Casey Patterson is one of the most passionate people you’ve ever met.
He’s passionate at everything he does, whether he’s jumping in his car at 5 a.m. for a 90-minute drive from Camarillo to Hermosa Beach for practice, playing with his four kids, his newfound photography hobby, or just getting good at solo cornhole in his backyard during quarantine.
It’s the kind of passion that you hear in his voice as he discusses his beach volleyball career, one that includes an appearance in the 2016 Rio Olympics, two FIVB World Tour victories, and 20 domestic wins.
The 6-foot-6 Patterson is well known through the beach volleyball world as an entertainer, not only for his pop-and-lock dance moves, but for his finger-wagging “Don’t pull on me” dialog.
“Growing up (in Newbury Park, California), I had this neighbor, Chris Pellestrini, who was the raddest dancer ever. He was on our basketball team, and I always asked him, ‘Dude, you’ve got to teach me.’ He was teaching me random moves, so in class, I’d be practicing my little wave moves, and he’d teach me Michael Jackson kind of stuff,” Patterson said.
“I fell in love with dancing because of him. And I took that to my game and always knew that it was more fun watching guys that showed their passion and loved being themselves as much as possible.
“Luckily, it worked out perfectly, because it turned into something that I was known for.”
That “Don’t pull on me,” made after blasting a Wilson projectile at the retreating blocker, is typically accompanied by a finger wag.
“Talking trash is something that I always jokingly did during practice. I’d always visualize playing against specific people and then like talk trash to them, even if they weren’t there. If Ty Tramblie was on the court next to us in Huntington, and if I dug a ball and put it away I’d say, ‘It’s not going to work on me, Ty!’ I would just heckle him and he wasn’t even playing me. And I think it was just such a fun, entertaining thing that once I started playing in tournaments, it was just natural. So then I got to just share what I was thinking while playing instead of after, but that also just turned into my style. So it was cool.”
Last year Patterson, a defender, and Chase Budinger won AVP Hermosa and made the finals in both Huntington Beach and Manhattan Beach. Patterson turned 40 this past April 20, joining the 40-something crowd of American beach players that includes Phil Dalhausser (40), Jake Gibb (44), Ed Ratledge (43), John Hyden (47), Kerri Walsh Jennings (42), Nick Lucena (41), and Sean Rosenthal (40).
Has he considered retirement?
“I feel like that’s a hard, hard thing to know. If you can still kind of get to the finals and have a shot at winning, Rosie and I have this conversation a lot, we still feel like we could win tournaments.
“I mean, not all of them and maybe not as many as we used, to just because of all the youth out there, but going into a tournament, I totally feel like I have a shot at winning. And until we don’t feel that way, we’re just going to keep playing.”
Staying healthy, of course, is a big key.
“Right now, if a tour were announced next year, I feel like I’m ready to go. Health-wise, I feel great, I just need volleyball, just need to get out in the sand and get ready.
“So, 100% I’m going to play next year, and then it’s evaluating every off-season from then on out. And slowly trying to build and replace my tour income with jobs and opportunities outside of volleyball.”
Staying healthy has been easier in this unusual year. Patterson got “healthy and finally got rid of all those nagging injuries that have been around for such a long time. For instance, my ankle. I’ve had a bad ankle my whole career. Being able to do therapy and heal that, and my back has never felt better right now, which is awesome. I haven’t worn a back brace since I stopped playing in Long Beach. Those things have been awesome.
“You’re looking at it in two ways, like this is possibly a good way of tapering off and being done with volleyball, and at the same time thinking ‘Hey, this is a great time to get super-healthy and go at it again.’ ”
Playing top-level volleyball at 40 requires recovery. A lot of it. Patterson has all the toys.
“I’ve got a whole treasure chest of those things. I have Normatec for leg compression. I’ve got Power Dot, which is an e-stim machine. It just bluetooths to your phone and you put them wherever you need recovery or activation. They’re really cool. I have the Turbotorp massage gun, I have the Hyperice Viper foam roller, all the heat and cooling, whatever you want. I mean, I’ve just got it all.
