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Setting The Stage: John Kremer & U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team Are Coming Off Strong Performance At Worlds

By Sean Shapiro | Dec. 07, 2022, 1:26 p.m. (ET)

John Kremer competes during the men's sitting volleyball gold-medal game at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

John Kremer wants to get back to the Paralympic Games two years from now in Paris, and if the U.S. men’s sitting volleyball team qualifies, the veteran will likely be going at a different position. 

Kremer has been a libero throughout his career, including playing that role at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016, but he recently moved to setter for Team USA.

It’s a change in mentality for Kremer, moving from a defensive specialist to an offensive distributor, but one that he says has fit him well thus far. 

“I think it’s a good spot for me, it’s new,” Kremer said. “It’s different, but I think it’s a spot I’m learning and figuring out.”

For Kremer, and the rest of the U.S. team, it’s a positive time for American sitting volleyball. There was disappointment after failing to qualify for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, but the U.S. men recently finished sixth at the world championships, the best-ever finish for the program.

“You have to look at it as a success because it’s the highest placement we’ve had at the team, but at the same time we are also a little bit disappointed because we didn’t place a little bit better,” Kremer said. “I think the team in general feels like we could have place one, maybe two places higher in the standings.”

At the world championships, the U.S. fell to Germany in the fifth-place match but also reached that match with it’s first-ever victory against Ukraine. Team USA also had wins against Japan, Serbia and Iraq during the tournament.

“Right now I think we are really leaning toward growing on that and the short-term goals,” Kremer said. “With Paris coming up in the next year or two, our focus is on zonals, where we will have to take on an extremely tough Canadian team and a Brazilian team. We know it’s a tough road ahead.” 

Kremer served nine years in the U.S. Navy as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class. He was injured in Afghanistan in 2010 when he stepped on a land mine and lost both legs below the knee.

John Kremer celebrates after competing in the men's sitting volleyball gold-medal game at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

A native of Buford, Georgia, he didn’t have a volleyball history, but he was trying to get back into competitive sports and discovered sitting volleyball through the Navy Wounded Warrior team. 

“I got picked up in that and got started on that in 2011 or 2012,” Kremer said. “Our Navy coach was one of the (U.S.) development team coaches, and he told me to come out and try out for the development team. A couple years go by and I’m looking for more something to do, and I gave it a shot.”

Kremer had some instant success with the sport, he said, and around 2015 he was invited to his first national team camp. 

“We were going to be scrimmaging Canada and I go in for a camp and everyone has a jersey on, uniforms on, and I’m just on the bench with a T-shirt and shorts and the coach told me to go play libero,” Kremer said. “And from there on, I was invited back out to camps and started playing with the national team.”

He’s since gone on to compete in several international tournaments with the national team, including the Parapan American Games Lima 2019, where the U.S. won a silver medal.

When you keep getting invited to national team camps, you must realize you are pretty good at it, right?

“I think I’m still waiting for that moment to feel like that,” Kremer said with a laugh. “But seriously, when I had a chance to get to more camps it became something I started workout out more, learning the game and getting to know it more.”

And now, he’s learning the new position as a setter. 

“I was kind of the key back-row player,” Kremer said. “They moved me into a setting role and I’ve taken what I’ve learned in that libero role as a leadership kind of spot and I’m still learning front row, I’m learning where I need to be and where I need to be in a position to help my team … but learning for me is nothing new, I’ve been learning on the fly since I’ve been playing volleyball now.”

And if things go well for Kremer and Team USA, he’ll be on the flight to the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.

Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro is a sportswriter based in Detroit. He is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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