Thursday, January 12, 2017

WRP- "We are the sum of our experiences..."

In this final post, Reid Priddy talks about a number of things that affected his careers including injuries, personal demons and his future. He refers often to his camp here in Phoenix in late fall and talks fondly about his years spent here learning the sport. 


I don’t know the number of fractures but certainly there were a lot. I definitely broke my face. That was 2011 and actually 2010 was kind of like when my injuries started. I had three significant injuries. I had always wanted to win the World Championships and it was one of the things that if it wasn’t time for my family to move on and for us to do something different, I would consider playing in the World Championships in 2018! But it was absolutely time and appropriate for me to move on but I just love that tournament. It’s such a hard tournament to win and to win it would just be so special.

 So in 2010 that was my absolute focus and I was going above and beyond to prepare for it. My son was going to be born right before we were going to go to Italy for the World Championships so I was doing extra work in the weight room and extra time on the court because I knew I was going to take a few days off when he was born and I didn’t want to have any regrets and I didn’t want to lose anything. But what I found was I had more to give. I found this extra gear. I just felt like I could play for like four hours, I was hitting at the highest I had ever hit, my jump was massive, my strength was massive, I was eating the right things. It was all converging at the right time and my son was born and I didn’t sleep for like three days in a row and I was so amped that I came out for a Saturday scrimmage and played a set and I tore something in my back. To this day, I don’t know what it was but it set me back three weeks and it totally interrupted that World Championship. So that was sort of the first thing.

The next summer we’re playing and it’s toward the end of the summer and Max Holt drifts into me and elbows me in the side of the head and breaks my zygomatic arch, pulls my cheek bone away from my….ugh, it was just gnarly. So I had two surgeons operate on me: full reconstructive surgery that went well but I had a bleed after the fact and had to go back into emergency surgery with no anesthesia, I couldn’t have it and I had the opportunity to listen to the entire O.R. absolutely freak out while my eye was being swollen shut with blood. I almost lost vision in that eye but they were able to save it. Then to the ACL injury in 2016, those last 6 years were overcoming a lot of injuries. 

His Personal ‘Reboot’ in 2015

I was not healthy. I did everything I could in 2014 and 2015 to get to a place to be 100% by the first day of practice when the guys got back from playing overseas. I wanted them to see me and say, ‘Okay, Reid’s good, it’s a non issue and let’s move forward.’ This has happened to me several times in my career where I’m not really good at self governing, I will overplay when I’m in those scenarios and I get hurt. So I’ve done all this work, I’ve gained weight, I’m moving around, I’m jumping, I’m passing, I’m playing well and the second day of practice…

We have an event, a NORCECA event. Anytime we have an event that is in our zone, it’s a different sponsor. So if it’s an FIVB event, it’s Mikasa balls, NORCECA event we have to use Molten and for whatever reason, the Molten feels heavier. Scientifically speaking, maybe I’m totally full of it but any player you talk to, when you go from one to the other, the Mikasa feels lighter, the Molten feels heavier. So the second day they bring out Molten’s and we start doing our practices which entail spinning to each other and in essence there was a ton of overhead volume that day and the next morning I went in and I was on a box hitting to a teammate and I felt a pop in my pec(toral muscle). I ended up tearing my pec but we didn’t know it, we just thought it was just a strained muscle, ‘It’s okay, let it go.’ I took a day off and played the next day and it’s worse. I took two days off, played the next day and it’s worse. Finally we get smart and take an image. For those reading, I would say, just take an image right away. It’s just so much better. Even if your trainer thinks they know and it’s not going to change what we’re going to do recovery wise, why not just get an image if you’re well insured. It might cost some money but it’s well worth it in the end. So I wind up wasting like two and a half weeks and I don’t even go on that first trip because my shoulder isn’t ready.

When the team gets back we’re right into World League and we’re in our lifts and I do a hex bar squat which I hadn’t done yet up to that point; I was doing dead lifts. For whatever reason, the way I lifted it, I tweaked something in my lower back. It’s a small thing that leads into a big thing. Now all the while I am pressing, I am pressing, I’m pressing, I’m pressing, I’m pressing and it just leads into this scenario where I am developing this low back, low butt pain that no one can identify and it travels up to my back. We get to the point where I lose the entire summer and it wasn’t until I had that conversation with John, where World Cup was now off the table, that I sort of have to take inventory and say, ‘Okay, am I doing the right things? I now have this 8 month gap before the next year, what do I do? Do I just stop or do I keep pressing or should I keep doing the right things?’

