Off the Block Senior Contributor Brandon Johnson took to pen and paper and reflected on what he misses most about volleyball not being played during the coronavirus pandemic.
For the last 17 years, volleyball has been my life. I have spent the majority of that time coaching all kinds of levels, all over the place. In the last couple of years, I have been a part of the Off the Block team, working hard to help grow the sport of collegiate men’s volleyball.
My life and yours changed on March 12.
We moved our lives indoors and everything shut down, including sports. The last five months have felt like five years. Every single day I have missed volleyball. Imagine going a day without eating; for me, that’s similar to going a day without volleyball. As we wait and see if we will have collegiate sports year, I want to take a minute and talk about what I miss most about not having volleyball.
In my years around the sport, I have had the privilege to coach hundreds of players. What I miss most about coaching is making personal relationships with each one of my players. This can’t be accomplished with a text or email. This takes place in the gym, fighting, grinding, sweating and improving.
I have also had the privilege to meet some amazing people in the sport of men’s volleyball. I have interviewed Olympic coaches, gold medal winners, national champions, hall of famers and All-Americans. I had the opportunity to tell the story of some unsung heroes, Grant Maleski of UCLA comes to mind. I have built friendships with coaches, athletics directors and announcers (I’m looking at you Rob Espero) who have helped me transition into the men’s college game.
The Off the Block team:
Vinnie Lopes and Jonathan Bates have become some of my best friends in the world. It’s not enough to mock Vinnie about his love for the Texas Rangers, or Jonathan for not trusting a Dodgers pitcher, I want to tell Jonathan why he is so wrong about wanting to see a server stand and float a ball in. It makes me happy to see how exasperated he gets. I miss coming up with ideas for how to help grow the game. I miss recording a weekly podcast that highlights how amazing our sport is. I miss giving recognition to those who do deserve it.
The Game Itself:
I miss the excitement, the athleticism, the passion, the fun. I miss seeing players and knowing they are going to be special. I miss seeing players play at the international level and remembering watching them from court side. College volleyball is so beautiful. These players are out there for the love of the game, and it shows. Press coverage is so minimal, but these players are grinding each and every day, taking care of work in the classroom and in the gym. And believe it or not, I miss the whistles. The never ending, shrill whistles can steal from your soul at times, but it means that volleyball is being played. And because of that, it’s one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.
I can’t wait for the sport to safely return. And when it does, I can only hope that this game continues to grow. It is my life, it is my breath, it is my love.