was a practice, a game or a kid’s camp.

The team played against U21 teams, which Scott called the closest thing to university-level competition in Brazil. The Sea Lions beat two teams, then played another team twice and lost both times, making their foreign tour record 2-2. Hicks said the games gave the players a chance to work through their growing pains as a new team.

“It was a cool experience to see a different style of play, and it allowed us to build chemistry that a lot of teams don’t get this early in the season,” said Hicks.

Volleyball clinic with the younger players where the Sea Lions gave out their jerseys. Photos courtesy of Grace Hicks.

Women’s volleyball assistant coach Rafael Campos Asvolinsque is from Rio de Janeiro, and he played for the club team – Flamengo – that defeated the Sea Lions twice. He credits the path his life took to his time playing competitive volleyball.

“In Brazil, circumstances are different,” said Asvolinsque. “One of the best ways to change your life is through sports, and that’s what happened to me and my family.”

After living outside of Brazil for about five years, Asvolinsque said he kind of forgot how volleyball is there, so he was excited to go back and compare the level of play. He said mindset is an aspect that is different between the two countries.

“I saw it more on the U.S. side, that win or lose, what matters is becoming a better person and living God’s purpose,” he said.

For the Sea Lions, part of living God’s purpose is serving others. Scott said the team worked with younger, underprivileged players, coaching them, cheering them on and hearing their stories.

Despite the language barrier — which Asvolinsque and Anderson helped with — Scott, Asvolinsque and Hicks agreed that this was the most rewarding part of the trip.

“This was the most impactful couple hours of the entire trip for the majority of the team,” said Hicks. 

Fifth-year marketing major and right side pin hitter Claire Smith was particularly impacted by the opportunity to work with the younger players. She recalled two experiences that she holds close to her heart.

Smith said there was a young girl at an FCA camp who was diving for every ball and ripped her leggings, but she had a smile on her face while she iced her knee.

“After the camp, I gave her a pair of knee pads and she told me that she loved me and this was her dream,” Smith said. “She cried and hugged me.”

Smith also connected with a young girl, Bruna, from the church the Sea Lions worked with. Smith told Bruna she loved her cross earrings, and Bruna said God told her someone would compliment her earrings the night and that she would give them to that person.

“She literally took them out of her ears and put them in my hands and told me to keep them,” Smith said. “I am absolutely shocked by this experience. She has a forever place in my heart.”

Smith said the experience reminded her of a lesson her Mimi taught her: You can never lose something you give away.

Smith wasn’t the only Sea Lion who left Brazil changed, though.

“A lot of us,” Hicks said, “left with a deeper appreciation for the sport of volleyball and a deeper sense of gratitude for the opportunities that the sport has allowed us to be a part of.”