- Mathew Silver
Dustin Watten is one of the most colourful and exciting athletes on the international volleyball scene. You might know him from his viking-like beard or his enthusiastic on-court demeanour, but the Long Beach State alumnus has gained global notoriety for his transcendent social media presence.
Watten chronicles his adventures playing in France and living as a vegan athlete on Instagram @dustinwatten, where he has close to 21K followers. We spoke to Watten as Team USA prepares for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they look to rebound from what was considered a disappointing finish after falling in the quarterfinals to Italy in 2012.
There’s been a considerable turnover in players since then, however, and Watten will be one of many fresh faces for the 2016 Olympic cycle, with recent college graduates like Micah Christenson, Taylor Sander, and Aaron Russell, all rising to prominence early on in their careers.
Here’s what one of the most interesting characters in the sport had to say about everything from being a vegan athlete to the best dig of his life.
Dash: Hi Dustin! Congrats to you and Team USA Men’s Volleyball for your success at the 2015 FIVB Volleyball World Cup, and qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Can you tell us about your experience at the World Cup, which is considered the most physically demanding tournament in international volleyball?
DW: We prepared like crazy, in the weight room, on the court and just devouring video. Our coaching staff had a big hand in making sure that our minds and bodies would be ready to focus and compete night after night by doing a lot of the work before we left the states.
What made you decide to go vegan as an athlete? Can you describe how it has improved your performance?
I stumbled across a memoir on accident, I thought it was a book about motivation but it ended up being about a middle aged man taking back his health and fitness at age 40, and then going on to be one of the fittest men in the world and an accomplished Iron Man. I believe I have more energy, I make better decisions while eating (fast food is impossible as a vegan which means no fast food) I’ve had to be creative with what I eat, cook for myself and from there I have learned more about food.
Tell us about a regular day for you?
6:30 – I’m up, I’ll make a tea (apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and apple honey).
6:45 – 20 minute meditation.
7:10 – Juice/smoothie (pack 1/2 smoothies for training).
8:00 – Leave home for training.
8:30 – Arrive at the training center, roll out, have a coffee.
9:00 – Lift, condition, stretch, ice bath, kill one of my smoothies.
11:30 – Lunch (snack on a bunch of fruit).
12:30 – Rolling out, ready for second training session.
1:00 – Setter/passing reps.
1:30 – Team training.
4:00 – Extra reps (defense, setting, receiving).
4:30 – Roll, stretch, icebath.
5:15 – Leave the training center.
5:45 – Get home, unpack, start to cook.
6:30 – Eat and relax.
8:00 – Shut off electronics if possible, read, stretch.
9:00 – 20 minutes of meditation.
9:20 – In bed.
What tips do you have for young libero’s trying to take their game to the college or pro level?
Play a ton of beach, find a friend that you can play doubles with that you get along with and play in as many (youth/adult) tournaments as possible.
Coach John Speraw has a remarkable history of winning. His resume includes two NCAA Championships as a player at UCLA, three more in six years as a coach at UC Irvine, and he recently led UCLA back to the NCAA championships for the first time since 2006. What aspects of his coaching style do you think help create a culture of success?
He’s a master of his craft, he is always learning, experimenting and finding new unique edges for his team to have success. With his dedication to learning and always putting the team first there is a ton of respect with the players and everyone buys into his vision.
Your beard has become a signature part of your look. What inspired you to grow it?
It was a running joke with my ex-girlfrined who is Finnish that all Finnish women love a man with a beard, and it’s just extremely fun to comb while playing Settlers of Catan.
What is the philosophy behind NOEZYBUCKETS?
Attitude is everything, work with purpose and compete with big passion.
Are you a basketball fan, if so, are the Golden State Warriors going to repeat?
Yes and yes, Steve Kerr is too charismatic to lose.
Lebron James or Steph Curry?
Can you describe – in the most detail possible – the best dig of your life (practice or game)?
I dug (Bartosz) Kurek in the World League Finals which lead to Aaron Russell jumping over me and killing the ball. My celebration was sub-par as I slipped on my sweat and fell before Max Holt could hug me.
Who is your favourite Team USA teammate to play against?
Paul Lotman! I’ve known him so long and I have such a big respect for his work ethic, competitiveness and relentlessness. He never takes a game or training lightly so you know you’ll have to bring your best against him.
Here’s where you can see more of Dustin:
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