Manager, Media Relations and Publications
ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 25, 2008) - When Tom Hoff took over as team captain of the U.S. Men's National Volleyball Team in 2005, he quickly found out the title was not honorary.
"It involves a lot more work behind the scenes that people don't know about," Hoff said. "Most of the work is done away from the scenes, behind closed doors."
That includes acting as a liaison between players and coaches and keeping the team focused on its most important goal for 2008 - winning a medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing - while not letting it get caught up in day-to-day conflicts with coaches or each other.
"We're all fighting for spots, but you don't want a mentality where you are destroying each other to get to the team," Hoff said. "You need a balance between competitive fire and accomplishing your goal."
It can't be forgotten that Hoff, 34, is also one of those players with that competitive fire himself. The 6-foot-8 middle blocker from Park Ridge, Ill., has been on the U.S. Men's Team since 1996 and is looking to compete in his third Olympic in August in Beijing.
"First and foremost, I'm a middle blocker. I have to perform my position first," Hoff said.
In 2007, he finished the season with 76 kills, 35 scoring blocks and 112 total points in 66 sets played. More importantly, it is clear that his presence on the team is still required in important matches.
At the 2007 World Cup, where Olympic berths were on the line, the U.S. Men opened the tournament with a three-set victory over heavily favored Brazil, then were upset in their next two matches by Puerto Rico and Spain.
After the second loss, Hoff called a meeting of the players to help them re-focus.
Hoff started the next match against Bulgaria and played all five sets, scoring 12 points as the U.S. Men defeated the Bulgarians and started on a seven-match winning streak that put them in a position to finish third when they played the final match against Russia.
Although they lost that match, they later qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games at the NORCECA Continental Olympic Qualifier in January in Puerto Rico.
"He is a wonderful volleyball player," U.S. Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) said. "He has a lot of experience. He attacks with a lot of range and is a good read blocker."
Hoff's skills are respected in other countries as well as he has played in professional leagues in Japan, Greece and, most recently, Russia.
Hoff grew up playing volleyball in the Chicago area, following his older brother into the sport. He is excited to return to his hometown June 20-21 for World League matches against Bulgaria (the U.S. Men will play at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, a suburb of Chicago), but knows there will not be much time for a family reunion.
"I'm going there to work. It's a job," Hoff said. "The bottom line is I have a lot of responsibility with the team. That does not always mesh with seeing family and hanging out. I'll have time to see them after Beijing."
When Hoff does have spare time, he spends it with wife, Sandy, and daughters Tatum Bella, born in 2003, Ella Aniston, born in 2005 and Ava Antonia, born in 2007. He calls the atmosphere at his house "controlled chaos."
But the captain of the U.S Men's National Team takes it all in his very long stride.
Upcoming U.S. Events: The U.S. Men will be playing the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Exhibition for Volleyball against Argentina at 7 p.m. on May 27 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif. Go to www.usavolleyball.org/National/2008_MNTOlympicExhibition.asp for more information.
Tickets for the FIVB World League matches in Hoffman Estates, Ill. (June 20-21 vs. Bulgaria), Green Bay, Wis. (June 27-28 vs. Finland) and Bloomington, Ill. (July 11-12 vs. Spain) are now on sale. To purchase tickets, go to the USA Volleyball World League site at www.usavolleyball.org/national/08WL.asp.