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Home / News / FanZone Exclusive: Interview with Legend of the Game Mark McGivern

FanZone Exclusive: Interview with Legend of the Game Mark McGivern

Interview with Mark & Louise McGivern ahead of the Bulgarian National Cup Final weekend. Discussing all things Volleyball & family life as a professional athlete.


First of all I’d like to wish everyone
a happy and healthy new year.

I’m currently playing for Levski Sofia in the Bulgarian capital. My family and I arrived here at the beginning of September 2018.

I’m friends with the president/coach here at Levski Sofia, Vladimir Nikolov; we played together in Lyon a few years ago, he told me he was looking for an experienced middle blocker and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to play for him. We had been in France for 7 years until this point but decided to make the move to Bulgaria. A new challenge for me professionally, an opportunity for my wife to start working again and exposure to a new culture and way of life for my two kids. It wasn’t an easy decision to move but one I felt would reignite my passion for the sport I have devoted my life to.
 
How have preparations for the National Cup competition in Bulgaria been?

Our preparation for the cup has been pretty intense. Our last game before the Christmas break was 22nd of December. We had three days free over the break and resumed training on the 26th of December (at 8am) with a focus on being physically ready to compete for the cup. We practiced twice a day for the next 5 days followed by two free days (31st of December and the 1st of January). We started back on the 2nd.  Again, 3 hard days of practice followed then we started to ease off, working more on individual technique and finally two friendly games. It was a challenging Christmas “break” but I think we are physically ready for these matches.

What do you see as the team’s biggest challenge to raising this year trophy?

The biggest challenge is our opponents.... there are 8 good teams left. No easy games.

What emotions do you feel during matches?

Even after 12 years as a professional I still get excited to play matches. I don’t get nervous anymore but I think that comes with age and experience.

How do you prepare and play at your best during matches?

Practice.

As a professional I practice a lot and have done for many years now, so days off still include some type of recovery routine. As I get older recovery is very important for me to play my best. Recovery means, eating well, getting enough sleep, stretching and working with the physio when I have some physical problems. It’s a full time job.


What are your fondest memories from your National Cup experiences as a professional?

I don’t have one specific memory. Playing in the CEV cup and challenge cup were memorable experiences so hopefully this weekend we will create some more nice memories.

What are the Pros & Cons when it comes to playing with different players/coaches at different clubs in different countries?

Pros

+ Every coach has their own style of coaching and systems so it’s good to learn from each coach, and add to my own volleyball knowledge.
+ Meeting new team mates. I’ve been around for a while now and met so many good players, more importantly, people, over the years from all over the world; it’s something I will be grateful to this game for giving me.

Cons
- Learning new systems!!!
- Moving my family to a new home, city or country always brings new challenges.
- Losing teammates who have become good friends.

Describe playing in Bulgaria in Three words...

Competitive
Challenging
Intense


How would you describe the environment in a professional club compared to any amateur club you have been involved with in the past...

The volume of practice is different. Professional teams practice 1-3 times per day. When I started to play for Team Fife back in the day, we practiced once or twice a week.

Professional clubs usually have a physio at practice so you can get treatment before or after practice.

The overall difference is the structure. Good clubs have an established structure in place to support all areas of a player’s life. A happy family usually equals a happy player - which then transfers over to the play.


How does it feel to be the remaining professional Male player from the London 2012 Olympics? What has kept you motivated to keep playing?

It makes me feel old. I can’t believe the London Olympics were almost 7 years ago.

I love what I do, it’s why I keep going, and I think to do this job you need to love it because it is all consuming. It’s also very hard on your body when you get to my age. I’ve not got long left to play so I’m enjoying every moment.

What do you miss about Scotland?

I definitely miss family and friends in Scotland. It’s hard missing Christmases, Birthdays and other special occasions every year, but I definitely don’t miss the Scottish summers.

What would you say to younger athletes in Scotland who dream of becoming a professional athlete?

To any young athlete wanting to play abroad I’d say go for it. It’s a fantastic experience that will open your eyes to a new world of volleyball, but if you want to get anything out of it you have to put in the work. There are well esta
blished leagues all over Europe with players who have been playing structured volleyball since they were age 10 - so you need to know it takes work. 

Louise, what is it like to live with a professional athlete?

Mark is a professional to his core so he rarely switches off but now he’s a dad of 2 he really does try to leave his work at work, over the years he has got better at that.

It’s been really good for the kids having Mark around a lot, when Maia was little he was home in the afternoons a lot with her, and away on the weekends - both of our kids are really into sports now and think that everyone’s daddy is a professional athlete.

It’s also really difficult to explain to people who aren’t involved with volleyball that weekends are off limits, and if they want to schedule dinner with us then it has to be outside the months of September to May. We’ve missed so many special occasions due to the volleyball season - people genuinely don’t understand why Mark can’t just take a day off.

My biggest issue with living with a professional athlete is the amount of washing we have! 3 training sessions a day make a lot of dirty socks and stinky t-shirts!

Levski Sofia VC reached the quarter finals in the Bulgarian National Cup Finals Weekend (11th to 13th January) where they were defeated by Heber VC (3-0). They have since returned home to continue their rigorous programme in preparation for the next big challenge. The video clip below is a snippet from the team's gym session.