Hi Dustin, thanks for being part of the Be Volleyball Community!
Everyone has a story, how you started playing volleyball and who inspired you as a young athlete?
My dad started my high school program but eventually stopped and focused on teaching. I was always asked if I wanted to try but I didn’t have any interest in the sport. When I reached High School the head varsity coach need a coach for the 1st year students and asked my dad if he wanted to coach me, again I said no – It wasn’t until I found out a lot of my friends from soccer were going to play, so I decided I would too.
Volleyball in the States is mostly considered a university sport though the level is really high and currently you are the biggest exporter of players. Could you tell us about your overall view over it and if you think that one day we could watch a spectacular volleyball league as NBA or NFL?
I don’t think it can even touch 1% the NBA or NFL, the only question is if it can become a profitable professional league – which I don’t think is possible currently. The problem is, there are already too many established professional leagues and unlike Europe, University sports have professional like following in their fan base. Not only does volleyball have to compete with football, basketball and baseball but University football, basketball and baseball.
You played in the strongest leagues in the world for more than 10 years now, could you tell us what is peculiar for each of those leagues? And what was your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
I have only spent time in the strongest leagues for half my career, I spent a lot of time climbing the ladder, spending time in Finland and France B but I’ve enjoyed so much sharing my passion for the sport in countries like Brazil and Poland – where the fans know the sport, appreciate the fine details and are apart of the game with the enthusiasm they bring to the gym.
Greatest accomplishment was starting and beating Poland in the Bronze medal match of World League in 2015 and being apart of the team that won the World Cup in 2015. This was 6 years of almost never training in the USA gym, calling lines, wiping the floors for sweat to finally have the invitation to be with the 1st group and I was able to show that I could help the team at the highest level.
In all this time you played many games and winning titles and medals if you can choose what one moment you will always remember?
Aaron Russel hitting the overpass to win the Bronze Medal against Poland in 2015 World League.
What skills and attributes do the best athletes have in your position?
The ability to be confident and focus even when are having a difficult game.
How is being so many time out of home during the year? Did you get use to it?
I love it. I love being in different countries, to experience different cultures and to see how people perceive life and how their version of happiness differs from where I grew up and if that resonates with me.
How do you handle stress and pressure? Having fun, playing volleyball can contribute to this… How do you and your teammates make practice fun?
Coming back to the breath is very important. This helps me to not get lost in my thoughts and emotions, when things are becoming very difficult or even hopeless. To make training fun, I think it’s important to give – with your voice, compliments or just with a smile.
Professional athletes have a tough schedule of trainings, travels and games and a proper nutrition is very important. How you do this, did you develop a diet you follow?
This is very important, as athletes we cannot control the schedule or our trainings – so we must prepare our bodies the best we can, while putting extra emphasis on recovery so we will be ready for the next day of training. I’ve found with experimenting that a whole foods plant based diet is the best way for me to fuel and recover. This means, no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or consuming anything from an animal, while having an emphasis on consuming whole foods in their natural form, like vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and refraining from alcohol.
From your experience what suggestions you can give to athletes that can improve their performance throughout the correct feeding?
Develop a mindfulness meditation practice and journal.
What is your opinion about the influence that social networks and the media have on this subject? Do you think communities like ours can play an important role as a decision factor for all athletes?
Yes and no. Social media is very toxic but can also be very empowering, I believe we spend too much time on this app (myself included) but there are great pages where we can learn about nutrition, the environment, sports science, mindfulness and science. Too often I feel, we get lost chasing other’s experience in life – which most of the time is fake and can lead to dissatisfaction in our own life, so we must be careful in what we consume.