Some players make highlight reels. I am not one of those players. High-line shots aren’t included in a Best Hits montage and I’ve yet to walk around a tournament and overhear, “Did you see that routine dig Billy Allen had? That was amazing!”
My partner Stafford Slick on the other hand, is such player. Last year in San Francisco he bounced a back set in front of Casey Patterson and nearly out of the stadium before lifting off his goggles and parading around. This is now known as the Slick Slam. Part of me worries this kind of attention will set him back as he tries to top himself in front of a crowded stadium, hitting straight down instead of over the block like he is capable of. But that part of me is probably just jealous I don’t have the kind of velocity to get a hit named after me.
Over this year’s San Francisco weekend, Stafford opened up a contest to his fans for the best Slick Slam imitation. And, oh-my-goodness. @Mjuyf and crew nailed it. Instant replays, snorkel mask and all. Apparently, it only took them 5,000 tries.
As you can see from the top video, Stafford likes to play to the crowd while John Mayer (his partner at the time) just stands around between plays hoping the ref blows the whistle and ends the awkwardness. At any tournament, you will find a variety of different personalities on the court. On one side you have the cold calculating types that seem unphased by the game and keep a steady demeanor—Karch, Misty, Rogers. On the other side of the wall are the fiery ones who play with passion and ride the highs and energy of the moment—Hovland, Jennings, Patterson. Now there is definitely some overlap; Karch got excited and celebrated a Lambo block and Jennings could still perform on the uninhabited outer-court 15, but there were certainly differences in styles.
On our podcast, Coach Your Brains Out, John Mayer and I have been asked about which demeanor is better. We both fall in the boring-to-watch-but-get-it-done category. I think overall, the more consistent you are the better, not suffering the peaks and valleys of individual plays or matches. But I have seen times when a fiery player gets swept up in emotion and seems to rise above their normal level of play. This is fun to watch and a lot of fans appreciate players dancing in celebration after a kill. At the end of the day, you have to be yourself and let your personality determine your on-court demeanor.
A question you should ask is, “What am I like when I’m playing my best?” For some that may be a focused intensity. Others that might be beating their chests like Tarzan every time they score. I’ve known some players who only play their best angry and use any spark they can to harness the dark side of the force.
In the San Francisco AVP final, Stafford and I faced off with the fire breathing dragons Ty Loomis and Maddison McKibbin. Maddison is a younger player who has had a breakout year. He’s always been physical but he’s now playing consistent high-level volleyball. Loomis is a veteran who has been around for a while (minus a brief hiatus to change the future of education and learning). In some ways, Loomis is my antithesis. He is a flashy energetic player who expends almost as much energy between plays as during them. He won an AVP title in 2009 with the equally fiery Casey Patterson. At the time they may or may not have been the inspiration for a KindaGood video.
Though their celebrations and excessive barrel rolls might be what many people remember from the final, Loomis and Maddison also played smart volleyball. They served tough and made really good decisions on offense. Because Stafford wasn’t playing at full strength we tried split blocking but they did a good job of shooting when I was up, hitting flat shots over my smaller block and forcing Stafford to make a hustle play behind me. Neither of us got many blocks and despite close scores and a little freeze-score comeback, they kept their cool and finished the game out beating us 22-24, 19-21.
Court antics are not what I want to be known for and my favorite players are those who played with a more humble vibe, but I’ve learned to appreciate what players like Loomis do. If everyone played like me, the game certainly wouldn’t be very exciting to watch. And if everyone played like him…the games would take forever. The variety of styles and personalities makes the game interesting and whether you fall north or south of the wall, there are players for you. As much as it’s annoying to be on the other end of a good play followed by excessive dancing and peacocking the crowd, I’m glad those players do what they do. I sure wouldn’t want that responsibility.
Note: When I got back home and watched a replay of the finals on TV, I was surprised to find I had made the highlight reel after all. It was the Dig of the Match. And although not as exciting as a Slick Slam or Vegas Line, or even a Taylor Crabb diving dig, I’ll take it.
Now if there were only some way I could get the word out so it will catch on.