David McKienzie Interview – October 2018

1.) You come from a pretty successful volleyball family. Your father William played for the US National team and in the Pan American games, and your sister Joy competed for LBSU and was an All-American starting setting on their national title squad in 1993. Tell us a bit about growing in such a talented volleyball family?

A: As a kid I didn’t like volleyball, mostly because I was always around it because of my sister. I was always in a gym, my mother and father were both coaching when I was a kid. It wasn’t till I was around 14 when I started to like it. As a kid my father was always trying to coach me. He never just let me do something without showing me the proper way to do it. He knew a lot about a lot of things, he was an awesome teacher. He worked all the time, but always found time to take me to practice and do extra work with me outside of practice. He did the same for my sister as well. My mother worked at a recreation center right next to our house in Colorado, so I would always be there using the gym there. She would pepper with me when she would take a break. She showed me how to snap my wrist on the ball and how to serve. She really had a whip. Even though she was from the Philippines, when she moved here she was invited to play for the USA national team, but always declined as she was taking care of my sister who was a baby at the time. My sister suggested that I move from Colorado to come live with her in California to play high school and club volleyball (Colorado did not have high school volleyball). It took a while, but finally my parents gave in and agreed to let me go. Economically it did not make any sense, but my amazing mother worked an extra job to make it happen. I don’t know too many parents that would do that. My sister was coaching club at the time, so I would follow her to every practice and I would practice with the girls. My sister and I would always pepper and play deep court one on one. All those extra touches definitely helped me to break away from the pack. I was very lucky to be born into an awesome volleyball family that was so supportive and created the opportunity for me to pursue my passion.

2.) Coming out of Huntington Beach high school, were you heavily recruited and why did you ultimately decide on LBSU?

A:  I wouldn’t say I was heavily recruited. I was undersized, only around 6’2”. Junior year most everyone was about my height, but then senior year it seemed everyone had a growth spurt and was like 6’6”. The only schools that really recruited me were Stanford, UCSB, UCI and Long Beach. Stanford and Long Beach were my top two picks, Stanford didn’t accept me, I had a 3.8 GPA and my SAT scores were good enough, but they rejected many of their recruits. The only two that got in were Josh Lukens (who ended up being a rocket scientist) and Brad Griffith, who is the CEO and one of the founders of GAMETIME. I guess I don’t feel so bad about having been rejected, I guess Stanford admissions knew what they were doing, hahaha. I don’t want to say it was by default, but when I didn’t get in to Stanford I immediately committed to Long Beach State. I am very grateful for that decision, Long beach has a culture unlike any other school, and you would have to be a 49er to understand. Every person gave 100% every day in the gym, I don’t know, if as a team, we ever had a “shitty” practice in my 4 years I was there. I’m very proud of what we achieved and how we maxed out our potential. Not a lot of teams can say that.

3.) March 19th, 1999 you set the NCAA record for kills with 58 against BYU. Take us back to that record setting evening and what transpired?

A:  I was actually sick before that match, but there is no way I was going to sit out because of something like that. I would honestly have to be on crutches to sit out. I just popped some Advil’s dealt with it. I have to say, that environment in BYU was insane, packed house at the basketball arena (Not the field house), everyone rooting against us, every single person. It was so loud you really could not hear, the place literally vibrated. You think for Mormons they would be PC, but they were the meanest hecklers ever, pure evil, hahaha. I wouldn’t say I had a great match, but I did get set a ton of balls. I didn’t even play the 4th set if I remember correctly. But I guess I was taking swings for the team. Overall I hit around .300 something, like 58 kills with 20+ errors, most of which were getting roofed, and BYU was always a very well coached blocking team, probably the only great blocking team in college volleyball at that time, in my opinion. I remember the 5th set, I think the final point they hit a pipe and it went out. It was fucking awesome, absolute silence from every fan in the place. Definitely a great memory.

4.) You played for LBSU from 1998-2001 and competed against some outstanding players during that time. Who were the 5 most impressive players you recall competing against at the collegiate level?

