Lloy Ball is a legend in indoor volleyball, someone who has been on the scene so long that it’s hard to imagine the men’s Olympic volleyball team without him. But with the close of this year’s professional club season in Russia, Ball will end his volleyball career.
He retired from the men’s national team once already following the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, which marked his third Olympic appearance. Since joining the team in 1993 Ball had acted as captain, leader and overall face of the men’s team, a role that U.S. Coach Hugh McCutcheon says, “challenged him in ways that I think probably aren’t the right fit for his personality. I think the role that we have for him on this team is the right role.”
In the 2008 Olympics the mantel of captain passed to middle hitter Tom Hoff, allowing Ball to just play volleyball and enjoy his last Olympic appearance. McCutcheon was determined to convince Ball to return for one more medal run despite his retirement due to Ball’s outstanding performances playing for his Italian club team and winning several European and world titles.
The decision turned out to be smart on both sides, as Ball helped lead the U.S. Men’s team to a gold medal in Beijing by defeating No. 1-ranked Brazil. Beijing marked Ball’s fourth Olympic appearance, making him to the only American to play in four consecutive Olympics on one of the major team sports.
With an Olympic gold medal to add to his already-impressive list of titles and championships, Ball is playing his final season of professional volleyball before retiring officially in 2010. He may be getting another tattoo to make his departure from the game that he’s made such an impact on (at last count he had nine tattoos, including one that reads “Anger is a Gift”). Ball has been the benchmark for setting excellence for years, and it will be very strange not seeing his jersey next time the U.S. Men’s team takes the court.
But volleyball wasn’t the only sport on Ball’s horizon when he was younger. He played basketball in high school and was recruited to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana University. Instead he chose to play volleyball for his father, Arnie Ball, at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) becoming NCAA Freshman of the Year in 1991, an All-American the next three years, and MIVA Conference Most Valuable Player of the Year twice. He also led IPFW to three NCAA final-four appearances.
Lloy Ball’s recent book title, “The Biggest Mistake I Never Made: How an Indiana Boy Gave Up Basketball to Become a World-Class Volleyball” details his volleyball career and why he’s never regretted his choice.
Ball’s individual accolades include:
He’s won dozens of medals and championships in his decades-long career, and you can find a partial list on the USA Volleyball website here. His personal website, TeamPineapple.com, is also an interesting read. For more on his tattoos, check out this interview.