Question and Answer with Todd Rogers

April 30, 2014, 7 a.m. (ET)

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring  2010 issue.
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Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers, 36, is one of the game’s most well-rounded players. In college at UC Santa Barbara, he was a highly regarded setter, and he was an assistant coach for the UCSB men’s team from 2000 to 2005. On the beach, he and partner Phil Dalhausser have been America’s top men’s team since 2007, winning 45 of the 85 AVP and FIVB tournaments they’ve entered. That included one very big win at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where they defeated Brazil’s Marcio Araujo and Fabio Luiz in the championship match to take home the sport’s most coveted prize. The 6-2 Rogers, who has established himself as one of the world’s top passers and defenders, recently decided he would continue playing international volleyball and go after a second Olympic gold medal in London.

VolleyballUSA: You thought serious about retiring from international volleyball at the end of last season. What made you stay? 

These days, Todd plays with partner Theo Brunner.
They just won gold in Grand Cayman Island
on April 27, 2014. (Photo/NORCECA) 

Rogers: The number one thing was my wife, Melissa. We were talking one day, and I said, ‘I don’t really know what I want to do.’ And she said, ‘I think you should go for it. You’re healthy enough. You’ve got a great partner. And you’re still playing really well.’”

That made sense to you.
Yeah. If I had a debilitating knee injury or should injury, then maybe it would be time to hang it up. But that’s not the case. I may get more sore these days after working out, but I feel pretty good.

In terms of training, is there anything you wish you’d done more of when you were younger?
I always regret not playing football in high school, not because of the football part of it, but because that’s most people’s introduction to weight lifting. In college, I used to scoff at anyone who lifted weights. I’d say, ‘You keep lifting weights, and I’m still a lot better than you.’ But I wish I’d gotten into weights and strength exercises earlier. I didn’t start doing a weight program until I was 30, and that’s important for athletes because it strengthens areas where you could get injured. I had good technique when I was younger, so it limited the chances of me getting injured, but people who don’t have quite as good technique may have a greater chance of injury.

What exercises are most important for young players?
A lot of kids now have already taken quite a few swings by the time they’re in high school. They should do shoulder exercises. I recommend using bands to warm up your should before playing. It only takes a few minutes, and it strengthens your shoulder and makes it less prone to injuries.

But it’s important not to overdo the strength training at the expense of playing volleyball, right?
Right. You see players who are in great shape that don’t have great technique. You have to make time to work on skills. The first two things I did with Phil were to get him on a good program and then go down to the beach on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and work for two hours at a time on fundamentals. That’s all we did. It was just passing, passing, passing, setting, setting, setting.

Todd at the Grand Cayman Islands, April 2014.
Three keys to better setting?

One: Get your feet there. Two: Square up. On the beach, you should square up to where you want to set the ball. Indoors, I tell players to square up to the left peg because you want to be deceptive. But on the beach, you’re only setting your partner. Three: Cover the hitter. People often forget this. Your partner is going to get blocked sometimes, so you need to cover every time.

Everybody recognizes Phil because he’s big and bald. Do you ever feel like the invisible partner?
Not at all. In fact, I’m quite happy with that. One thing I really like about beach volleyball is that you can win an Olympic gold medal and people don’t recognize you.

How important is footwork on the beach for passing?
It’s probably even more important on the beach than it is in indoor volleyball. If you want to pass well on the beach, you’ve gotta move your feet. For one thing, there are only two people. And it’s more difficult to move in the sand, so you have to be prepared to take extra steps to get in a good position so you’re not taking balls on the side.

What’s a good example of a situation on the beach where it’s essential to use good footwork?
On shor serves, a lot of players are still moving forward when they pass the ball. You need to work hard to get your feet there, stop, pass the ball and then start your backward motion to get ready for an approach. If you’re stationary, the pass will be better and your approach will be better, too.

Finish this sentence: This season, Phil and I plan to…
Defend our AVP title and hopefully earn the overall FIVB No. 1 ranking.

Looking ahead to London, what are the odds of you guys winning back-to-back golds like Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings?
I’m not much of an odds maker, but I think If I remain healthy, they’re pretty good. The odds have a lot to do with whether I remain healthy. That’s the key.

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring  2010 issue.

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Spring  2010 issue.
To subscribe, visit this page for more information.