February 9, 2009

Up Close & Personal with Ryan Black

As we continue our Up Close series with the Bobcat volleyball team we meet up with senior Ryan Black of Escondido, California. Standing 6'8, Black plays in the middleblocker position for the squad where he is joined by his younger brother, Jeff. Black, who is pursuing a business degree, is also a volunteer firefighter/EMT for the Banner Elk Fire Department. He plans to continue a career in firefighting and paramedics in California after graduation.

1. What made you decide to come to Lees-McRae College? Well, there were three main factors that influenced my decision to come to Lees-McRae. I was going to community college at home in San Diego. I made the decision to become a firefighter paramedic and planned to finish school and get a job in two years, by May 2009. When my little brother, Jeffrey, finished high school, he was offered to play volleyball at Lees-McRae. Coach Jamie Petrik wanted to bring in a few older players as well, so I was worked into the deal. I knew I would never have the opportunity to play college volleyball again. I planned on getting a job first, then going to school for my bachelor's degree, but it is much easier to go to school before you have a job, so I decided to go for the degree first. The last factor that influenced my decision was the opportunity to join the Banner Elk Volunteer Fire Department. In California, I had just achieved my EMT-B certification, and I knew I wanted to continue helping people in their time of need. When I made the final decision to come to Lees-McRae, I had never seen the campus before, and it was two weeks before the first day of school! Two days after we got home from family vacation, my mom and I were on the road to Banner Elk!!

2. What are you most looking forward to this season? This season I am most looking forward to having fun with the team. Last year we did not have the best record, but we had a great time, and all of us became really close, almost like a family. This year many of my brothers are back, and we added some new ones who are already beginning to fit in. It's going to be a fun year!

3. In which part of the game does your strength lie? My strength lies in my leadership. I am a role model for my brothers (teammates), and they know I am someone they can count on anytime, for anything from schoolwork, to team issues, personal issues, or just for a ride to the gym.

4. What do you do to prepare yourself for matches? My match preparation begins the day before the match. I like to stay away from junk food and have a healthy dinner with pasta or something that will give me plenty of energy. Sleep is important, so I try to go to bed as early as possible the night before. The day of, I like to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Before a match, I like to listen to music to get myself pumped up. I also like to get really warmed up and stay hot during the whole match.

5. Who has had the biggest impact on your volleyball career? My volleyball career has been a short one, but the person who has had the greatest influence was my high school coach, Matt Wilkinson. I was a baseball player all my life, but after a terrible experience with the baseball coach my freshman year, I decided to switch to volleyball. Matt was easygoing and made the game so much fun that I decided to continue with the sport.

6. What is your favorite part about being a member of the Bobcat volleyball team? My favorite part of being a member of the Bobcat volleyball team is probably the traveling. Last year we traveled all over the East Coast, and we even got to stay at my house in southern California for four days! This year we are flying to California again, and we have some matches in Florida as well! Being from San Diego, traveling the East Coast had been a unique experience that has broadened my horizons!

7. What personal and team goals have you set for this season? As far as personal goals, I would like to stay focused in school and continue to excel in all of my classes. My team goal is to help everyone grow as individuals, as well as a family.

8. What is the biggest mental challenge you face on the court? The biggest mental challenge I face on the court is constantly keeping the intensity at a high level and encouraging the family to stay motivated despite our circumstances. If I can come into the game and get a big kill or an important block, my intensity can fire up the guys and get us rolling in a good direction.

9. Who has been the biggest role model in your life? How? The biggest role models in my life have been my parents. When I was born, mom and dad made the decision that mom would stay home to raise my brothers and myself. I cannot explain how much it meant to me to have my mom home with us every day. She is an amazing woman, and I owe everything to her. My dad is just as amazing as my mom. He has worked incredibly hard his whole life to provide for our family and is an incredible role model. He has taught me so much about life, work ethic, and how to be a leader and a role model to others.

10. What is your idea of a perfect afternoon? A perfect afternoon for me would be spending the day at a private lake with my family; wakeboarding and hanging out. Boating is something we have always enjoyed together, and when I'm on my wakeboard behind the boat I am in my happy place.

11. If you could try something new today what would you try and why? If I could try something new today I would want to go rally racing with the Subaru Rally Team. One of my hobbies is car racing, and I would love to learn to drive on a rally course like the pros.

12. Describe your favorite dessert. My favorite dessert is Mom's confetti cake that she's been making for my birthday since I was a kid. Second place is held down by White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.