Preston Bies lives in Santa Barbara, California. He is a personal trainer, a volleyball coach, aspiring professional volleyball player, and member of Spikeball’s “Elite”. He won the 2016 National Championship with his partner Troy Mauk, under the name 2 Guys, and they placed third in 2017. In 2018, he teamed up with Jarratt Rouse to play as Wabi Sabi. They demolished the West Coast, and finished second to C/S at nationals.
When I first called Preston, he was in the middle of beach volleyball game and asked if he could call me back. After a bit of phone tag, I found out just how typical that was of the man who competes from the time the sun goes up until well after it sets. His attitude and his fire seem at odds. Most people get to be competitive or they get to be laid back, but not both. But they live in Preston like rowdy brothers; perhaps it is because California runs through his veins (his favorite verbal pause is “you know?”). Although his home state’s kindness and fun loving spirit left its mark on his words, to paint him as nothing more than a laid back bro would be injustice. He is routinely called “the hardest hitter on the tour” but the more I talked to him, the more I realized that his technical acumen ran deeper than his strength. Although he does lift a lot….
Take me through an average day in your life.
“I wake up at about 4:30 to open the YMCA, and then I am free till about 12. I try to play some sport in the morning, as well as work out. In the middle of the day I will train a few clients, I own my own personal training business. Then I go to practice for whatever season I am coaching at the moment. After practice I will try to play something again until the sun goes down. Then its probably over to a friends house for a board game. But I try to cram as many sports into my day as possible.”
Talk to me about your athletic history.
“I played court volleyball in high school, and I didn’t really have any respect for beach volleyball because of how hard it was to jump in the sand. But in college, I lost any sort of athletic advantage I had over other court players, just because of my height. So I turned to beach, and I started taking it a bit more seriously. Now, I am actually trying to become a professional beach volleyball player, so hopefully I have a good season this year.
“As a kid, I mean, I played everything.”
What about your skillset? What is it that makes you a good volleyball player, or a good spikeball player?
“I’ve been given a lot of natural gifts, I don’t want to downplay that. For example, I am a super visual learner. If I see someone do something, then I can generally pick it up. So when I went to college in Chico and saw guys like Skylar and Dylan playing the game “the right way” I picked it up pretty quick. But I definitely have worked hard to be better at any sport I play. People like to say that I hit really hard and they wonder how that’s possible or they ask me how to hit harder. And its like, c’mon guys, I lift. Its not a secret why I am strong, I just spend a ton of time in the gym.”
“I am also a personal trainer, so it is literally my job to analyze movement patterns and find ways to make movements more efficient. If you can become more efficient, less wasted energy, lest wasted movement, you will also become more consistent. Everything has technique, and sometimes in roundnet people don’t think about that. They just think if they play more they will get better. But if your doing something the wrong way then doing it more won’t help. A super common example is a lot of people lift their opposite shoulder when they are swinging. This results in a dip in your hitting arms which often times leads to a pocket or a higher hit ball. So athletically, one of my biggest strengths is taking the time to think about and analyze my own movement patterns.”
What about your athletic ambitions? What are you hoping that sport will bring to your life?
Right now, I am really enjoying volleyball and want to become a professional volleyball player. But that is because volleyball is the most fun for me right now. It all starts with fun, I want to do whatever I will enjoy the most. I get pretty competitive, and I want to be the best at whatever I do, but that depends on how much work it takes to be the best. Because if it sucks the joy out of it, than it isn’t worth it. I never like set out with the goal of becoming a national champion, but it was so cool when it happened. I just want to run around, be outside, and play. Why would I not do the most fun thing in any given scenario?
Alright, so since your a coach, what advice would you give the advanced player?
“So right off I would say that most people hit across their hips. Think of a baseball swing or swinging a golf club. Obviously at the higher levels then people get good at disguising where they are going to hit it. But in spikeball, defense is based off of two things. The position of the set and your ability to take shots away from an opponent. On a perfect set, you can’t take every shot away, but maybe you can take their best shot away. You force them to change something, make a decision, and maybe they make a mistake. Most of the time with an advanced player, that best shot is the one where they are swinging across their hips.”
Talk to me a little more about defense.
“Its a combination of anticipating and reading. You see the set, and you have to anticipate where they will hit it. After that, you read their hips, read their arms. But at the end of the day, offense is too easy. On a good set, you won’t touch the ball. And contrast that to volleyball. Even off of a good set, you have to work really hard to win the point. You have to time your jump perfectly, you might blocked, and there is a good chance of being dug. In spikeball, the top players could win a point with their eyes closed.”Y
Hitting is the issue right now, and there is a larger conversation in the community about changing the game. What’s your opinion on it?
“I think the game needs to be harder. I have two arguments that I go back to as to why we need to make it substantially harder. The first is that the top athletes don’t really practice. You just play in the tournaments and that’s it. In any other sport, that would never fly. If you don’t shoot a basketball for a month when you come back, you feel rusty. Same with golf, volleyball, anything. But if you don’t hit a spikeball for a month, come back, your serve will be fine. Nothing feels off. To me, having to practice is a big difference between a sport and a game. You don’t practice games, but if you play a sport, you work at it outside of competition. I want to make roundnet harder on the athletes.”
So what is your solution?
“I think we can keep the selling the same set, because it works fine for beginners. Every elite player wishes they could go back to the beginning, when there were rallies galore. But their needs to be an attachment for elite players that raises the him at least two or three inches. The net stays at the same level, but the rim comes up off the net. This actually leads into my second argument for why we need to make the game harder. Every sport changes for the professionals. Baseball players have to use wooden bats. The NBA three point line is moved back. In soccer, they make the field so much bigger. This happens because when players master the basics, they have to find a way to make the sport harder.”
So why a raised rim?
“It makes the hitting motion harder. Just like the more movement you can eliminate, the more consistent you can be. The top players are hitting the ball so close to the net, that they really only have to worry about one dimension. And that is so much easier, but if you raise the rim, than you have to swing down on the ball, and that would be a much harder movement. Drop shots would be so much harder, and when you slam the ball, at least it would fly by defenders knees instead of their ankles. Jarrat is super quick, great hands, great reads. But if a ball flies by his ankles, he doesn’t have a chance. If one of the sport’s best doesn’t have a chance, something needs to change.”
What else do you want out of any changes to our sport?
“I want the sport to showcase athleticism more. Currently it doesn’t allow for athletes to show off their physical capacity. If you can serve aces and hit consistently, you win. Sure that is a skill, but games shouldn’t be one sided. We created 3v3 years ago so that you could win games off of defense. I want roundnet to have more stylistic variety, different ways to win. Think of the difference between Lebron James and Steph Curry. Both dominant, but radically different.”
So you are in a rare position as both part of Spikeball’s “Elite” and an aspiring volleyball professional. Talk to me about that relationship.
I consider myself a volleyball player right now. I play tournaments because I love everyone, and I love the community, but I spend more time playing volleyball. And it is really just because there are more rallies, which means it is more fun. I would 100% be a full time roundnet player if it was rally dominated. It would be the greatest sport in the world. But like I said earlier, I am going to choose whatever is more fun, and at the levels I’m at, that is volleyball. I will admit that as I get higher up in volleyball there are less rallies as well.
Preston, thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you want to say before we close up?
“PJ and Tyler are going to lose this year.”