“But the two things that I really rely on, that I use every day, that’s the Power Dot e-stim machine and the Turbotorp massage gun.
“It’s been awesome to see the advances in technology, all that stuff helps so much. And then also just knowing over the years, working for so long with therapists, that different types of recovery stuff, you know how to cure 80% of the things that happen. And then it’s just the scary ones that are new that you have to see somebody for.”
From 2013-2016, Patterson and Gibb established themselves as one of the best teams in the world, earning a six seed at the Rio Olympics atop pool F.
They beat Qatar’s Jefferson Santos Pereira and Cherif Samba (21-16, 21-16), but lost to both Austria’s Alexander Huber and Robin Seidl (18-21, 18-21) and Spain’s Adrian Gavira and Pablo Herrera (19-21, 21-16, 7-15), failing to advance out of pool, so they finished in 19th place.
“I feel like the Olympics was one of our worst events ever,” Patterson said. “As a team, we were just feeling so good. I felt great, I wasn’t nervous ever. I’m actually more comfortable there than at some grand slam because I knew the DJ from Brazil. I knew the commentator from Brazil, all the referees and everyone there.
“Just the disappointment of not making it out of pool was the weirdest thing, because even to this day, it’s just feels like, ‘They’re still tallying up the points, we’re going to make it out.’ It doesn’t feel real in a way that has never really happened to us. We were so consistent, we finished ninth in just about every tournament or better.
“I don’t know how to even really explain it cause it’s a feeling and you never really can’t explain having that type of a finish in a big event like that.”
During the quarantine, Patterson found himself unaccustomed to a new role as daycare worker along with his wife, Lexi, who was a technical writer before becoming “life coach to my four kids.” And they are 11-year old Cash, 9-year-old Guy, 6-year old Ray, and 3-year-old Blake.
“That was so much harder than the beach,” Patterson admitted. “Beach is the easiest thing ever compared to that. I’d rather play Phil and Nick every day in a fight in the quarterfinals. It was like learning how to be a certified day-care employee, and first-grade, third-grade and fourth-grade teachers.
“So it’s actually maybe the worst-case scenario for me. Luckily my wife was super rad and structured. She was scholastic All American every year at BYU. So I let her take the reins and I was just the emotional assistance. I just helped everyone not melt down every day.”
Both the former Lexi Brown and Casey Patterson played volleyball at BYU at the same time, from 2002-05. He’s the oldest of four siblings and Lexi, who is from the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy, Utah, is the youngest of 11. They’re thinking about a fifth of their own.
The Pattersons share Mormon upbringings. Patterson’s mission took him to Little Rock, Arkansas, which was an abrupt transition for someone raised in Southern California’s Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village area.
“It was like serving in a foreign country, but still being in the U.S. Going to the South and seeing and experiencing such a different culture and different levels of life and how people lived. It was out in the middle of nowhere in the country or in the middle of government projects where it was just kind of scary and there’s drug deals going down and I’m in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road, it was so extreme and everyone talks so slowly.
“Everyone was always asking me to slow down and repeat what I said, because I was talking too fast and that was so eye opening and cool at the same time because you’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that there could be places like this in the U.S.,” you see so many different types of living.
“It was a really cool experience because you also learn that you can basically do anything you put your mind to here because not a lot of people want to talk to two dudes in white shirt and tie about God. And you’re just trying to share a message about God. And a lot of people are super into that.
“It’s not like I’m selling something that’s going to help them run their house more efficiently, like a solar panel or something. Or even like a water filter, I’m not offering anything physical.
“If you can go and stay positive and you have a great attitude and get through that, I mean, you can’t listen to music, you can’t watch TV, you can’t call your mom. You can only call your family on Christmas and Mother’s Day. That’s it. You could only write letters. Basically we were in a boot camp, a life boot camp.
“And so by the end, I felt like, yeah, I can do anything. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced until then. You’re also living off 130 bucks a month. You have to feed yourself with $130.
