God has used 'ups & downs' of volleyball, U.S. captain says
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tim Ellsworth, editor of BP Sports and director of news and media relations at Union University, is in London to cover the 2012 Olympics in tandem with Baptist Press' London bureau. Baptist Press will publish features about Christian athletes in the Olympics, recap results of their competition and cover Baptist initiatives to share the Gospel during the Summer Games and in London's rich cultural milieu.
LONDON (BP) -- In one way, Reid Priddy hopes that the London Olympics won't be a repeat of what happened in Beijing.
Four years ago, tragedy struck the men's volleyball squad when Todd Bachman, the father-in-law of team coach Hugh McCutcheon, was stabbed and killed at the Drum Tower in Beijing shortly after the Opening Ceremony.
In another sense, however, Priddy would take the same result from the competition itself: the men's team won gold in 2008 and Priddy, now the team's captain, thinks he and his teammates can do it again.
"Gold is certainly possible," Priddy said. "I don't think the rest of the world thinks it's probable, and that's OK. They didn't think that before."
London marks Priddy's third Olympics experience, and at age 34, he knows he's in the latter years of his professional volleyball career. But regardless of when the end comes, Priddy knows that the Lord has guided his steps, deepened his faith and molded him along the way.
"I find that God has really used volleyball and the ups and downs and the learning aspects to shape my character, and it's a great arena for that," Priddy said. "It's a great arena to learn how to be a team player, how to put a team's goal above any personal agenda, how to work with other people."
The son of a minister, Priddy grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn't until college and the years shortly thereafter when he grew in his faith. While attending Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, a Jesuit Catholic university, Priddy was part of a campus ministry and "was able to see God do some cool things with a sort of ragtag group of believers," he said.
Immediately after college he spent two years in Europe, a time in which he said he developed a great fellowship with the Lord. Prior to his first Olympics experience in 2004, Priddy had a revelation.
"Right before the Athens Olympics, I really felt God giving me permission to be a fierce competitor," he said. "I love to compete, and I love to try to win."
He said that freedom that he felt from God to play fiercely and passionately set the stage for the rest of his career.
"I just try to be the best volleyball player I can be, and the best teammate I can be," Priddy said. "I think that falls in line with what I'm called to do."
Priddy thinks and hopes that London won't be his last Olympics. He's confident he can compete at a high level for another four years and perhaps make a return to the world's biggest athletic stage in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. He admits that he's apprehensive about life after volleyball.
"My relationship with the Lord is so tied to my journey as an athlete," Priddy said. "It almost scares me to think of when that's not there, what is it going to look like?"
Regardless, Priddy knows that God is faithful and will work in His life, whatever he may be doing and wherever he may end up.
"I'm extremely thankful and grateful for that," Priddy said, "that I've never been in this alone."