KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 16: Carli Snyder (4) of the University of Florida runs onto the court during the Division I Women's Volleyball Championship held at Sprint Center on December 16, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

On Monday, March 16th, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced a 15-day countrywide lockdown. The very next morning, Carli Snyder was on a plane back to America. The Michigan native and University of Florida graduate had been playing volleyball for ASPTT Mulhouse, whose season has officially been postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus. We spoke with Snyder about what it was like to pack up her life overnight, the mood in both countries, and what she plans to do next.  

Can you walk us through what the last few weeks has been like? 

So the week before I left, our team was put under a kind of quarantine. They postponed the league and said it was up to our teams to decide if we could practice or not. At that point, our team was going to continue practicing until April 5th, when the league was originally supposed to be resuming. So up until last Monday afternoon I was under the impression that I would be staying in France. But then on Monday afternoon our coaches told the other American and I that Macron was going to give a speech that evening and that it would be smart to get out of France as soon as possible because a lockdown was coming.

So you didn’t know until Monday afternoon that you were leaving the next day? 

Yeah. I bought a ticket that afternoon for a 6:00am flight the next day. When you’re playing sports in another country, you’re so dependent on your team. And once the league was postponed, and I didn’t have those day-to-day interactions with my team, I felt distant from the club as I was trying to deal with these issues. I knew I had to leave quickly, because it wasn’t clear if there’d still be flights to America if I waited. There was so much confusion in the country. I barely speak French, so watching the president and others give speeches I couldn’t understand during a moment of crisis was stressful.

Confusion seems to be everywhere now. I imagine almost everyone on the planet now has gone online looking for reliable information and come up empty. 

There’s nothing. Even in France, I was like, I just need some information about what’s going on. But the problem is this hasn’t really happened in such a long time. And the way that our world is connected now is just so much more complicated than when we were dealing with the Spanish Flu, for instance. People obviously couldn’t hop on a Delta flight on a day’s notice during that time. They were forced to stay put by a lack of technology. But now technology gives us the ability to spread information and panic in an instant, and I think most of the truly valuable information ends up lost in the panic.

Have you been in contact with your club since coming back to the states?

A little bit. We’ve been in communication about the money situation because now that I’m in the US I have no access to a French bank account. We’re figuring that out. Mostly I’ve been trying to reach out and say sorry that I didn’t have longer to say goodbye. I mean, I had less than 12 hours to pack up and leave what has been my home for the last two years. I couldn’t stop or slow down to think clearly. But mentally, I wasn’t prepared to leave. I’ve truly loved playing on this team, and I really like the girls a lot, so I’ve just been reaching out to say I’m sorry it all happened the way it did.

I’m sure you all must realize there’s a chance the season isn’t resumed. 

We do, which is why I’m so sorry I had to leave the way I did. You can’t plan for any of this, and I think everyone on the team feels the same about having their lives interrupted. There’s so many moments we won’t get to have with the people we care about.

Obviously, there’s turmoil everywhere, but what are your thoughts about living in a world without sports?

My teammates and I have talked about this. Sports have always offered comfort in times of crisis. They’re a break from politics and religion and racial differences. They bring people together, which is rare in today’s world. That’s what’s so amazing about sports. They offer a break from the rest of reality. But now there’s this huge global threat, and large groups of people just can’t be together. It’s so unusual, especially for athletes who are used to being on a team. We’ve lost the thing that usually helps us through the most difficult times.

What’s it like to be at home? Do you have any sense as to what comes next?

It’s so strange, honestly. It’s strange because being home has always been a break for me. When I was at the University of Florida, we practiced year-round, so I only came home for a week at Christmas and then a week in the summer. And when I was home, I tried to pack everything in: family time, time with friends, time to go and play a little volleyball with people at my old club. Now it just feels really odd to be home because there’s this sense of not feeling finished. There’s no sense of resolution, so it feels weird to take a break.

If this season is eventually cancelled, the next would start in August. My contract is up in France at the end of this season, so I’ll have to talk to my agent if that’s the case. We’re all just waiting with the rest of the world to see how things unfold. Everything’s up in the air, but if there are leagues operating next year, I plan on playing. In the meantime, I’m going to quarantine and socially distance, and I’ll dedicate myself to some hobbies. But in the back of my mind, I have this lingering feeling of unfinished business.

Have you put any thought into how you’re going to work out while staying isolated back home? 

I keep getting tagged on this thing on Instagram to do 10 pushups, and I’m like, don’t tag me in these. I’m horrible at pushups [laughs]. So I’m not participating in any of those challenges, but luckily my family has an elliptical, a treadmill and some weights in the basement. I’ve been doing that, but of course, there’s nothing to replace the atmosphere of team sports.

I’m a community person. I’ve always gravitated toward team sports because you’re working with others. I need to know that I’m training for something, for the betterment of a group, and that’s hard right now because I have no idea what the future holds. I’m not used to being on an elliptical alone in my house.

You saw France initiate a lockdown. You’re now back in the states. Do you have a sense of a difference in moods between the countries? 

I think in France, the same as in Italy, and the same as here, the virus wasn’t taken so seriously at first. People like to be outside in France and sit at cafes, and they like to do their grocery shopping every day. It’s part of the culture. Macron put out a statement saying please stay inside, and the next day I saw people in the market still hugging each other. Macron had to make another statement saying this isn’t a joke, we’re just a few days behind Italy. And after that the city I live in became a ghost town.

So when I got back to the US, it felt like being back at that initial stage. We’re talking about it, we know it’s there, but people aren’t ready to completely adjust their lives. I saw St Patrick’s Day celebrations and kids on spring break packed into small spaces. These kinds of events were a bit concerning coming from Europe and seeing how easily this thing can spread.

It’s obvious we’re behind. We’ve known about this since late January or early February, and we’re only now taking precautions. I understand there’s a lot you have to consider regarding the economy, but I think we’ll now be forced to take some really drastic measures. I’m nervous, because this is a massive, massive country. On the other hand, I think we’re more equipped to do an extended shutdown. The stuffed suburban pantry is a very American concept — Europeans aren’t as used to stocking food. Now’s the time to eat those three-year-old Cheez-Its we’ve all got hiding in the backs of our pantries.

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