So I decided, ‘No, I’m going to get ready and if that’s in two weeks or in two years, I’m going to do what it takes to get ready as quick as I can even though I’m not preparing any more for anything. John and I had our talk on Tuesday and I was with a bunch of friends on that Wednesday and they just started grilling me. One of them was in therapy so he knew how to just start talking to me. And I started getting all of this stuff out I was carrying; the stress I was carrying. Turns out that the desire I had was creating so much stress and cortisol and bad stuff that I was almost toxic internally. It was almost causing my body to not heal but to get worse in areas. The very next day I drive to Anaheim, get out of my car, thoughtful about the night before and I just text my buddy; ‘Sorry that last night was all about me but thanks for pulling that stuff out.’ But I felt this tangible thing, like my body just unlocked. It was as if it just relaxed. And two days later I was attacking like nothing had happened. It was one of those things where, ‘Shoot, John already submitted the O2 roster, so too late,’ at that point it was over, the decision had been made regarding World Cup but let’s just keep building. So I did build. I think I was ready to play in October but I didn’t take any deal until January in Italy and that was that.

I think it was just that I was pressing too hard and it was just stress. I just wasn’t allowing the process to happen. I was overly stressed that I was missing out on this opportunity or that opportunity instead of just letting it go and just saying it’ll happen when it’s going to happen and I can’t control it. I just got so wound up that I think my body, instead of releasing the good hormones and that kind of stuff and just sort of being at peace, wasn’t. I was just sort of wound up and cortisol was building. There’s a book out there I want to read about how stress can kill and I totally believe it. That’s actually one of the things I’ve tried to learn. How do we construct a life that is stress free; you know young kids and demands and all this stuff. If we can figure out how to truly be stressed about nothing, understanding that we can’t control everything and we just sort to have to adapt and move, I think our life will be longer and more enjoyable.

His last Pro Team

When I was in Italy, my team was a phenomenal club to play for. Uber professional, it was a great city. They had an amazing staff, from the weight coach to the physio to the doctors and they just had it all and it was all under one roof. Being a professional, that’s not the case when you go to these European teams, it’s not like that all the time. So this had a great apartment, a great life, a great city and a great team and I just remember thinking man, I could do this for another 5 years! I truly believe I am playing the best volleyball of my career. I look different, you might not put me on the highlight reel but as far as my numbers, there’s no part of my game that is going to cause us to lose. With my competitive drive and what makes me a team player, I knew that I would be a value anywhere, that I could play and I could help. But at that same time, my wife was in this Italian apartment with no support structure, with a young little baby and a son that was going to be entering kindergarten next year. That became really obvious that even if this is something that I could do and enjoy, it’s not a complete picture. They’ve put up with enough and they’ve gone through enough. It’s time for OUR life to be OUR life and not just my life. So I really think it became clear that this is going to be it, this is the final run with this particular lifestyle.

Why number eight?

Number 8 was not a not a number I chose, it was just given to me and it’s become part of my identity. When you get on the National Team you don’t get to choose your number per se but that number happened to be free and they gave it to me. I love number 8 because if you turn it on its side it’s infinity, there’s balance to it. It’s an even number and there’s been great players who have worn that jersey. I think it’s a great number, I love it.

His time in Phoenix.

So I started playing volleyball in Florida and we moved to Phoenix so the jury was out, it was a total unknown. I had a new passion but my Dad had to move because of his job. So what about me? I have this new passion, is there going to be an outlet for me. It just so happened that we moved to Arizona the very year boys volleyball was sanctioned and we happened to move to Ahwatukee where Fred Mann was going to be and he was, I think at the time, one of the best coaches, or at least had more exposure than any coach I knew of. I really didn’t know the scene and I hope I’m not offending any people but he was a great coach for me.

I think it helped tremendously that our first time going to Boy’s Classic, we registered as BYA, which meant Barn Yard Animals. Our buddy Sean Scott, who was one of the best High School Volleyball players in the state, his Dad drove us to Berkley to play and we just screened shirts. I still have that jersey; in fact I have saved a jersey from every team, which is kind of cool. We played in the LDS community and they have a lot players and I can remember we would sometimes play at LDS churches on rug, and wherever we could get games and I played a lot of sand volleyball. Of course winning State was obviously super fun. I had never won anything as an athlete so that was certainly a lot of fun. Then my senior year it got interesting, it started becoming a thing. Now volleyball is like this thing that I wanted to pursue and I think we went undefeated that entire year and then lost in the State Championship, so that was a real bummer.