A: The one player that really stood out would have to have been George Roumaine from Pepperdine. The guy was such a beast. He was hitting like .400 every year. Every hit was over the block, even on D’s. Another player that was awesome was Victor Rivera from Lewis. That guy at the time had a very explosive jump and a super fast whip of an arm. He would hit some insane sharp angles from the left, probably one of the reasons he blew his shoulder out later, but man he was awesome. That guy always had 40 points a match. Ozzie Antonetti was always fun to watch. The guy was like 5’11, but could just fly and hang, he was left handed. He would fly, hang and then get on the ball super quick, very dynamic. I also have to throw in Chris Seiffert who was my setter at Long Beach State, obviously we didn’t compete vs. one another as we were on the same team, but he was in my opinion the best setter in college volleyball. The guy could run an amazing offense. He was an awesome blocker, great defensive player and just a great leader and competitor. He did not get the credit he deserved as many eyes were always on Brandon Taliaferro or Donald Suxho. Those guys for me were just awesome, they always played well and were a huge influence on their team’s successes.

5. You were a member of the 2012 Men’s Olympic Team that earned a 5th place finish in London. Tell us about your Olympic experience?

A:  I honestly hate to think about it. Of course going to an Olympics was an awesome experience, but I think every player on that team knew we were capable of capturing a gold medal. Some unfortunate circumstances had us playing Italy in the quarterfinals. Italy was probably the best team in their group, but in the end there was a 3 way tie for 2nd and they ended up their group. We ended up 1st in our group, which had Russia and Brazil (not to mention Germany and Serbia). We were playing great volleyball. Italy was always a tough team for us, they always seemed to have our number and that night they played great against us, strategically speaking.  They had awesome block and defense against us, really set up perfectly and effectively. Anyway, that loss really sucked. Nobody really said anything going to the locker room, very disappointing. Very grateful to have had that experience.

6.) You competed on the AVP professional beach tour off and on from 2000 to 2018, placing as high as 5th. What are some of your fondest memories from competing on the tour? Are there any matches you played in that stick out?

A:  I really love beach volleyball, AVP is such a great competition and place to showcase your talents. I don’t feel like I ever really competed on the tour. I honestly don’t have too many fond memories. Unfortunately, I always chose to play overseas for indoor contracts, which obviously does not help your beach volleyball game. So I would miss tournaments often in the beginning of summer and when I would return my game would take quite a while to come back, then by the time I was playing well season was over. I think I only played one “entire” season, which was only 7 tournaments and that year my performance and finishes were not that great. Not making an excuse as to my lackluster career by any means, but I learned if you want to be good and succeed in beach volleyball, you have to put in the time and commit fully, something I never did unfortunately. I have to tip my hat to guys who are able to balance beach volleyball with family, that is a real skill. As a single guy I think it’s easy to excel at whatever you want as you can be as selfish as you want and spend all your time on yourself, but as a husband and father its really something else.

7.) You played overseas on a number of club teams in the mid 2000’s. Tell us about club ball and what that experience was like?

A:   Overseas volleyball is a job and really I loved it at the time. I always enjoyed traveling and being in new places. I played in so many different places: Vienna, Greece, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Russia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Puerto Rico, Indonesia. I felt that being overseas really helped me find myself and become self disciplined in so many things. I was always kind of wild, but at Long Beach State and USA national team everything is so well organized, you just have to show up and go 100%. Overseas is a bit different, as I’m sure many could agree.  You don’t always have a great coach, or great teammates or great management and as a professional player you have to deal with it.  As an American I think many of us strive to improve ourselves, especially as athletes, but overseas the mindset is often times very different. Many of the players overseas just play because they were selected when they were young because they were tall. They don’t even like volleyball. For me, I loved volleyball so much, even if they weren’t paying me I would want to play and try to become better. For many guys overseas, they play because it’s their job and nothing more. If they weren’t getting paid they’d probably never look at another volleyball in their lifetime. There were so many mediocre and unfocused trainings I remember, something you that would never happen at Long Beach State or with the national team. I felt like playing overseas helped me improve my game a lot. I knew for many of my teams that if we were going to win, then I would have to be really good and then some. So I was always looking for ways to maximize my team’s potential.

Halfway through my career I got cheated out of half my contract in Russia, I never wanted that to happen again, so I took “safer” contracts that paid well in the middle east. On those teams I would help coach (team and individual players) and come up with strategy. Mainly stuff to organize us and train situations, so that if we did get a point scoring opportunity, then I would get the ball to give us the chance to score and to fix simple fundamentals for individual players so we wouldn’t make so many unforced errors. I was more like a player coach. I really enjoyed those years the most. It was very satisfying to see my team reach its potential and win some championships and to know I was responsible for much of our success.

