Success in the states: Ryan Poole
4th July 2018
Even as one of the rising stars of English volleyball, Ryan Poole’s latest achievement is very special indeed. Already an England international on the beach and indoor, as well as experienced at the top level of the National Volleyball League, Ryan has underlined his potential by heading stateside and claiming college volleyball’s biggest prize.
On a scholarship at California State University, Long Beach in the USA, where he studies a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, Ryan and his team of 25 players recently won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Championships. The championship is the main goal for every team college team in their sport.
“Beyond description” is how Ryan described the feeling when his team converted the match point. “All I could remember was rushing onto the court and celebrating with my team. I watch the point back and I can see myself not being able to look as I’m imagining all the possible outcomes.”
As an English volleyball player, just venturing out to America and being picked by a college to play volleyball is an achievement but to win the championship is historic. It proves to other young English players that if you work hard enough, it is possible to follow in his footsteps.
“A few players have been out to the US before, but they have sort of come out to test the water,” says Ryan, when asked what it was like to be one of a few Englishmen to have gone out to the States to play college volleyball. “They have either not played much or they have only spent a short amount of time out here.”
Ryan had the advantage that he had someone who had experienced it close to home. His brother Robert, a full England international himself who played in the recent 50th anniversary match against Scotland, has gained a scholarship to the US.
Ryan initially thought that there wasn’t going to be much of a step up from playing in England. However, he soon realised that the standard was a lot tougher and being in an environment where he was no longer automatically one of the best players, he needed to show his mental resilience.
“In England, only a few players want to go pro whereas in the US they all share the same target,” says Ryan. “I went from being probably the best player for my age in England to being back to a standard volleyball player.”
After Ryan had settled down and started to get used to his surroundings he knew that the hard work would have to start straight the way. This resulted in a self-confessed slow start as he needed to identify which areas of his game he needed to change to suit the teams in game model and get used to his daily routine.
“I didn’t play as much as I would have liked, as I was still getting used to the style,” admits Ryan. “However, I feel now I have adapted. I also sense I am regaining my confidence which I had in England and I hope to push on in the future.”
One thing that helped Ryan to settle was his team mates. He said that they were like a “brotherhood” and he felt that they were his family away from home. They also helped him develop as a player too. Their mentality and drive to turn professional after they have graduating, fuels a healthy competition within the camp pushes the level during practice and matches.
When playing for Boswells, Ryan’s team visited America to play volleyball and that’s where the idea of applying for a scholarship first entered his mind. Ryan’s brother Rob had this head turned by the idea of playing volleyball and studying alongside each other on a full-time programme. Having a close relationship with his brother, Ryan followed suit and he has always had to turn to for advice.
Making such a is a big step and it has not always been easy. Early on Ryan felt frustrated about not playing much so he would speak to Rob to ask what he would do. Rob provided some sound advice: no matter what, always believe in yourself and your ability.
Ryan had felt that he was a little raw and not used to some of the situations he found himself in. One way he combatted these problems was to find something that could take his mind off from all this. He sought to relaxation and put in extra gym sessions so that he could improve his skills and fitness so that he could be the best that he could be. He also kept reminding himself of why he loved volleyball and that you are going to have bad days, bad sessions or even bad months but if you keep working hard then you will reach your goals – which Ryan certainly has done. Success came and most surprisingly has some elements of fame.
In pre-season, Long Beach played the Canadian national champions. They ended up losing both games but both defeats gave them a good experience and they went on to only lose once more in the season on their way to the National Championship. As well as playing in Canada, Ryan visited many different cities, he ventured to Hawaii for a game.
“These games are nothing like what I’ve played in before,” says Ryan. He played in some of the biggest venues in the USA and the final was played in front of around 8000 fans. Showing how well backed the college sports teams are in the US, after their title win they were invited to a council meeting by the mayor of Long Beach. They were given a police escort to the venue and waiting at the venue were 200-300 fans. Even now, Ryan gets stopped in the street and congratulated and even gives out autographs.
Ryan would encourage more players to follow in his footsteps and wants players to realise they are good enough. “I maybe see myself as a role model now, just like my brother was to me.,” he says. “I hope I can inspire others.” To become a full-time scholar at an American college, Ryan sent a highlight video to the coach at Long Beach and then he got in touch with Ryan and offered him the scholarship.
Now back in England after the academic year, Ryan is not about to rest up. He is into the beach season, which could see him representing England again, and preparing for next year. It’s that commitment and determination which is why he has succeeded in America – and perhaps paving the way for more of the brightest young stars of English volleyball to do the same.
Feature written by Daniel Bryans.