January 3, 2024
HERMOSA BEACH, California — In 2021, Volleyball World TV was seeking announcers for the Italian SuperLega to which it had not too long ago acquired the rights. The pool for such expertise isn’t the most important or the deepest; uncommon is the person who can each communicate eloquently whereas additionally being well-versed in a sport that has historically had little fanfare in the USA. So when Dustin Watten was charged with recruiting a couple of, the checklist of qualities was, primarily: Who can put a sentence collectively whereas additionally maintaining with the best high quality volleyball on this planet?
The selection was surprisingly simple: Matt Prosser.
The selection for Prosser to just accept was even simpler.
“After all,” he recalled telling Watten, “I’m drooling over right here.”
How Watten knew of Prosser’s commentating bona fides is a credit score to Prosser’s personal initiative. Each Watten and Prosser had competed for Lengthy Seaside State earlier than taking part in professionally abroad. Lengthy Seaside is likely one of the few males’s indoor applications that televises its matches, and given its historical past as one of the crucial profitable within the nation, it could possibly command the viewers to take action. Prosser, like many program alum, beloved the truth that the varsity broadcasts its matches. Like many alum, he thought he would possibly be capable of add to the product, particularly since he got here armed with a level in broadcast journalism from Lengthy Seaside State itself, even when he’d by no means truly used it. Prosser, nevertheless, took it one step additional: He truly did one thing about it.
“I simply known as up Lengthy Seaside State and requested if I may come again and do the colour commentary for the boys’s volleyball workforce,” he mentioned. “Let me convey some technical elements to the printed.”
That was 2020, arguably the worst time to get into broadcasting sports activities, as sports activities, like a lot of the world, have been about to be shut down for the then-unforeseeable future. However it was sufficient: Watten had been tuning into the broadcasts, listening to now-expert commentary from a person who as soon as made an NCAA remaining and was named All-American. If Volleyball World TV wanted a commentator, there have been few higher fitted to the job than Matt Prosser.
“The broadcasting checks a giant field for me when it comes to being concerned within the recreation,” he mentioned, after which he did the maths: At 45 years outdated, he’d been concerned within the recreation of volleyball, in by hook or by crook, for 32 years, starting within the yard together with his father. Now a 6-foot-7 absolutely grown grownup who may very well be simply confused for a decent finish, Prosser wasn’t all the time constructed because the sturdy athlete he grew to be.
“I wasn’t a bodily child, I wasn’t robust,” he mentioned. “I didn’t raise weights till I received to school so I wasn’t into the bodily contact. As quickly as I used to be in a position to focus that power and aggression on the ball, and have a workforce, and have a web between us, that was the candy spot.”
As a lot as his timing for the launch of his commentating profession was poor, his timing for locating the sport of volleyball was divine. The AVP was in its heyday, placing on 25 tournaments a yr, the finals of which have been often proven on nationwide TV. Males with names resembling Karch and Steffes and Sinjin and Stoklos and Hovland and Dodd have been dominating. Indoors, the USA males had received back-to-back Olympic gold medals. It might be simple for a child in Southern California to really feel the pull of a sport exploding up and down the coast — and Prosser felt it.
He’d pore over Volleyball journal and Volleyball Month-to-month, reducing out photos of Sinjin Smith, Randy Stoklos and Ricci Luyties and put them on his wall. He didn’t let his hometown of Ventura, then largely devoid of volleyball, restrict his taking part in; he discovered a membership workforce in San Diego, took a prolonged practice journey, practiced with the workforce for a couple of weeks, after which rejoined them at tournaments. That workforce received a gold medal for his or her age group, and “it was round that sophomore, junior part of highschool that I knew I used to be going to have the ability to play volleyball previous highschool,” Prosser mentioned. “Due to that publicity from membership volleyball, I used to be in a position to get recruited.”
He loved an incredible profession at Lengthy Seaside and put collectively a short skilled profession indoors earlier than switching full-time to the seashore in 2003, which was kind of doable then, because the AVP would run anyplace from 9 to 18 skilled tournaments and the highest gamers would often eclipse six figures in earnings. However that is Matt Prosser being mentioned. Like something, timing grew to become paramount.
