Volleyball has defined my life and given me almost everything I have – my wife, my son, our life, and some of my closest and best friends. I rub shoulders with Olympians and some of the all-time greats. I never thought I would be here. I shouldn’t be here, but I am. And I want more.
When I was 8, I remember very explicitly finishing a swimming training session and speaking with my coach. I concluded that 2012 would be the perfect Olympics for me to attend. I would be in my prime, 21, as a swimmer. My dream to be an Olympian took shape in an old swimming pool called Lawside Academy in Dundee, Scotland. I knew that the Olympics would take place in London, and a home Games would be amazing. You don’t realize how serious I was when I foresaw that happening.
Swimming wasn’t it, though. Turns out I didn’t really enjoy swimming; 25m was too long a distance to stay interested. So I started trying my hand at all the sports. All of them. Unusually, for a young Brit, football (soccer) never took, though I tried at local clubs and also at St. Johnstone.
My first sporting love ended up being rugby. The idea of a team really resonated with me. I favored the Full Back position – the last line of defense but also a key part of an offense. I was small, I was skinny, and I was an idiot, but I didn’t realize I was small and skinny due to my idiocy. I am sure I got concussed more than a couple of times. Maybe because I often made some last-ditch tackle and then woke up asking my teammates if my attempt was successful.
I loved that I had teammates who fought for me, and I, in turn, would give everything I could to see them succeed. Even with all my fool-hardy, full-hearted (maybe ill-advised) tackles, I never sustained a serious injury. One broken nose, but my coach made me keep playing, so it doesn’t count. I also played on an exceptional team; we won the Scottish Cup for both our age group and the one above. My tenacity paid off; I was named MVP two years in a row. My team was very successful, and my participation on that team helped me make it to the junior National team trials.
At the time of the National trials, I had also been dabbling in beach volleyball. Our summer holidays in Florida with my Dad playing as much as he could inevitably had me trying my hand at it. Once I “mastered” peppering, I tried Indoor Volleyball and played libero/defensive specialist in our Junior National League. I don’t remember enjoying it.
I was a nobody; well, really, I was worse than that. I was a drill killer. During an in-house scrimmage, our three teams played a round-robin. But for that tournament, my coach didn’t assign me a team. Instead, I got to throw a ball at the backboard and then try and ‘pass’ the ball through the hoop. After two hours of this, while three teams played competitive volleyball, I wondered if this sport was for me.
But I kept at it, kept attending training and trying to get better. It took me two years to get onto a starting lineup, and in that time, I had decided that beach volleyball may be the route for me. I had also decided that high school wasn’t for me; in Scotland, you can opt to leave high school and go straight to university. I applied to the school that had the Team Great Britain program. I found out I had been accepted a few days into the first week of school; I promptly left home at 16 to start on this new path.
I was at the University of Bath for two years as part of the GB setup, but I never broke through to the senior program. I competed as a junior at the World Under 21s and University Beach Volleyball Championships, never really having any breakout moments. Mostly, I managed to win one game in the pool each time.
My university lost its funding as Team GB turned its focus onto the teams that would be competing at the London Olympics. So I did what felt right: I returned to Indoor. I played for Simon Loftus at Leeds University, and we had a stellar season. I had advanced to the Outside Hitter position, but on that team, they moved me to Libero. Our team had an incredible year; we won everything we entered, only losing one match all season. That season gave me the courage to call the GB Indoor Team; they made me the alternate Libero in the run-up to the Olympics.
This was my foray into an indoor career, where I would bounce between England and the Netherlands. I won everything there was to win in both countries. I also finished schooling at Northumbria University, where I met my wife, Courtney Kidd-Kadlubek.
She and I spent many, many years living apart; we lived together during our first year of dating, but each year after, we proceeded to move further away. After seven years of very long-distance dating, we decided to move together to the USA. Courtney is from Santa Barbara, and I spent every summer of our relationship visiting her there. During summers, I played in CBVA tournaments and even tried my hand at the 2019 Manhattan Open qualifier with Jake Dietrich. We were seeded 122nd and lost our first match against Max Martin and Tomas Goldsmith, 21-18, 21-19.
About three years ago, my wife and I fully committed to my pursuit of Beach Volleyball and playing on the AVP full-time. Since then, I have had a few tournament wins, for which I can’t thank my partners enough.
Every day, I am amazed at where I am and the community I am a part of. I can’t believe that the people and athletes I have idolized recognize me and are open to training with me. Today, I trained with Alison and joked around with Mike Dodd.
Not too bad for a wee Scottish lad who is just a tad loud and obnoxious on a volleyball court.
Photo Credit: Greg Eimers