Bahamian professional volleyball player Shonari Hepburn has returned to practice, in Luzern, Switzerland, after being off the court since mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic ended his team’s postseason run.
Hepburn spent last season playing for Lindaren Volley Luzern in the Swiss National Liga A – the top professional volleyball league in Switzerland. The league’s season was canceled on March 13.
On the court yesterday, the 6’7” middle blocker said his first day back went well and wasn’t as bad as he thought it would have been.
“I watched hours and hours of footage, and old games, during quarantine so my mind for the game stayed sharp,” he said. “It’s just up to my body to get used to the physical load of playing again. Of course I am happy to be back. It’s going on three months since I was able to do full court work. I think that’s by far the longest stint I’ve gone since I started playing volleyball competitively in 2011.”
Hepburn chose to ride out the pandemic in Switzerland, which he said was not super stressful for him. He said that the “worst” part of the pandemic for him was the cancelation of the season. The former Bahamas Academy student said he made good use of all the time he had on his hands.
“With everything being closed and I now having a lot more free time, I used it to go on hikes and places I wouldn’t normally have the time to go to – I mean, it’s Switzerland, one of the greenest countries I’ve ever seen. The lakes and views from the mountains are amazing in person,” Hepburn said. “Honestly, as soon as everything started to unravel I chose to stay in Switzerland just because I knew that in the event that I got sick I would be in one of the safest countries in the world. Switzerland is one of the best when it comes to health and medical care, and they did everything to prepare for COVID-19 so it made sense to stay.”
Life in Switzerland now is almost business as usual but with safety precautions in place, Hepburn said.
Luzern finished this past season third overall with an 11-5 win/loss record. His team lost one game after the Christmas break. That one loss came in the playoff series where they fell to Volley Nafels before winning the series. The league canceled the rest of the season after that.
“I had a great season here in Switzerland, individually and team-wise. I was the best middle in Switzerland and it helped make my teammates better and we all fed off each other’s energy and determination,” Hepburn said.
The league had to decide on how to rank the teams without a postseason. Luzern was given a third place finish. The Swiss Cup Final, which Luzern is going to be a part of, will be played at the beginning of next season.
Hepburn plans on coming home to The Bahamas once the border opens up and he can continue to train.
“As of right now, I do plan to return home when the border opens as long as I know I’ll be able to continue to train and work out as necessary. If not, Switzerland is where I’ll be until then,” said Hepburn. “I miss my friends and family, that’s one of the hardest things about playing overseas. Being so far away from loved ones can have its toll, but I do a good job of keeping in touch with everyone and staying in the loop with things going on at home.”
As for next season, Hepburn said that nothing is official as yet but he’s just taking it one day at a time.
His offseason goal is to get stronger and he wants to be more functional on the court when play resumes. The Bahamian’s weight training routine began on May 11 after restrictions were lifted in Switzerland. He said he is hoping to work on the little parts of his game that will help him on defense and on service pressure.