After a highly successful volleyball career at Utah State University, Chelsea Fowles (Hollister, Calif.), is fulfilling two of her lifelong dreams, while she lives in France playing professional volleyball.
Fowles moved to Laon, France (90 miles northeast of Paris) this January to join the Laon Volley Club mid-season. Upon her arrival, the team was 4-6, but with her help, they improved with a 5-5 record for the second half of the season.
As an Aggie, Fowles was a four-year letterwinner (2007-10) who helped lead the team to a 24-9 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance her senior season. The setter earned second-team all-WAC honors as a sophomore and was named the league's Freshman of the Year in 2007, along with being named to the WAC’s all-tournament team in 2010 as USU upset third-ranked Hawai`i in the championship match.
Fowles ended her Utah State career as the school's all-time leader in assists with 4,520. She also ranks third all-time at USU in service aces (118), fourth in sets played (440), ninth in digs (781) and 10th in block assists (258).
Fowles is back home in California during her off-season and took a few minutes to talk about her experience in France.
“I don’t know exactly which place my team was in, but of the 13 teams in the league, I think they were in second-to-last place. By the time the season was over, we ended up in eighth place. We got to travel to a lot of cool places; it was such a cool experience. I got to travel to half of the places, since I was only there for the last half of the season. It was just crazy to see how different the style of play was over there. It’s not even the same kind of game.”
What was the best part of playing volleyball in France?
“It had to be the complete experience of living there. I was able to completely immerse myself and have a place to live and be stranded there. I had to learn my way around, learn better French and learn how theylive there. I honestly forgot all of the things that I loved about living in America until I came back. That’s how immersed in it I was. I loved it. It’s such a different world, but it’s so hard to explain unless you’ve spent a decent amount of time in another country.”
What was the hardest part of playing volleyball in France?
“It had to be the language barrier. I could communicate to people. But even within different regions of France, their accents are so thick that even other French people can’t understand them. They talk so fast, and they ramble and say things that don’t literally translate into anything. In the beginning, I would get so frustrated and couldn’t handle it if my one friend that actually knew English wasn’t there. I got a lot better acquainted later. After about a month and a half, I felt comfortable going anywhere by myself. I felt confident enough to not get lost and to be able to talk to people.”
What was the biggest change from playing college volleyball?
“It’s just the way the players over there have been trained. It’s all about power, where in the United States it’s all about finesse and skill and the technical way to do things. They couldn’t care less how you do it as long as you get a result. In my opinion, it’s just like chaos on the court. Most of them don’t speak English, so they just expect you to perform in a way you don’t really know how.”
What sort of things did you learn from Coach GraysonDuBose and being at Utah State that ended up being applicable in France?
“Grayson definitely taught me a lot. In the very beginning when I got to Utah State, I was very reliant on him as a coach. When I was on the court playing, if I thought that I’d made a wrong decision or if I didn’t know what to do next, I would always look over at him. He taught me to stopdoing that. It got to where he wouldn’t even look at me anymore because he knew I just wanted answers and he knew that he couldn’t just help me all the time. The fact that I knew I needed to make my own decisions and do what I thought was right in the game helped me a ton. The coach over there didn’t have much to say to me, so it was all my choices.”
What’s up next for you?
“I’ll actually going back in the fall. This time, it will be for the full nine-month season. I’ll head back around the first week of September.”
Living in France and playing professional volleyball were two of your biggest goals in life, butwhat else do you want to accomplish?
“The funny thing is that I spent so much time dreaming about this that I never really decided what I want next. There are things that I love, so it’s something I’ve been thinking about. It’s not like I can play professional volleyball forever. I really want to go to culinary school andeventually open my own bakery. Hopefully that can happen in the future when I’m done playing.”
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.