A Day in the Life of the USA Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team
Most of us eat breakfast at the Grab-and-Go stand right in front of the USA housing area. This convenient setup is new to the Olympic Village area. Before if you wanted food the only place to get it was the main dining hall, which meant getting there (it has not been very close to USA housing the previous 3 Olympics), checking your bags, and making your way through the enormous dining hall.
The Grab-and-Go has yogurt parfaits, fruit, danish, coffee and other beverages.
Because Chris Jackson, Ron Larsen, and Andy Read are scouting every match of the Olympics, they leave early and get back after midnight every night. Some game days we won’t see them except when we are at the venue for our match. They put in long, long hours scouting opponents!
Our USOC shuttle takes us to one of two training venues that the USOC has established. These training venues are amazing. Since Athens the USOC has procured sites that allow Team USA to train on their own schedule with state-of-the-art equipment, sports medicine facilities, dining, meeting space, etc.
The best thing about these sites is the USOC personnel who support the athletes and coaches in every possible way. They are the ones who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help ensure USA’s success at each Olympic Games, summer and winter.
10:00 to 11:00am Light Practice
During the competition these practices are loosely structured and vary in degree of reps and activity. The guys who have been playing a lot won’t take a lot of swings, and a few might not do anything on the court at all. The guys are professionals and they have a very good idea of what they need in order to get them ready to perform at their highest level for the match.
11:00am Video Session
We watched video of Brazil vs. Russia, which Brazil won in 3 straight. Video sessions often consist of watching the opponent by rotation. We watch all of their service receptions in Rotation 1 to see what their tendencies are when they are in that rotation, then move on to Ro 2 through 6. We also might watch specific attackers and other situations.
12:00 noon Lunch back at the Village.
A few days into our stay here I was out for a bike ride when I came upon the BBQ area. This is also new to the Village and let me tell you it is a welcome change from the main dining hall!
The conspiracy theorist in me tells me that Team Great Britain and the other Eastern “Village People” wanted to keep it a secret from the rest of the village. When I first went there it was almost all Team GB, Russia, Belarus, and Aussies.
Upon entering the area I felt like a party crasher. I kept looking over my shoulder for someone to come up and say “this not for you!” I tried to blend in, but the large U-S-A on my back gave me away.
They ultimately took me in, fed me chicken shwarma, and got me to join in beer drinking songs—without the beer. It was straight out of the Oom Pah Pah scene from Oliver (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkk2-2u3ciE) with dancing and jollity. All the while I kept looking over my shoulder for a Bill Sikes-like character to ruin the party, but there is no spoiling the cultural unifying force that is the international BBQ!
Never underestimate the power of a good nap—especially for the athletes.
5:00 Bus to Earls Court
We congregate just inside the Transport Mall so that we can be escorted to our bus, which will take us to our competition venue: Earls Court. The ride is approximately an hour, which is not ideal, but at least it has been fairly consistent. One of the issues with London vehicle transportation is there are few great freeways from one side of town to the other. Our route takes us directly by Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and the Thames. I keep thinking someone ought to get on the microphone and narrate the tour. So while it’s not a short ride, it is certainly scenic.
6:45 Pre-game Meeting
Alan reviews the game plan with the team in the locker room. The game plan is put together by our amazing staff of the aforementioned Chris, Ron, and Andy, and Alan Knipe, John Speraw, Mike Sealy and Gary Sato. They put in very long hours and detailed attention to put the game plan together. They know the teams we are playing quite well already, but they leave no stone unturned in preparing our team for their opponent. USA Volleyball teams have a world-renowned reputation for outstanding scouting reports going all the way back to the Doug Beal, Bill Neville, Carl McGown and Marv Dunphy days, and our current staff continues to uphold that reputation.
7:00pm Warm-up Court
There are two very nice warm-up courts adjacent to the locker rooms. Each team takes their court to begin warming up before taking the main court.
7:43pm Teams Stage to take the Court
The two teams line up outside the warm-up courts to then be paraded to the final staging area before walking out to be introduced to the 12,000 spectators.
7:45pm Teams Take the Court
The teams are introduced and take the court to begin the official warm-up.
8:00pm Beat Brazil
I hope you got to see the match!!
10:00pm Post-match interviews, drug testing, and family time
The media coverage at the Olympics is massive. The players and coaches are in high demand as everyone is trying to get the story that will attract readers and viewers.
After a late match like last night, the players have about 15 minutes to see their family members before Alan addresses the team in the locker room.
Usually one player from each team will be randomly selected for drug testing. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the hydration level of the athlete. Until he goes, nobody goes.
11:00pm Bus back to the Village
12 midnight Late Night Dining
The main dining hall is open 24/7. It’s not at full tilt, but there are still hundreds of athletes and officials dining til the wee hours. The team will often find itself eating dinner not far from that night’s opponent, as was the case last night.
Today the team will rest and recover with some light exercise and a video session at 9pm to prepare for our next opponent: Russia!