Ben Malakoff, Contributing Writer
Jasmin Sneed knew when she began her collegiate volleyball career that she would one day want to play professionally. However, Sneed graduated from VCU last spring, right when the sports world shut down due to COVID-19.
Sneed, who holds the VCU blocks record with 692, continued to lift weights and train, remaining hopeful that a professional team might contact her. By June, Sneed started to think about looking for a job and spending less time training for a volleyball career, but it was her dad who made her continue.
“He made sure I still had the goal in my mind,” Sneed said. “He made sure I kept working out and kept thinking about playing professionally.”
Sneed called her dad in August saying she wanted to get a regular job and start her career. The next day, Sneed’s agent told her she received an offer to play professionally for club Khimik Yuzhne in Ukraine.
“I had just accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to play and then boom,” Sneed said.
Sneed knew that by going to a new country, her life would become very different, but she said she wanted to take on the challenge.
“I knew I would be out of my comfort zone,” Sneed said. “I told myself that it’s OK and I know I am going to be uncomfortable, but it’s just a part of the process.”
Now in the city of Yuzhne, Ukraine, Sneed is getting accustomed to a new culture. With most people speaking Ukrainian and Russian, Sneed is finding ways to get around the language barrier.
Only one of her new team’s assistant coaches, Dmitry Maryukhnich, speaks English. He translates everything Sneed’s head coach says and tells her what to do during practice. Off the court, Maryukhnich helps Sneed pick up what she needs at the grocery store.
Despite being more than 5,000 miles away from Richmond and having to learn a new country’s language, Sneed said volleyball has stayed mostly the same, which makes the adjustment easier.
“All of the drills are pretty much the same,” Sneed said. “The style of play is a little different because at VCU, coach [Jody Rogers] ran a really fast offense. She wanted me to pass the ball fast and here, they keep telling me I need to pass the ball higher.”
The transition to a new life away from home is one of the hardest decisions a professional athlete has to make, but so far Sneed says she’s enjoying living in a new country and smaller town.
“I’m by the Black Sea, and I love being by the beach, so it’s perfect for me,” Sneed said. “Everybody has been helping me so much, so this transition has been easier than I thought it would be.”