Like many of you, I’m planning on kicking back on the couch tonight and watching the Olympic opening ceremonies from London. While at 7:30 P.M. Pacific Time, NBC’s cameras will undoubtedly be fixed on Lebron James, Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin, I’ll be searching instead for Jake Gibb, Donald Suxho, April Ross, Kerri Walsh, Reid Priddy, Todd Rogers and a host of other USA Volleyball Olympians. For a volleyball nutjob such as myself, these two weeks represent the NCAA basketball tournament, Super Bowl, World Series and NBA finals all rolled into one. Coming off an unprecedented U.S. volleyball showing in Beijing’s 2008 Games (Mens indoor gold, Women’s indoor silver, Beach golds for both,) I absolutely cannot wait to get going in 2012. This year’s Olympics is even more special than usual for me because—through some combination of divine luck and the herculean efforts of a great many people—I had the opportunity to get involved with one of these teams’ qualification.
Many months ago due to a scheduling conflict, the NORCECA (regional) Olympic qualification tournament for men’s indoor was hastily moved from its original venue in Puerto Rico to the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State University. Team USA was going to have their penultimate opportunity to make it to London on home soil—around the corner from my house! With the enthusiastic support of USA Men’s assistant coach and Volleyball1on1 contributor Gary Sato, Team Liaison Cindy Nyhoff and Team Photographer (and cousin to gold medalist David Lee) Suzie Houseworth, I set about planning a pre-party for the event that would turn out USA volleyball fans by the hundreds. For more on the Vol-B-Que, click here, but if you’d rather watch it than read it, here’s a fantastic video recap of all the festivities. My personal favorite moment was when the entire party moved from the rugby field to the Pyramid’s back entrance to greet Team USA as they entered the arena. The chants of “USA! USA!” were deafening and the smiles on the players’ faces were priceless. And it worked. They qualified for the Games that day and tonight they’ll be walking alongside America’s best in the opening ceremonies. While I’m positively bummed that I can’t be in London to cheer on all our Olympic volleyball teams, I feel like all of the Vol-B-Que attendees share a little piece of the Team USA story that plays out there. Best of luck to every one of them and everyone else who wears the red, white and blue. GO USA! Have a terrific 2012 Games.