2018-01-10 14:21:00 CEST
Legendary American Reid Priddy, one of indoor volleyball’s most famous faces, now wants to make his name in beach volleyball. He explains to us how he’s planning on doing it…
Reid Priddy and beach volleyball have been flirting for a while. After two decades of short but intense moments together, they have finally committed to a passionate marriage, one that despite of being on the verge of celebrating its first anniversary, was born with a strong purpose: to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The teenager who played volleyball in the sand court of his high school during lunchtime became one of the most decorated indoor players of all-time, being part of the United States National Team in four editions of the Olympics, winning a gold medal in Beijing 2008 and a bronze in Rio 2016.
But his passion for beach volleyball, the first form of the sport he ever interacted with, has always been there.
“I started playing in the sand and at the time the only thing that was on TV was the AVP (the American beach volleyball national tour),” Priddy told beachmajorseries.com. “All through my formative years in the sport I was watching Karch Kiraly, Kent Steffes, Jose Loiola, Mike Dodd, all these guys on TV. I wanted to play volleyball professionally and that was the only exposure that I had.
“I just sort of stumbled in to indoor and it happened to be great timing. After every Olympic Games I would consider switching over to beach volleyball but it just didn’t make sense, I still really loved the indoor game. I just knew that when I was done with indoor that I wanted to give beach volleyball a try. It’s a sport that suits my body, it suits my skills.”
Until one day it was finally time to give life to his childhood dreams. After the Rio 2016 Games, Priddy finally started his long-waited journey at the beach, one that he hopes will take him to a place he has already been.
Competitive by his own nature, the legendary American understands how hard it will be to get to the top in a new sport, especially starting his transition at the age of 40, but he also knows what the way to get there looks like.
“The way I’m built, I train in such a way to win, that’s what I want to do,” he says. “I’m not training just to participate. What drives my training is the opportunity to win a medal. What drives the choices that I make and how I spend my time is the desire to be the best that I could be and to compete at the highest level. In volleyball, our Super Bowl is the Olympic gold medal match and there are only two teams that earn the right to be there. I want to do everything possible in my power over the next three years to earn the right to be there.”
The decision of moving to the beach was made after a well-thought and discussed process. Between 2000 and 2009, Priddy competed in 27 AVP events and had the opportunity to share the court with some of the most experienced players in the country, such as Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Todd Rogers and veteran Matt Fuerbringer.
Over the course of the years, he also approached some players who made a successful transition from indoor to the beach to understand his possibilities. The distinct list includes Karch Kiraly, the only player to win Olympic gold medals in both indoor and beach, three-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings and his former US National Team teammate Mike Lambert.
Despite of all the information he gathered about the next step of his career, Priddy was surprised by the landscape he found on his first months in the beach. Used to play for clubs where he had an entire technical staff in place to support him, he had to adjust to the beach, where coaching staff numbers are more limited and need to be selected and hired by the players themselves.
Knowing that his adaptation to beach volleyball would have to happen as quickly as possible, he decided to do things in a very particular way to, in his own words, ‘hack’ beach volleyball.
The Olympics are not only an incredible celebration of sport, sportsmanship and competition shared globally, they are also highly ADDICTIVE! Following the Games in Rio, it was clear that I had more juice in the tank and took a long and careful survey of the landscape of the beach volleyball scene.
“In the first year I focused on trying to form my support structure,” Reid continues. “It’s a very different landscape and instead of just following the crowd I decided to approach it differently and I’m trying to build a team and a system that mirror indoor volleyball and all other team sports on forming these environments and team cultures to really get the best out of everybody involved. I fundamentally believe that we are better together and that is the model that I’m seeking to build.”
Being surrounded by top-level professionals has been a priority to Priddy since day one and he can say he has been extremely successful on that on his first year in beach volleyball. In the first months of 2017, the American was helped by Todd Rogers on his training.
Later in the season, he had the opportunity to acquire beach volleyball knowledge from Brazilian legends Ricardo Santos, with who he played in four AVP events and two tournaments in Brazil, and José Loiola, who coached the team.
“It was an absolute blessing to be able to have connections with those guys,” acknowledges Priddy. “Ricardo and I hit it off almost instantaneously, we became good friends and I love playing with him. Jose knows so much about the game. He’s a real master of his craft and is trying to be the best coach he can. And Todd is a good friend, but he is not able to be there for our everyday stuff since he lives three hours away. My plan moving forward is to continue to try and connect with all of these great people. It was an amazing privilege in that regard.”
In 2017, Priddy had his first full season as a beach volleyball player. He competed in eight AVP tournaments – finishing in third place twice – and in two events in the Brazilian Tour. Far more important than the results, however, was the first-hand experience he had in some of the most competitive national tours in the world.
“I thought that the season overall was a success, I’ve learned a lot,” he admits. “It was really a learning year and we were trying to absorb all the information that we could so that we could build out a proper three-year plan to try to achieve our goals. I anticipate 2018 there being more of a focus on competing whereas 2017 was just sort of exposure.”
And his second season as a beach volleyball player started early and in a new way as, in the first week of January, Priddy paired up with Jeremy Casebeer to compete the in FIVB four-star World Tour stop in The Hague, the Netherlands, for his first-ever international tournament on the sand.
The duo did not go far in the tournament, being eliminated by fellow Americans Billy Kolinske and Miles Evans in the first round of qualification, but Priddy cannot wait to have more opportunity to compete against the best in the world again.
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“I’m really excited for the World Tour,” he says with a smile. “That’s my life, that’s the life I’ve known, it’s traveling all over the world and playing volleyball. I was able to play [World Champions] Evandro and Andre in Brazil and to me, every time I have an opportunity to play the best of the best, I learn and I love it. It’s going to be a process.”
Even though Tokyo’s Olympic race is not expected to start before 2019, the veteran American knows that 2018 will be a pivotal year on his journey. As a player who is just getting started in a new sport, Priddy needs to climb the rankings in order to be ready to compete for the much-coveted American Olympic berths when 2019 comes.
“I’m trying to start from zero, I think I made a lot of progress and this is going to be a big year,” Reid says about 2018. “To be honest, it doesn’t feel I’m very close to my goals yet because of points and partnerships, but all I can really do is work as hard as possible and keep trying to improve so I’m making sure that I continue to focus on the things I have control over. To me, 2018 is one of the most important years of the four-year-cycle because at the end of this year I need to put myself in a position to actually have a chance to reach Tokyo.”
So, don’t be surprised if you see Priddy around in any tournament of the Major Series, starting at the Fort Lauderdale Major, our first five-star competition of the season, between February 27 and March 4. That is actually one of the ambitious goals he has written for his first season as an international beach volleyball player.
“I can’t wait to be in a position where I can build my season around the Majors,” pledges Priddy. “I will absolutely do that, meaning I will tailor all of my training to peak and to be in the best possible condition in the Majors. The problem for this year is that I have zero points, so you can’t just pick and choose. I’m going to have to be very agile and alert and try to grow at a point where I’m able to play these Major tournaments. The promoters of the Major tournaments are doing a great job and I can’t wait for the opportunity to compete in their tournaments.”
And neither can we, Priddy…