Artur Udrys Interview Photo: CEV

Playing professional sports is hard enough, but finding true passion in something else, and for most people, presents a real challenge. Artur Udrys Belorusian volleyball player, can definitely say he succeeded in that. Not only has he won numerous medals and trophies, but he will also soon win a degree in psychology. In addition to playing in some of the world’s strongest volleyball leagues and competitions, he also found time for studying and proved that anything could be achieved with hard work. 

He was born in Latvia in 1990. So far, he has played in Belarus, Poland, Russia, South Korea, and China. In 2018 he achieved third place in the Russian Superliga and World Clubs championship. Both competitions count as one of the best in the world of volleyball. Currently, the Belorussian opposite is defending the colors of the Chinese team Jiangsu Nanjing BS Maomao. 

How and why did you start training volleyball?

Everything started when I was ten, and my younger brother inspired me to become a volleyball player. After just six months of my volleyball journey, I got into a car accident, which almost ended my sports career. The doctors said I would have to stop playing because of a broken arm, but they were wrong.

Of course, at that time, It wasn’t my attention to play volleyball professionally, although the coach saw potential in me. I was not among the tallest kids, some schoolmates were even taller than me, but the coach was sure I would grow up big. I had long legs, longer than they were supposed to be, not proportionally.

My coach recognized that and was sure I would play volleyball professionally, which turned out to be true.

What are your greatest strengths as a professional athlete?

Definitely spike. That goes back even when I was a middle-blocker. I was never really a fan of blocking and other volleyball aspects, but the spike was always my joy and satisfaction. That is probably also the reason I transitioned so well to being an opposite attacker.

What is your greatest achievement as a professional athlete?

My biggest achievements are third place in the Russian superleague and third place in World Club Championship with the Russian team. Among the other great achievements, I could also say the first place in the Greek cup with PAOK. 

As for individual achievements, I would say being drafted by the Korean team is something I am really proud of. Firstly, I made it, and secondly, I survived.  When I say that I made it, I mean it is because it is tough to get there due to the draft rules. I just started playing as an opposite, which was a huge boost for my future and career. It was physically very demanding due to our busy games and training schedule.

But in the end, we were second, and I was selected as an MVP of our team, and I am proud of that achievement.

You played in China and Korea; how different is volleyball in Europe from in Asia? 

Well, I think it is pretty evident that if you go to Chinese, Korean, or any other Asian team, you will carry the most burden in the attack. That was also the main reason why I loved being there. Before, when I was in the middle, I didn’t get many sets and was not as involved in the game as I would want to be. Asia definitely changed that; honestly, after my first two years there, I didn’t want to return to play in Europe. Besides that, the team was great, and money-wise, you can get much better contracts than in Europe.

Artur Udrys Photo: CEV / Club: Projekt Warsaw

Given that China is entirely different from the countries you’ve played in, how did you get used to it when you first played there?

Each time when you represent a club in a different country, especially in Asia, it is all new, and you don’t understand anything. Every club functions differently, life is different, and you need to organize yourself on a whole other level to make it. But when you step on the volleyball court, everything starts to get clear. In the end, you are there because of volleyball, which is not much different from anywhere else

When I speak to my teammates about everyday things (food, for example), I can’t understand them. Still, it is a different story on the volleyball court because we speak in the volleyball language, which every player should understand. That makes life easier there.

What was it like to play Club’s World Championship?

Behind the club’s world championship is an interesting story. We got the wild card, which nobody expected. Going there as an underdog playing there against the biggest teams, we had nothing to lose. But of course, as any athlete, we went there to compete. There was no pressure, and I can say that was our most significant advantage compared to other teams. That was shown in the first game that we won. We won against Zenit Kazan and SKRA Belchatow, which count as one of the best teams in the world. It was a nice feeling. For the whole team, it was a celebration, like a holiday. Everybody was so happy. 

Despite having a demanding schedule and time zone differences, we achieved excellent results. It was hard, but it was worth it. I was delighted in the end.

We know that besides playing volleyball, you also study psychology; why psychology?

Yes, I study psychology. Why psychology; is a good question. I started to visit the psychologist five or six years ago. Having a professional volleyball player career, you can feel a lot of pressure. With other things in life, sometimes you need to open up to someone. At that moment, working with a psychologist helped me immensely due to similar problems.

When I saw guys and teammates that suffered the same problems as myself, and they didn’t know what to do, I decided to pursue a psychology career as well. So I could help others. I think every psychologist empathizes with other people and wants to help them.

That’s why I study psychology, to make my life easier. I want to know the mental processes happening to me to get a clear understanding of them and help me live a better and more fulfilling life. And after all, share it with others.

I feel great satisfaction when I am studying that and am happy that I found something I will do after my career.  

Do you want to deal fully with psychology shortly, or will you leave it aside as a hobby?

Yes, I want to do full-time work as a psychologist in the future. I don’t think it would work out well as a hobby. To be a psychologist, you need constantly work on experience and study a lot. Even when I graduate, it will be just the beginning. To master psychology, you must continuously study, learn about real-life cases, read books, face the problems you are dealing with, etc. It is an exciting profession; I can safely say it has become my passion. 

Recently I also launched a website where I can write about psychology to express myself and hopefully help others.

You can visit Artur’s website here.

What would you say is your biggest challenge as a professional athlete?

It is a tricky question to answer. Besides athlete’s stuff, like overcoming bad results and injuries, I think the biggest challenge is taking care of myself and my body. In sports, everybody teaches you to sacrifice, to do whatever it takes, and things of that nature. But It is tough to learn how to take care of your body, have proper nutrition, and help yourself be better physically and mentally. It was hard for me to understand my value as a player. Because I focused on that, I never dealt with any significant injuries.

Artur Udrys Photo: CEV / Club: Projekt Warsaw

How well do you deal with criticism? 

If somebody says that I need to be better in defense or that I need to work more on my service or spike and proposes to me some things I can use to be better, I am open to it. But If somebody says I am bad without explanation or reason, I will get angry. I had some bad coaches who didn’t take responsibility for the loss but instead blamed the players.

It is terrible when the coach is separated from the team when he only wins with the team, but he cannot take losses with the team. In that case, criticism is just blaming others. I can’t accept that, as probably most of the players can’t.

Some players always want to teach others how to play and say they are doing it wrong. I like when I get different points of view, but only when I ask for them. I stick with that behavior with all my teammates. I may be ten times more experienced than some young guys, but I am not their coach, whatever my experience is. If someone asks for my opinion, I will use my knowledge and tell them what I think, but not before they ask for it. 

What are the most important things for professional volleyball players to remember?

It is hard to say what is the most important thing. For example, many athletes only know how to push themselves, and many coaches only know how to push teams. They don’t understand when they need to relieve you. If you try too hard and put a lot of pressure on a player, your result will go down. It is like burnout.

I believe that a lot of athletes need to remember to rest. Spend time quality, not rest only physically but in mind. Sport is not everything in life. 

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