I love Phoenix, I still do. My wife isn’t on board yet but we love real estate and I’m already grilling friends to tell me the areas, what parts of town am I looking at? There’s something about the desert I just love. We have a place in Las Vegas that we’ve been in the last 5 or 7 years or so and I love golf and I love the desert so coming back has been great. Plus the relationship with Matt Peterson and all the old stories: this is my 20 year anniversary from graduating high school. I wasn’t’ able to go but a lot of great memories and a lot of growth, a lot of maturity even though it was just a few years. My parents were here for 7 so I would come back. I had all of my first jobs here. When I think back about what put hair on my chest, it was at 15 years old. We were middle class, we certainly had everything we needed but as it came to these extracurriculars, I needed to work to contribute. My friends in high school like to remind me of just how much of a poor mooch I was. It’s very embarrassing. I would work 40 hours a week during the summer in warehouse jobs. I was a busboy.

It’s super awesome when I was a Senior. Matt Peterson who graduated a year before me, was really instrumental in the camp that just happened come together because he was the connector to Troy and the guys I work with. He got a job right out of high school and he gave me some money to go to JO’s that year. He was 18 or 19 years old and he just invested. We were great friends and he said, ‘I want to support you in this,’ and so that obviously meant the world. Not too many 18 or 19 year olds are doing that stuff. I was certainly working for those opportunities. I played for a club in east side San Diego my Senior year and my parents had a relationship with someone that they worked with, I think it was American West at the time and he got buddy passes so I would fly on standby and take a train to Del Mar and stay with our good friends up there. So many people were pivotal in making this thing happen. All my friends in Phoenix that were buying me Taco Bell and stuff like that. Now that you’re pulling all of these stories out, maybe I’m overdue for a reunion party just to say thank you to all these people.

What defined maturation for him.

One of the easiest ways to start is just the understanding that the most important thing I do on this earth is relational based; my relationship first with my creator and my relationship with my family. Those are both relational based. I think for much of my life I was operating as if what I achieved; the things that I did or the things I accumulated were the most important things I could do in life. So it was a really big paradigm shift. So wow, the most important thing is relational, I’m not very good at relationships so if that’s really the most important thing then what does it mean to be good at relationships. So once that realization started to sink in, then it sort of took the pressure off. I’m not defined by whether or not I win or lose this game. I can focus and pour into the process even more and not be as result driven. Results still hurt if they’re bad results and you still have to manage your ego when results are good and that was certainly a learning process as well.

There’s a period of time I had a pretty good stretch: a lot of wins, I was one of the highest paid players in the world. So you really have to check yourself; that doesn’t define me. The wins, the money, the achievements, the accolades and the attention don’t define me in the same way the losses and the failures define me. So what does define me? Who am I? How do I relate to my creator? How do I relate to my wife? How do I relate to my kids? How do I relate to my parents, my family and my friends? I think once I started to make that distinction about what’s really important, I started to be healthier and more grounded and more comfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t out there trying to prove something, like my value wasn’t on the line. So I think that’s really hard as athletes, if we think the action speaks something about our value as a person, it can get really overwhelming and it can go either way, right? We can become egomaniacs when the action is good because we think that’s our value and when it’s not we can be the worst people to be around and be disparaging and depressed and really struggle.

Those volume of experiences, and we are the sum of our experiences in some sense, then the more you add up. That’s where I could get to a point in 2016 where I didn’t feel like there was anything that could happen that I wasn’t prepared for. You can rest assured in that position, right? You can be less anxious if you feel like you know how to handle it or if I don’t, I’m connected enough with my creator that I will receive the help that I need to get through this experience or that experience.

That’s why I’m sharing my story because I want people to know that it didn’t come easily and it didn’t come through the good things, it came through the hard things. It was the struggle. These last two years were extremely humbling. There were lots of times that I felt undervalued or overlooked and instead of overreacting, I just sat in it and started to be okay with it instead of being preferred or having the benefit of the doubt, any of those things. Somebody in passing asking me what I’m doing. ‘Oh, I’m making a comeback for the team.’ ‘Oh, the guys are doing really good though.’ I mean really? ‘It’s a pretty full team, you’ve got Taylor and you’ve got Aaron and you’ve got Jaeschke who was twice player of the year, you got Paul and Garret and Jablonski ,’ and so that kind of a conversation would happen all the time and of course I would want to defend myself. ‘Hey, I started for 14 years!’ Unlike my natural self who wanted to defend myself, I would just bite my tongue and take it. You know what, I’m just going to put my head down and work. And that was really hard for me. It was really humbling and that happened on a regular basis. That scenario where people were so surprised because the team was doing great. Of course I already had that; I was already dealing with that, having those insecurities. ‘Gosh, these guys are having these great experiences without me, do they need me? Is there still a spot for me? Can I make a comeback?’ I think that going through the humility of those two years, and even leading into the games, that’s a huge stage.

