Sports Interview: Alexandra Erhart

“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you, is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.”

Alexandra’s favorite quote by Mia Hamm, a professional soccer player.

I talk a lot about multiculturality and culture shock. But in the end, who better to talk about your experiences than yourself?

Today, Alexandra, a professional volleyball player with international experience, shares with us her experience in a multicultural environment and how it has impacted (or not!) her work. Enjoy your reading!

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Alexandra Erhart, I am 28 years old, I am French-Moroccan and a professional volleyball player. Currently, I play at AS Monaco and I have played in different clubs in France and abroad since 2012. I have also played internationally with the Moroccan national team since 2015.

Have you ever experienced what is called “culture shock”?

So I have already experienced “culture shock” yes, because I had to travel for my work. I lived in North America for 5 years and then traveled to different countries for competitions. In professional teams too, whether in France or abroad, the teams are made up of people from different countries and sometimes we don’t really understand each other. And, for me, it’s super important to understand each other in order to work well as a team and reach the common goal.

One of the first examples that comes to my mind is when I evolved in France. In a professional team in the south of France. We had a girl who came from an Eastern country, and, in her way of communicating it was quite different from us because she had in fact few expressions on her face. And we were a little confused. Because I think that in France we put a little more form, and communicate a lot on our emotions, on what we feel, whereas in the Eastern countries they are a little more directive. So we had a little trouble understanding each other, even though it’s very important in a team to be able to say things to each other, to understand things in order to be more efficient in our work and on the field.

How did you manage this gap?

At the beginning, we didn’t manage it too well because we didn’t communicate with each other. And in fact, I understood that it was mostly a problem of cultural differences. So I decided to share my expatriate experience with the whole team. To tell a little about how I was welcomed in this or that country. And, everyone realized that we didn’t have the same culture and that we didn’t welcome the foreigners of the team warmly. As a result, they did not necessarily feel confident, they had difficulty communicating, they did not understand French culture. So, we started to communicate, we started to talk to understand our cultural differences, and it got much better.

So afterwards, we sometimes have little problems because we communicate in English, and English is nobody’s native language. So sometimes, when we want to say something, we don’t necessarily use the right vocabulary and there is a very small difference in the word we use. It’s quite complicated to share your emotions, your feelings. The language barrier was complicated, but by working together and trying to work on ourselves, we managed to overcome it, to communicate better. Then we all played much better together.

For you, is it important to implement multicultural support in the professional sports environment?

Yes, for me it’s very important. Because, once again, we work as a team and we need each person to be able to perform and reach the common goal. Today, there are already things that are set up a little bit on that but… In fact we often have psychologists, sophrologists of the sport who work within the teams. So, it’s very good because we can confide in each other, talk about how we feel in the team. But it’s always individual, it’s always in their office, it’s very rarely a joint work with the whole team. And, to have someone who would intervene, a coach, I think we could all work together in the same room, sit down and talk. And, yes, I think it’s very beneficial to a team’s performance.

Thank you again Alexandra for taking the time to share the richness of your international experiences. For those interested the interview is available on video on Instagram and LinkedIn!

If you like this kind of format and you also want to share your multicultural experience, please contact me via the form provided.