Brian Thornton Blog: Talkin' Volleyball

By Brian Thornton | Feb. 24, 2012, 1:17 p.m. (ET)

NOTE: Brian Thornton is writing a blog for Mizuno, a key USA Volleyball sponsor and partner. Thornton is a Mizuno-sponsored athlete and will periodically provide insights into being a U.S. Men's National Team athlete while representing Mizuno. For more information Mizuno, visit

Feb. 24, 2012

When the topic of volleyball is brought up in conversation, and being an American professional volleyball player at that, there is really only one idea that I hear repeatedly over and over again (I love a topic sentence where redundancy is King).

That one idea is said in a variety of different ways… a professional league in the USA, more fans at domestic games, more college volleyball, more publicity, more coverage, more recognition, more tv, just more volleyball anywhere possible, etc.

It's basically the majority idea of those involved with volleyball that expansion is necessary. Expansion seems to be the ultimate goal for volleyball. And while I think that's a natural idea or thought to have, I think that people don't really stop and ask themselves why? Why is expansion of the sport, or growing of the game so important? What is there to gain? Why are we not happy with the way the sport is right now?

Some of the best people I have met in my life are what we consider to be volleyball people. It's a community… a family. I have seen people in this community help out people they didn't even personally know in some extreme ways and the only thing they really had in common was volleyball. It's a culture that I think can be easily lost with excessive expansion and popularity.

It's a throwback sport.

The best volleyball players in the country are accessible, approachable and available. I have seen Clay Stanley stay for over an hour after matches making sure that absolutely anyone in the crowd that wanted an autograph would get one. Meanwhile, NBA stars duck fans waiting outside the arena to get to the bus. The popularity and money ultimately breed a culture of ego and greed.

There may be no cameras, flashing lights, or Will Ferrell player introductions in volleyball. There may be no front page headlines, sports center highlights or tmz articles about a volleyball player dating a celebrity. But I'm okay with that…because I think if volleyball was like that in America, I wouldn't have met the kind of people I call my best friends today.

It may be a small, third-tier, culture sport but I'm glad that it is.

Until Next Time,

Brian Thornton