What outside hitter Reid Priddy remembers most about the U.S. march to volleyball gold at the Beijing Olympics isn’t any one play or any particular match. It’s what was happening when the world wasn’t watching, hanging out during the breaks in competition.
“In 2008, there was a feeling of ‘Hey, we’ve got to go watch this game or that event, all together,’ There were 12 guys that weren’t looking to get fresh air from each other, but were continuing to have a desire to be together. And I found that to be pretty special and unique,” Priddy said. “That sort of camaraderie and brotherhood could be seen on the court.”
The London Games is Priddy’s third Olympics. In Beijing the men rolled undefeated through the competition and upset favorite Brazil in the final match.
Priddy was the United States’ second-leading scorer — behind Olympic MVP Clay Stanley — with 112 total points.
Following Beijing, coach Hugh McCutcheon shifted to the U.S. women’s national team, which won the Olympic silver medal. The women are currently ranked No. 1 in the world and considered among the favorites for a podium finish in London.
Alan Knipe took leave from his job as the head coach at Long Beach State to take over the men’s national team, which is ranked No. 5 in the world and coming off a silver-medal finish in the FIVB World League. Poland swept the United States in the final to win its first title in the international event.
“Any pressure that we feel is for sure self-induced, as we’ve had sort of a mountaintop experience in ‘08 and lots of peaks and valleys over the last four years,” Priddy said. “The world is not really looking at our team and saying ‘They could be a medal favorite.’ But we’re confident that when we play to the best of our abilities, we can beat anybody in the world. We’ve proven that, but not at that level over time. That’s the next step.”
As a kid, Priddy’s first exposure to volleyball was in a summer school PE class. After playing the sport at Mountain Pointe High School, he went to Loyola Marymount where he was first-team All-American his senior year. He graduated from LMU in 2000 with a degree in communication studies.
Priddy was named an alternate for the Sydney Olympics before earning a starting role for the Athens Games, where the U.S. men finished fourth.
Like many volleyball players at his level, Priddy makes a living by playing professionally overseas. He has spent the last four seasons in Russia.
When he’s not on the court, Priddy and his family live in Southern California, near the U.S. team training facilities in Anaheim. He and his wife, Lindsay, welcomed their first child, son Caden, in 2010.
“It’s given me a broader perspective,” Priddy said, referring to fatherhood. “It’s sort of a check to make sure I’m living for things that have value, long-term value. And I think it translates on the volleyball court, because at the end of the day, all you can do is your best. You go out there and compete as hard as you can for yourself, your family, your teammates and, in our case, our country.”
A congenial ambassador for volleyball, Priddy also is involved in an Internet radio show called “The NET Live.”
“He is a consummate professional,” Knipe said. “He goes about his business every day, serious about how he takes care of himself, and the mental approach to the game. The way he comes into the gym every single day, mindful of the areas he wants to get better at, and better yet, the areas the team needs to get better at, he always accepts those challenges head on.
“He’s been around for a few Olympic squads himself and he’s evolved from a young athletic player to one of the most respected outside hitters in the world.”
There are 12 teams competing in the men’s volleyball competition at the Olympics. The United States is in the same pool with Brazil, currently No. 1 in the world, perennial powerhouse Russia, Serbia, Germany and Tunisia. The U.S. has started 2-0 in pool play after a win over Germany on Tuesday.
The other pool includes Italy, Poland, Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia and host Britain.
The United States will face off with No. 1 Brazil on Thursday and will compete on opposite days with the women before the medal matches set for Aug. 12.
Since volleyball became an Olympic sport in 1964, the U.S. men have won three gold medals, in 1984, 1988 and 2008. The men won bronze in 1992.