There’s always that thought of going through the games and not playing. Or those 8 points against Canada; those were not a proper representation of the way I was playing day in and day out. If those were the only 8 points logged in the archives of the annals of volleyball, that would not have been a characterization of what I was capable of. But I had to live with the reality that maybe that could be all that was there, so the reality just sort of builds into this humility to where it just helped. I was able to get to a point where this is it, it just doesn’t define me. I’m proud of my team, myself, my wife my kids, I’m proud of the way we responded these two years. It was a team effort. We fought through doubt and insecurity and humbling moments and all the rest.

The margins of winning at the highest levels 

They really are thin, especially when you start looking at probability numbers. This is where I think stats can take the next jump. I think it would be amazing if we could find some bench mark, within the proximity of the setter to establish more accurate numbers, just to see who is really impacting the game the most. So who’s attacking the ball at 20 feet way above everybody else in terms of efficiency? Everybody at the highest level is talented so it really comes down to in-between the ears type stuff and competing and being comfortable under pressure and performing under pressure and facing expectations, all that stuff. I would be able to perform at a high level with a great mental mindset and an awful mental mindset. People can still perform with bad mindsets. I think you know what kind of space you’re in when you’re in big games and if you just want it to be over and you just want to move on, than you’re in a bad spot. The best spot you can be in is if you’re under pressure and the outcome is totally unknown and you want that game to go on forever, you never want it to end. You’re just totally enveloped in the process. You aren’t just thinking about hurry up, let’s just get to 25. You are right in the mix, you’re just thinking about point 16. You’re just thinking this is amazing, I’m so stoked that I’m in this situation, come on let’s go, next point.

These last three months since the Olympics, I literally have said yes to two events, standing in for two friends and that’s lead to where we are today. I’ve lost 10 pounds of lean muscle mass and I’ve put in a ton of time trying to develop and reflect content for this 4 day event. And even as we are talking, you’re asking questions that I’ve never thought about before. I want to ask you if you’ll share with me this audio because I am literally answering these questions for the first time and I feel like I’m finally in a better spot to answer them because I’m able to reflect more now whereas before it was just 20 years of forward motion. I’m doing a lot of looking back and now that this four day event is over, it’s time for me to really get serious about looking forward.

Tokyo in 2020

I believe that I can make an impact as a player still and I want to do that. I’m in a weird spot because I would love to just be able to show up at the beach and perform for a National Team coach and let the chips fall where they may. I’m confident in my ability to adapt, my ability to compete and my ability to learn. I don’t know how long it would take but I like my chances in that scenario. But that’s now how it works, right? There’s total autonomy. I’m actually having a meeting with a couple of beach coaches tomorrow and I just have to figure out this whole new landscape to where I need to find a partner, I have to find a teammate. Who’s going to be a part of this journey and it’s hard to do.

I would love to find a complimentary partner where we could start now and build something going forward. I don’t necessarily like the idea and I’m having trouble picking a one year partner, like a stepping stone. I don’t know, it just feels awkward to me. It feels impersonal, it feels odd. I also don’t like the indirect communication that goes on in beach; the texting back and forth. I’ve been very forthcoming; I’ve met with a few players and called guys directly, I think that’s how things should be. I don’t know that I have a mission statement. I want to win a gold medal in Tokyo; that is certainly the goal. I’m excited to play on the AVP, I love the AVP. That’s what I watched growing up. I’m intrigued by the FIVB, let me put it that way. I think it’s been really fun the last three months working out, I’ve been watching a lot of video of Bruno and various teams around the world. You know, what are the best doing, what it looks like but the goal on the beach is Olympic driven. It’s not a profession I need. It’s clearly not a financial thing. It’s 100% about the Olympics, that’s the whole point about transitioning to the beach. That’s my whole drive and focus. I’m not quite sure what it looks like now but I have a good idea how to get there in terms of the infrastructure that I want to build which sort of leads me to what I am doing right now. The stuff I am saying yes to now, from that a business is forming where I can inspire and share my story and build some resources to start my own infrastructure. I’m sort of like crowd funding. If you are reading this and you want to be a part of my journey to Tokyo in 2020, the way you help me get there is to bring me to your events. Let’s do a camp, let’s do something. I’m investing in that because I am seeing it have a positive impact. It seems like the more I am putting myself into those positions, the more positions are opening up in more places so I’m just trying to say yes to the demand and see where it goes. I’m not sure what the next four years will look like but that’s sort of the direction I’m headed.

The Arizona Region would like to thank Reid for his time and his contribution to volleyball in Arizona and the U.S. We hope to have Reid back soon in the valley doing camps and more clinics. To follow Reid, go to his website here. 

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