Name: Ryan J. Kenny
High School (Graduation Year): Cinnaminson High School, 2010
High School Accolades: 1st Team All-South Jersey, 2nd Team All-State
High School Club Team: South Jersey Volleyball Club
College Career (Graduation Year): Montclair State University 2014
Major: B.A. Jurisprudence + B.A. Philosophy
Professional Volleyball Career:
– Team Durham Volleyball Club (UK)
– England Senior National Team (UK)
– Team Freedom Volleyball Club (USA)
– TV Bliesen E.V. (Germany)
– MVK Lokomotíva Zvolen (Slovak Republic)
What made you choose volleyball?
My mother forced me to attend high school volleyball tryouts because I was a soccer player most of the year but did nothing during the spring. Reluctantly, I went to tryouts with a group of other high school freshman, and I was hooked instantly. Thanks mom!
What is your advice to high school players in general?
If you love the game commit to it 100% on and off the court. Effort goes a long way in the gym, but being a good athlete and teammate means finding a balance – you can’t give 100% on the court and 50% in the classroom or in other aspects of your life. Being well-rounded as a person, not just an athlete, contributes more to your athletic success than you know. Give your full effort both on and off the court.
Advice to the guys who play your position?
Setters are the quarterbacks! You have to be a mental and physical leader on and off the court. It’s your offense, you run the whole machine, so step up to the plate and act like it! Always remember, it’s about balance; demand more of your teammates, but in an encouraging way. Be confident and assertive, but in a way that makes others want to follow your lead. Speak to your teammates with conviction and strictness, but in a way that makes them want to listen. You’re the glue that holds the team together, embrace that role.
Passing is not a “passive” action. Passing is an active action. It’s not something that the ball does to us, it’s something that we do to the ball. If you are letting the serve come to you, you’re letting it control you. YOU go pass the ball, don’t let it dictate the relationship. And this sometimes is a physical fix (take early steps, get your feet set early, be aggressive and finish to the target), but for me, it’s a mental strategy. Commit to being in charge of this interaction mentally.
“Care less and aim up”. When we are afraid of something (in this case, a 50mph spike), our body naturally tenses up. Our muscles tighten and our movements become sporadic and spastic and uncontrolled. And these qualities are not good if we are trying to control a ball! When you pepper with your partner in training, your body is relaxed and your movements are fluid. That is where your control is found. So in defense, we have to channel this sense of calmness and not tense up. When we are loose and unafraid, our reactions are quicker and more productive. Defense is an attitude.
You can’t always score. Ideally, we want to score on each ball, but sometimes the set isn’t great, or sometimes the block is strong. There are many components that can affect our ability to hit a winning shot. But 99% of the time there’s something productive we can do with the ball, even if it means giving the other team a free ball. I know that sounds crazy, but a free ball to the other team provides your defense with a chance to block, or make a defensive play and turn it into another offensive chance. But what good is a ball hit out of bounds? Pick your battles. Score when you are confident you can score, and if you aren’t, make a productive choice and give your team a chance to stay in the point.
In contrast with passing, blocking is not really something we DO but rather something that happens TO us. We do not block a spike, so much as an attacker gets blocked BY us. There’s a difference. Your job as a blocker is to take space away from the attacker, to limit their scoring options, and allow your defense to make a play behind you. So go up strong and be disciplined. If you do block the ball, it’s a little bit because you blocked well, and mostly because the hitter has made an error by hitting into you. But if you allow your ego to control your block movement and you start swatting at balls, moving your hands, playing like an individual instead of a teammate, you’re lessening your defense’s chance to make a play, and you’re also making yourself a liability. An undisciplined blocker is an attacker’s best friend. Stick to the team strategy, and just be a wall.
Serving is the one moment in this sport where you are in control of the entire game. You can score a point, you can lose a point, you can singlehandedly disrupt an entire offense, or you can practically give away a free ball. It’s a powerful and serious part of the game and you should treat it seriously. At high levels, serving and passing wins matches. It doesn’t matter who hits harder or jumps higher, all that matters is who served and passed better that day. Reid Priddy was an outside attacker on the 2008 USA Olympic gold medal team (currently an AVP player), and before each and every serve he would say to himself, “Just me and the ball” (you can find video of this). He’s blocking out all outside emotions and influences, and just focusing on his task at hand. It’s the one time in the game where it’s all about you. Serving is personal and powerful. Every single time you’re at the line, get into your zone and serve your best ball.