8.) You were always one of the fittest competitors at every level of volleyball you competed at. What types of workouts did you follow? Any diet rules you followed/supplements you used?

A:   To be a professional athlete I believe it is your responsibility to be in the best absolute shape you can be in. I read a book by John Wooden and what he said was spot on. He basically said that conditioning is a huge part of sport and its completely true. In order to be able to compete at your absolute best you should be in great shape. Of course sport is very mental, but it’s hard to be mentally strong if your body is giving out on you and you’re too tired to think straight. If you are in optimal shape, then the only thing to worry about that is your mental game. So I wanted to be in the best shape I could possibly be in. I wasn’t getting any taller, so if I could jump higher or hit harder it would only add to my game. So many players out there could be jumping higher, but they never take the time to improve their jump. Jumping 1 inch higher is a game changer, imagine adding 3 or 4 or 6 inches to your vert, the game becomes so much easier as an attacker and blocker. There are only 3 ways to score in volleyball, spiking, blocking and acing. Two of those skills (spiking and blocking) involve jumping and possibly serving as well. Jumping isn’t everything, but it definitely helps. The best years of my career I was flying and it was amazing.

I am not a believer in supplements. I think most are garbage and not effective. The only supplements I ever found beneficial/effective were creatine and caffeine. I tried so many things and I have found that just a solid workout regimen and eating well and recovering properly are enough. Its really about how your train and eating enough calories to maintain/gain. Most people just do not know how to build muscle or make gains, so they turn to supplements because they think it will expedite the process. Not saying some supplements don’t work, but most of it doesn’t do anything and you’re wasting your money. Whey protein is a scam.

My advice for any player is to of course become fundamentally sound in all skills, but then to become the best athlete and be in the best shape you can be. Study and learn the proper way to train (Understand what you’re doing and why you are doing it) to achieve your fitness goals. Maximize your potential.

9.) What are your thoughts on the international indoor game today and who are some of the players to keep an eye on for the 2020 Olympiad?

A:   I honestly have not been watching too much indoor volleyball, but our USA national team at the moment is a bunch of studs. My bet is on them to bring home the gold medal. As far as beach goes, there are so many good young teams coming up. This team of Mol/Sorum is going to be a force to be reckoned with. The blocker, Mol, is getting up and over the net like Phil and has some awesome hang time. he’s a force up there I can’t imagine that these guys just won’t get better and better. As far as the women go, Sara Hughes is just a stud. That girl can play ball, her defense is just insane, her overall volleyball IQ is ridiculous, and my money is on her for a medal in 2020.

10.) You competed in a handful of AVP events this past summer. Who are some of the young up and coming men’s players you were most impressed by?

A:   Of the players I saw this past the two that stood out to me were David Van Der Meer and Troy Field. Vander Meer is quite undersized, but he’s a baller. Great ball control and athletic as hell. Troy Field is also someone to keep an eye on, very athletic and good skills, I can only imagine he will get better and better.

11.) In March of 2017 you were inducted into the LBSU wall of honor. What did that honor mean to you? On a separate note, your sister Joy Fuerbringer is now the Women’s team head coach and your brother in law Matt is the assistant head coach. What can we expect from Joy and Matt’s 49 teams in the years to come?

A:   I have honestly never really cared for individual honors, though I am very honored to have been inducted to our wall with so many other greats who were my idols growing up. I am so happy for my sister and Matt. They are amazing coaches and I think they are going to do great things with that program, it may take some time to build the culture and team, but I feel that with those two there it will improve their recruiting power. I know many of my sister’s ex-players from Mizuno Volleyball club would love to play for her again. I’m excited to see what the future hold for them.

12.) What are you up to now days (Where do you live? Family? Occupation? Hobbies?)

A:  I live in Malaysia now with my family. I spend most of my days babysitting and doing business from home. I try to play volleyball whenever I can, but that doesn’t happen to often.  I’m starting up my volleyball academy in Malaysia and Brunei this upcoming year, so looking forward to growing the sport and passing on the knowledge I have learned.