Our 40th Anniversary season was one to remember, especially as we launched three unmatched AVP veterans into post-AVP life. John Hyden, Emily Stockman, and Ed Ratledge have all been AVP Champs and staples on the AVP tour. Now each adds one more accolade as they enter the annals of retired AVP legends.
John “Iron Man” Hyden bade farewell to the AVP at an emotional Stadium Court ceremony during the Manhattan Beach Open. Surrounded by 30-plus friends and family, Hyden took the mic and thanked the AVP staff, former partners, fans, family and, most importantly, his wife Robyn. His two decades, Johnny Hyden has written AVP history that may never be broken: oldest winner (45 years, 9 months, 22 days at the Hermosa Beach Open in 2018 with Theo Brunner) and oldest AVP finalist (50 years old at the Central Florida Open in 2022 with Tri Bourne).
Hyden is moving on from competition, but volleyball is life, still. A few years ago, Hyden moved to Franklin, Tennessee and opened Hyden Beach. a 6-court beach club. He’s there nearly all the time, coaching and mentoring the next generation. Hyden has his hands full with middle and high schoolers and multiple adult leagues.
As he told us, Hyden is looking forward to spending more time with his kids Sam, a high school senior, and Jack, a ten-year-old sports enthusiast who’s always down to play some volleyball. The family is headed on a fall break vacation soon, and it’s the first trip that Hyden won’t be playing or coaching. Ever.
“My daughter was like, ‘Dad, when you retire, will you be able to do stuff? Like when we go to the lake, can you jump off the cliff and go jet skiing?’ And I was like, ‘Well, ya, I guess I can do anything now.’” Without needing to be in peak competitive shape, Iron Man can take a little more risk with the family.
Ed Ratledge, a 23-year AVP vet, realized in 2023 that he was ready for change. It started with a noticeable lack of the energy it takes to be an AVP athlete. Ed hadn’t trained as much during the cold, rainy 2022-2023 SoCal winter. Partners were few and far between and didn’t live in his Huntington Beach, CA. “None of the pieces were really in place,” Ed says. “So, it was just time to move on. I look at [retirement] in a very holistic life sense. I was not going to create a thriving family or business being tired from training all the time and emotionally exhausted from the ups and downs of that. Now I’ve got a better family situation and definitely a better business situation.”
Ed has run his juniors and Adults volleyball programs – VolleyOC (soon to be rebranded as Legendary Volleyball) – throughout his AVP career. He coaches seven adult classes per week, summer camps in four cities throughout the OC, and multiple youth and adult tournaments year-round. He and fellow tournament director Andrew Bennet are hosting the Surf City Collegiate Pairs Championship Collegiate featuring 20 of the best NCAA Women’s programs. “I have a lot more energy to spend; I don’t show up to classes with no energy. And my classes are absolutely thriving because of that. The business is blowing up.”
Ed has also been able to focus on house flipping in Mobile, AL, something he took up a year and a half ago. “I actually bought my first house on the same day I practiced with Casey Patterson for the first time [in Spring 2022].” Like Hyden, he’s enjoying the extra time with his wife and kids. While his former partners and opponents battled in Chicago – the final Gold Series tournament of the year – Ratledge took his family to Yosemite, paddleboarding on a lake with his kids.
Did he miss volleyball? “I try not to think about it much,” Ed says. “I prefer to be present rather than looking forward or backward. But when I choose to think about my experience as a player, I miss fan interactions, and building new friendships with partners. The one specific moment I miss most is walking through the crowd surrounding a big important match I’m about to play, being acknowledged and acknowledging those who are excited for me to be there. That sense of connection and that love I feel from those folks who came to watch me play isn’t possible to duplicate anywhere else.
Emily Stockman is another AVP champ and a decade-long staple of the AVP who is moving on. Known as one of the strongest athletes on Tour, it’s no surprise that she’s turning her sights to more competition. “I’m gonna get into boxing,” Emily says with palpable energy. “I am so freaking excited.” Emily has a friend in the industry who is connecting her with all his people in the fighting world. “Hopefully, I can get in the ring and start sparring here soon.”
If boxing weren’t hardcore enough, Emily also plans to get into motocross. She’s been riding since she was a kid, following in the footsteps of her dad, who was an amateur competitor. Now, she’ll be training men and women in the sport while also allowing herself to ride a little more than she did when she was playing pro volleyball (not that she stayed away for too long). “I thought retired life would be super chill, and it’s not. I’m kinda all over the place right now.”
In addition to two new sports, Emily is still invested in beach volleyball. She’s coaching with USAV, spending a few days a week pouring into the developing women and men in the sport. “It’s been cool to really give back to the sport, the girls, especially because they all have so many questions. It’s been nice to not look at them as competitors anymore.”
We’ll miss them all in the coming seasons, but are overjoyed to see each happy, fulfilled, and looking toward the next phases of their lives. But a little sprinkle of beach volleyball really does seem to be the key to moving on.
Photos: A-Game Photography / Mpu Dinani