Eric Mochalski is a 24-year-old volleyball player from California. He grew up in Los Angeles in a sporty family. He studied at Stanford University, in a program called Science, Technology and Society, focusing on media. He volunteered at camps for children with disabilities every summer. Right after his graduation, Eric grasped an opportunity to play volleyball in Slovenia and moved to Europe. He triumphed twice in Slovenian national championships. . Furthermore, he gained the title of the best scorer per one set in Champions League. Nowadays, he is a member of the Czech team Karlovarsko in Western Bohemia.
When he got off the plane at Vaclav Havel Airport in August 2016, he had already been to the Czech Republic. Eric and his friends had driven up to Prague after his first season in Ljubljana. At that time, though, he had no idea he would be offered a contract here.
“Getting used to the European style of play is definitely different.”
“The mentality is a little bit different because at the university you are there for four years. You become a part of very close family and it is very much about the team. In America, we like being energetic on the bench and really involved. Some guys here are just going from one contract to the next, wherever they get paid. So it is more individual sport here, but I think we have got a good team and we have good chemistry.” Eric declares that the league is very good, “I think people underestimate how good the Czech league is. It is continuing to get better. Hopefully, people start to notice because the level of play is very high here.”
He admits modestly, that the reason why he is not playing constantly from the begging of the match is, that Michal Kriško (the second opposite player – their volleyball position) is currently playing phenomenally. “Everything is earned. So I have earned my spot on the court and ended off the court. I am doing my best to come on and contribute. I think that is a very big advantage for the team that we have players on the bench who can come in and play well. It also creates competition in practice. Every day you have to bring your best. Moreover, we have options if someone is not playing well to have people to come in and not lose anything in quality,” is how he interpreted his position on the team.
“Maybe my favourite city in the world,” he waxed lyrical about Prague.
Eric definitely adores Prague, Czech beer and lots of the great people living here. However, he admitted that „it is tough to be an Angelenos“ living in Bohemia because the weather is not necessarily his favourite. Furthermore, he goes on to say that he especially misses the beach community where he is from and that it is tough to see pictures of his dad playing beach volleyball while he is huddled inside. In his own words, however, he acknowledged that „it is part of the experience“ and that „Prague is amazing as well as the beer.“
From his point of view Europeans are very honest and straightforward.
“Europeans will tell you what is on their minds and they will not hold back. I appreciate that especially in a volleyball setting because if you are not doing what you need to be doing they will let you know and it makes you stay on the top of the game and bring your best every day,” is how he lauded our manners.
So far he has been very lucky with the guys on the team. “They have been very welcoming and nice to me,” is how Eric summarized his initial months. Additionally, he has met a lot of Americans off the court in Karlovy Vary. He has a group of friends there and most of them are teachers at international or regular high schools.
“It is not easy to be across the ocean far away from my family especially during the holidays.”
For Eric’s family Thanksgiving is a really big holiday. Asked if he observed the tradition here, Eric replied, “I celebrated it with my new Czech family, the Americans, one British guy and Dano (teammate from Slovakia) with his family as well.” Unfortunately, he will not be able to make it home until Christmas. “It is pretty far and expensive to go home and moreover we don´t have a lot of time off, but luckily enough, my friends and a part of their family will be coming to the Czech Republic. “
“I have been able to see a unique perspective of the election.”
As a reaction to the US presidential election, he responded: “It really showed what can happen with our system.” Eric opines that it was just two difficult options. He said that Donald Trump was an outsider and at the same time a successful businessman running for office. “I believe that there are a lot of smart people in the powerful positions. However, the American political system is designed to be able to function no matter who is running the country. So ultimately, I think we will be alright,” he concluded eventually. “I should have used my right to vote. I know it is important especially in California,” Mochalski said, “but I did not take the time to figure out the paperwork to do it over here in Europe.”
“There is a lot of good and a lot of bad about being professional athletes.”
When asked what it is like to be a professional athlete he said: “It is mostly good, but there are some difficult things like being away from family and friends. Now I am here for one year and while am I here I am going to work as hard as I can to be the best player and teammate I can be.” Eric disclosed that his volleyball dream was always to play in Italy like his father did. “I think just being able to continue to play this sport has been a dream enough for me. Moreover, seeing so many places and meeting so many new people, it has been a great experience and I have a lot of memories.”
“I really should try to speak Czech, but starting Slavic languages is very difficult for English speakers.”
Eric described his position concerning the Czech language when he stated: “I am certainly picking up more and more words. But this is also part of the experience being surrounded by familiar faces and not knowing what they are saying. My teammates are doing a great job, engaging me as well as Henry Treial in the conversation. It is not comfortable for them, but what I wish that Europeans would understand that it is not about the perfect grammar or using the right words. It is about understanding and communication. So if I can understand what they are trying to say that is all that matters. I think Europeans are too worried about saying it in the right way and just too shy about it.” Such are his comments on Czech attitudes to communication. “I just do my best trying to make people comfortable talking to me, because I know it is difficult,” he said at the end.