The Crazy Road to Success

By Deb Stadick | July 28, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

Deb Stadick

Intern, Communications

Phone: 719-228-6800

E-mail: deb.stadick@usav.org

 

DES MOINES, Iowa (July 27, 2012)-- Some people have been playing volleyball since before they could walk. Others discovered their passion for the sport later in life. But everyone has their own volleyball story. And for Alex Pia of Johns Creek, Ga., his story is as unique as it is inspiring.

 

Alex Pia (Johns Creek, Ga.) grew up in a volleyball family. His mother played at Georgia State and then the University of South Carolina, and his father started following the sport after the U.S. men’s team claimed gold in the 1984 Olympic Games.

 

Despite his volleyball background, Pia’s early high school years were spent focusing on baseball and football. While he has had a successful baseball career, pitching his team to a final-four appearance at the 2012 Georgia State Championship, he stopped playing football after his freshman year of high school.

 

After quitting football, Pia recalls, “I had a lot more free time.”

And it was a good thing he did.

 

One November afternoon in 2010, as Pia sat on his couch watching the Atlanta Falcons game on TV, he received a text message from a random number.

 

“Come play volleyball.”

 

Instead of ignoring the completely random text message, Pia simply responded, “Sure. When and where?”

 

He went. He played. He fell in love.

 

“From that point on, I never looked back and never thought of quitting volleyball,” Pia said. “At the beginning I wasn’t much, I was tall, skinny and could jump. It took me four months of training before I started to get good. Ever since then, I try to improve every time I touch the ball.”

 

Brian Teague, the Southern Storm Volleyball Club Coach who sent texted Pia that November day, convinced Pia to join the club team and has served as his coach and mentor ever since.

 

Pia credits Teague with all the success and opportunities he has experienced in the volleyball world.

 

“Brian Teague and John Friddle are two of the best coaches around,” Pia said. “Coming from a state where less than 1% of all guys thinks about playing volleyball is tough for Brian and John.  They can take any athlete and make them into a volleyball player.”

 

When Pia tried out for and made the 2012 U.S. Boys’ Youth National Volleyball Team, it was clear he was no longer just a tall, skinny kid with good ups. He had set himself apart as one of the top athletes in his age division. The team was the first Pia had made in the High Performance pipeline.

 

Pia could not wait to compete with the group of elite athletes at the NORCECA Youth Continental Championship in Tijuana, Mexico.

 

Pia recalls, “I was really excited to compete with and play against with some of the best volleyball players my age.”

 

The road to success is never easy, and Pia hit his first trial shortly after making the team.

 

“The moment when the doctor said I had mono, I just felt completely deflated and became weak,” Pia said. “Not being able to play for the USA was a huge disappointment to me.”

 

Though he was crushed, Pia embraced the reality of his situation and instead of letting disappointment get the best of him. He turned his focus instead to preparing for the 2012 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships (HPC). In addition to making the BYNT, Pia was also selected for the HPC with the Boys’ Youth A2 program.

 

“From the point I realized I would not be able to compete at NORCECA until now, I began to focus on A2 and getting my body back into shape,” Pia said. “I lost a total of 14 LBS. during my stint with mono.  Mentally I was eager to play and train.  Physically I needed to get my legs and shoulder back to where they were before I got sick.”

 

By the time the HPCs rolled around, Pia was ready to go. Though he was not yet back to full strength, he pushed himself hard during the training block and tried to soak in all feedback his camp coaches had to offer.

 

“This is my first High Performance experience. I really like my court coaches. Krisjanis Berzins and Carry have helped me with the technical aspects of my game. Because I can’t go as hard or push myself as hard physically, I have been able to focus on improving other aspects of my game. I’ve learned to be a better teammate for sure.”

 

Pia also added, “Playing around these high-level athletes has been great. Everyone is so good and we all push each other to improve.”