Chattin’ With: Ryan Kwiatek

523604_4026705592734_1644587769_nTRW: What inspired you to play volleyball at our university, especially considering that there is no male varsity team?

RK: Volleyball really began for me in high school when I was able to play around in different [recreational] leagues. After a few years, I met some older volleyball players who had played in college and I ended up learning the sport from them. Once I came to UMBC, I tried out for the club team and was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the team by some very skilled players. Timing was also another huge factor. The first year I played the team just happened to need my position (middle blocker) on the A team, giving me the opportunity to play with all the starters right from the start. The quality of players that the team had and willingness they had to welcome in a freshman were probably the main factors to me joining and continuing with the team.  

TRW: How did our men’s club team rise to such a high level of performance?

RK: The easy answer is that we have very skilled players who are extremely good at what they do. In reality, it takes much more than talent to win games. What separates us from a lot of other teams is that a lot of us are good friends with each other outside of volleyball. This enables us to provide feedback to one another and reduce tensions when games get rough or situations don’t necessarily go our way. Diversity is another area that has helped us gain success as well. We have players from all different cultures, races, skill levels and personalities. I realize that saying “diversity” is a cheap buzzword nowadays but if you take a look at our team you will see a very good example of what it really means to make diversity work. After playing in multiple tournaments around the country I can say that we are one of the most diverse teams in the nation, something that I find to be a rewarding experience. Another small piece is that we have traditionally had a good relationship with the women’s varsity volleyball team, who is able to give us pointers and feedback.

Results for national tournaments:

2013 – 23rd

2014 – 5th

2015 – 9th

We also have the entire starting lineup from last year returning this year so experience is something that we do not lack.

TRW: What are some areas that our club team excels in that you think other teams are lacking in and what are some of our weaknesses?

RW:  I would go into the technical aspect of volleyball, but I doubt many would understand. Instead I’ll touch on the style with which we play. Volleyball is a game of “runs,” where each team takes turns playing good stretches where energy is high, and points are being scored. The interesting thing about our team is that we don’t get as emotional as some other teams. Many others have a broad range of emotions, experiencing a high level of energy when playing well and a low level of energy when things are going bad. While our team does experience these sensations we do not start snapping at each other when times get rough. This makes getting out of tough situations much easier, as we are able to keep our collective heads and solve the issue. Where this hurts us is when we are playing well we do not celebrate as much as we should, which in turn makes sustaining stretches of high energy more difficult. I realize this may seem silly but if we can keep our emotions high when playing well and keep our brains when times get rough, I think we can become even more effective.  

TRW: Unfortunately, you are now injured. Do you think this will hold the team back or give them the athletic fire to excel?

RK: Going through a subtalar dislocation (don’t google image it) has probably been my most serious injury that I have had to deal with during my athletic career and not being able to play until December makes it hurt that much more. The good news is that I will be back for the main part of our season which takes place in the spring semester. I am still very confident in my team to play well while I am out. It will give some new players a chance to step up, adding more talent to our team as a whole. Our team has successfully adapted through personnel issues before and this time will be no exception. Another silver lining is that I will have much more time to devote to my responsibilities as men’s volleyball president.

TRW: Where is your ideal place to play a volleyball game?

RK: Definitely at our national tournament that takes place every April. Each year at a different city, hundreds of club volleyball teams from across the nation come together to play in a five day tournament. It is an experience that I think every volleyball player should go through as it truly demonstrates what volleyball is all about. The quality of play and atmosphere is unparalleled by any other college club tournament.  

TRW: Who do you think would win in a regulation game of volleyball: our men’s intramural volleyball team or Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh?
RK: Well, I have to say that Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh were the best sand women’s volleyball players to ever do it as seen by their multiple Olympic goal medals. Comparing them to our team is a difficult comparison as we play men’s indoor volleyball which consists of six players on a team and a regulation net height of 7′ 11 5/8″ while they play women’s beach volleyball, which is only two players per team and has a net height of 7.34908’. If the two best players on my team were to play beach (2v2) on a women’s net, I would have to give the match to Misty and Kerri, as playing in sand is almost an entirely different game. However, if the same two players from my team played an indoor match on a men’s net, they would most likely win due to their jumping verticals and comfort on a hardwood floor. Beach volleyball and indoor volleyball may seem similar but blocking, jumping and approaches are very different from each other in technique.