“When you’re used to not really ever buying your own food as a teenager, you’re so immature and you have no idea how life works, it’s not easy. It’s such a great experience to develop as a young man and to come back and to be mentally so tough because that was such a great confidence builder.”
Patterson’s success with Budinger in 2019, particularly that win at AVP Hermosa, provides additional motivation going into what’s left of 2020.
“Last year was definitely like a validator, ‘This is what I remember. This is that special feeling.’ And then also having another kid since the last time I won, that’s always a cool thing and be able to have one more baby to hold when you win.
“I think getting to the finals is a big motivator to make sure we’re doing even more to prevent those injuries and not just train harder, but to be more strategic and careful and plan it out even more so that you get these opportunities.”
Patterson competed in the AVP Champions Cup in July, running it back with Theo Brunner, with whom he competed in 2017. They earned a third and a pair of fifths.
“In the first one, I felt a little out of sorts, I know myself at this point in my career, and that’s why I felt so much better in that second and third week,” Patterson said.
“Performance-wise, I feel like Theo and I could beat anyone in the world on any given day, and I feel I just didn’t get enough time in the sand. I had plenty of time in the weight room, I felt strong, but I didn’t feel game ready, as ready as I would be when the season started. I usually start training three months before a season, and we had five weeks.”
Patterson and Brunner had a good shot at Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the second AVP Champions Cup event, but dropped a nail-biter of a 21-23, 21-12, 15-13 68-minute loss.
“We should have beat Nick and Phil in the last one, we lost and that one we should have won.”
In Long Beach, there was no crowd. Patterson wasn’t sure how he would respond.
“I was really surprised, but I thought it was awesome. I was super-bummed at first that there were no fans, but then you’d go home, or check your phone between matches, but then the number of people talking about the games was more than you could actually talk to at an event.
“When you have a match, you’re going to high-five your family, take some pictures, talk to fans, depending on how you’re playing or where you are in popularity, it’s either an hour or ten minutes and then you’re back in the player’s tent.
“With how it is now, everyone was giving so much attention and energy and comments about what is happening, it turned out better than I expected.”
He also competed in the King of the Beach event that the McKibbin brothers put on last month. But now what’s next?
Brunner informed him that he will team with former Canadian Chaim Schalk when competition resumes. Patterson doesn’t see any point in making any partner alignments now, as neither the FIVB or AVP have any events of significance on the 2020 calendar.
Patterson has been working as a consultant for Koda Energy, which could be a post-volleyball transition for him. He essentially coaches the sales force, something that stokes Patterson’s competitive fire. He does motivational speaking and works with their sales reps as well performing marketing, social media, and photographer functions.
“This has kind of fulfilled that competition desire that I get with volleyball, it’s kind of like going into coaching, how do I help elevate them and make them feel cool on social media, how do I help them look as professional as possible, down to earth and human, how do I find all these things and promote them as if I was a tournament promoter?
“How do I get the most out of these guys and make them feel like stars, you know? For me, it’s been fun, because I’ve been on the other end, and now I get to use that experience and give that to them to magnify what they do and help them stay motivated.
“It’s a huge blessing right now, because there isn’t anything else, and the longer I’m here, the more value they see, and they’re excited to add some roles and responsibility and elevate me as much as possible.
“It’s definitely progressing towards something that I could do long term once volleyball’s all done.”
Patterson, however, is more than ready for the resumption of competition, whenever that is, and with whomever he plays.
“I’m excited to see who everyone partners with. I think that it’s be exciting and different. For guys that aren’t playing in the Olympics, there’s not really any reason to stay with a partner.
“It’s going to be interesting. I think that the AVP stuff is going to be more important than the international stuff, because internationally they haven’t announced anything yet, and usually they announce it so fast and have everything lined up.
“With all the global issues, I think it’s almost impossible for them. I think it’ll be fun to watch who plays with who, because once again, I’m sitting on a lot of points, so there’s value there, whether I’m playing at the top of my game or not. There’s value with all of the points that I’m holding, and winning a tournament in 2019, that’s another statement, ‘Hey, I can still win tournaments.’
“That’s why I’m still doing it.”