A bonus from our time last week to the American Sports Center in Anaheim to watch the USA women train was a quick visit with international men’s star Matt Anderson.
Like many of the Olympic veterans early in a new quad, Anderson is taking time off after a busy year in which the USA won bronze in Brazil and then he headed back to Kazan, Russia.
“I had about four weeks off after the Olympics before I headed to Russia, and during that time there’s not a lot of relaxing time. There’s a lot of press you’ve got to do and people are pulling you in all different directions, but four weeks away from the game was enough to get that fire back and want to get back on the court and start playing again.”
After Brazil the former Penn State standout said he was emotionally tired and a lot of his time at home in upstate New York was spent with family and friends “and just chllin,’ he said. “I was watching sports and not even retaining the information. In one ear and out the other.”
Last fall he returned to his pro team, Zenit Kazan. Kazan is a city with a population of about 1.2 million in southwest Russia about 500 miles west of Moscow.
“I was there training about a week and then we went back to Brazil for the World Cup championships where we made it to the final again but lost to Sada Cruzeiro again.
“Then it was back to Russia and the start of the Russian league, the Russian Cup, Champions League, and we went undefeated from that point. We won everything again. We won the Russian League for the fourth year in a row, won the Russian Cup (beating the Shoji brothers) for the third year in a row and won Champions League for three years in a row. Pretty dominant team.”
To say the least, since Zenit Kazan only lost two sets after December, winning the Champions League on May 1.
“After that I came back home and had three weeks where I did nothing,” he said with a smile. “Didn’t step foot in a gym, didn’t think about volleyball, just a good, relaxing, decompressing time.
“And then I decided I needed to get off the couch and start doing some things, so I came out here to work out.”
Anderson said he’ll be back “100 percent. I’ll be back for the Grand Champions Cup in Japan and then also the qualification for the World Championships, which is being held in Colorado.”
He’s an interested observer of the USA men’s team that’s currently competing in the FIVB World League in Poland.
“I’m watching all the games and talking to the guys here and there,” Anderson said. “They’re a young team and when you’re young you need experience and sometimes you need to get smacked around a little to know the jump isn’t easy.”
The USA men’s roster currently includes veterans David Smith and Erik Shoji, who are no doubt using their experience to help the new players.
“I relied heavily on guys like Sean Rooney and Clay Stanley when I first came to the team, because they were still playing,” Anderson said. “And David Lee and guys who understood where I was and didn’t let me just hang out there. They held me to a standard. And you grow that way.
“I think (head coach) John (Speraw) has a really good mindset on that and even though I’m not there he’s going to keep them in line and striving to be not just good enough to win but be the best they can be.”
And when Anderson gets back, with Lee and Reid Priddy moving on, the 2012 and 2016 Olympian will be one of the old guys.
“I make jokes about that all the time,” he said. “I’m only 30, so I’m not that old but it definitely feels like it sometimes.”