10 Questions with Jason Ring – March 2018

1.) Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a bit about your background and how you got your start in the sport?

A:  Grew up in Bend, OR.  I was a skier and played a little soccer.  In the early 80’s my family was all about Sunday grass volleyball at the local parks.  I didn’t play much, but I was around it a lot.  We’d go home and watch the AVP on NBC – blew my mind! Sinjin, Randy, Karchie, Adam Johnson, Hov, Steffes and Loila.  Dudes were all rock-stars! As a senior in high school – I played a little more on the grass and joined a few tournaments.  My first organized indoor game was at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley alongside Kevin Barnett.

2.) You are regarded as one of the most explosive leapers the sport has ever seen. Did you do any sort of specific training? For the record, what did your vertical officially top out at?

A:   We did a lot of plyometric jump training at the Olympic Training Center, but I think I was already at 41”.  I went to Europe to play professionally for a few years and found that my legs like not jumping so much.  My official vertical leap maxed at 44.5”.  My unofficial vertical was measured when I hit my head on a basketball rim at 46.5”.

3.) In 1996 your University of Hawaii Warriors faced off against UCLA for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship and lost in an amazing 5 game match. What can you tell us about that match, what it was like playing with Yuval Katz, and your season overall?

A:   Great season – and one of the most memorable matches I’ve ever played in.  Stein Metzger was talking tons of trash and we loved it.  Similar to the beach – I always played best when the other team was fired up and talking trash – I played well against UCLA and got to hang out with most of those guys the following summer playing on the World University Games team for the US.  1996 was a big stage for me.  It was my first year at Hawaii and we packed that house.  Over 8,000 fans at every match.  Yuval was incredible.  He was a great role model for me because my VB mechanics were terrible and his were flawless.  I think he was one of the first “greatest collegiate jump servers”.  Frankly – that was the only reason I could survive as a middle blocker at 6’3’’.  We had a great serving team that would keep opposing offences off the net.

4.) You played during an incredible era of men’s collegiate volleyball in the mid 90’s. Who were your favorite players to compete against as a competitor and watch as a fan?

A:   Compete against: Stein Metzger (UCLA), Paul NihiPali (UCLA), Chad Strickland (Northridge), Kevin Barnett (Pepperdine), Donnie Harris (UCSB), Ivan Contraras (Penn State) Watch as a fan: Ryan Millar (BYU), Of course George Roumain (Pepperdine).

5.) Charlie Saikley Manhattan 6 man. In the early 2000’s Team MonkeyButt had a nice run going. Tell us a bit about that team and what was it like playing in that event?

A:  Blue collar volleyball at its finest! That team was all about good vibes and winning.  We played harder than we raged.  Everyone hated us because we didn’t get black-out hammered. I totally get it.  We just figured it would be more fun to try to win the event and party afterward.  Turns out – we were right.

6.) You earned your first professional beach win with George Roumain at the 2004 Huntington Beach AVP open. What was it like getting that first win and playing with that beast George?

A:   Where do I start..?  Well – It was only a matter of time till we won an event that year.  Our pre-season training was on fire.  We worked hard and came out to the first event at Ft. Lauderdale pretty damn hungry to beat the snot out of everyone.  We were unapologetic and aggressive – I’m pretty sure every player hated us that year. Yeah – sorry about that guys, we really wanted an Open tile.   Casey and Furbs took us out in FL to make it to the finals.  Casey Jennings was another guy who I loved playing against.  I’ll talk about him later below.  In Huntington, our toughest match was actually against Alika Williams and Chip McCaw in the 1st or 2nd round.  We went 3 games with everyone that weekend and didn’t have a single easy match.  For the finals, I had 3 Red Bulls and George and I played out of our minds.  His Kong block on Rosie might have been the single greatest beach volleyball of all time – go watch it again.  He broke his finger on that play also.  We played aggressively -that was our greatest attribute as a team, and greatest failure at the same time.  We could play with insane intensity and win… but not always.  Queue Phil and Todd – those guys were professional athletes.  George and I were beach volleyball players.

7.) You were able to compete at a high level on the AVP for about 10 years. What are some of your fondest memories from that time?

A:  I loved watching guys like Casey Jennings play.  He played a match against Eric Fonoi and Dax Holdren in Ft. Lauderdale for what would have been his and Matt Fuerbringer’s first title.  It was insane!  So much heart and drive from all 4 guys.  I loved watching Rosie play ball too.  For me – I loved the game and really loved seeing fierce competition, and sick defense.  Karch was a machine, and an incredible inspiration.  Lee Legrand was great, Jonny Maher was an incredible attacker, and Jonny Hyden was the man.  Hans Stolfus and Eric Foinoi are the two best setters of all time in my opinion.  George was great to watch too-of course!  I was once on the receiving end of a very angry George Roumain spike that hit me square in the face and I swear to God it hit both my earlobes.  Matt Olson has a ton of my respect and plays the game like a surgeon.  He once told me to “stop acting like a bitch when we don’t side out, it’s not helping” – might have been the best advise I’ve ever had.  In my 10 years of playing ball – a lot of the guys probably didn’t know what a huge fan I was of their skill sets.

8.) Toward the latter part of your career things went south with the AVP and didn’t end well. From your vantage point as a player, what were the biggest issues that led to its demise?

A:   I don’t know.  I mean – I have ideas, but hindsight is perfect vision.  I don’t want to pretend to know how hard it is to revive Beach Volleyball.  It’s no secret that Leonard and I didn’t get along, but I honestly appreciate his effort.  I wish it had worked out better for all of us. It’s too bad.

9.) What are your thoughts on the beach game today and the level of play?

A:  I like it!  I like watching the Crabb brothers.  Reminds me of old school beach VB.  I’m always rooting for old dudes also – gotta pull for Jonny Hyden.  I think the overall level of the sport is high.

10.) What are you up to these days (occupation, family, where you reside, etc.)

A:  Living the good life in Bend, OR.  Raising 3 kids. My daughter soaked up every ounce of athletic genes from both my wife and I – recruiters can inquire now.  I have 2 your boys 6 and 2.  Both are stone cold closers.   I work for a local software company.  We have a group of weekend warriors who meet at our pristine beach volleyball courts near the Deschutes River on summer days to hack out some bumps / spikes every so often.  Life is good, but we all miss the warm sand!