In 2010, coming off the perfect season of his profession, Prosser had partnered with John Mayer, a younger lefty with a lethal serve and an informal demeanor that belied his extraordinary items. Of their third event, in Hermosa Seaside, they made the finals, logging wins over Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal and John Hyden and Sean Scott. They have been on the rise, little question about it.
The AVP was not.
The subsequent week, the gamers acquired a name: The AVP was bankrupt. Season canceled. Sorry.
That was a time of existential angst for the gamers. The worldwide gamers can be positive, because the FIVB was thriving, prize cash was booming, and sponsors have been nonetheless robust. However these on the AVP?
“It was crushing,” Mayer said years ago. “I used to be taking part in fairly properly. Bodily I used to be in my prime. I simply bear in mind being crushed and not sure of what to do. I can bear in mind going out the following low season and never having any schedule and simply being on the market coaching and being a bit purposeless and never having the identical drive. The seashores have been fairly empty, it was fairly onerous to search out video games. It was scary and there’s so many guys we misplaced, and possibly some indoor gamers would have transferred over however couldn’t.”
Mayer caught with it, ultimately profitable the AVP MVP and Greatest Defensive Participant in 2015. Prosser saved one foot in whereas exploring extra secure profession paths. He tried his hand at industrial actual property, briefly launched a seashore membership in south Orange County, coached a highschool workforce, received into medical gadget gross sales.
“I nonetheless dabbled in volleyball, nonetheless performed, nonetheless coached,” he mentioned. “However it wasn’t the precedence.”
However the sport, even in essentially the most turbulent of instances, by no means left Prosser solely. Even with it not being the precedence, he received the one AVP of the 2011 season with Matt Olson and performed in at the least one skilled occasion yearly till 2018 — even by way of a testicular most cancers prognosis and three rounds of chemotherapy.
It was Eric Beranek, a younger, spunky, then 20-year-old defender who dragged Prosser onto the seashore, even with a chemotherapy port nonetheless lodged in his chest.
“I don’t know what I’m going to have the ability to offer you,” Prosser advised Beranek. “I don’t know what I’m going to have the ability to do.”
In 2017, not a lot: They did not make it out of each qualifiers they performed, in Hermosa and Manhattan Seaside. However in 2018? Magic.
Prosser and Beranek received 4 straight matches to qualify, upsetting second-seeded Paul Lotman and Derek Olson within the third spherical. Large for Beranek, who was in simply the third principal draw of his burgeoning profession. Poetic for Prosser, whose second profession principal draw got here in Manhattan Seaside in 2004.
“That was a giant second in my life and in my being,” he mentioned. “We have been the final match to complete, and it was one other outpouring of emotion for me. Being an athlete and focusing in your physique a lot, while you get advised you may have most cancers and it’s a must to do chemotherapy, that’s an enormous bomb being dropped on you and also you don’t know what to anticipate. Going by way of that chapter and that problem and adversity, to return again to a stage the place we certified, that was a vastly essential second for me and my household and Eric, and it was actually a pleasure to be part of.
“To me I proved to myself I may undergo what I had gone by way of and nonetheless play at a spot the place I used to be pleased with my efficiency. I’ll all the time be thankful for that.”
Just a few weeks later, he’d win the Hermosa Seaside Labor Day four-man, pocketing extra in money than anybody would that weekend on the AVP in Chicago.
“These two wins for me have been a great way to shut that chapter of extremely aggressive volleyball and to proceed ahead,” he mentioned.
It wouldn’t be for 2 extra years that he’d re-enter the volleyball world as a commentator, and yet another after that he’d signal on with Volleyball TV. One yr after that, the AVP would request his bona fides on the mic as properly.
“The broadcasting piece is so cool to be part of as a result of after I was youthful, I didn’t have any entry to this volleyball, watching the world tour, watching skilled volleyball from Italy or the VNL, I didn’t see any of that stuff,” he mentioned. “For a tiny bit, it was NBC Common. Previous to 2010, it was onerous to look at volleyball outdoors of the Olympics or the summer season AVP when it was televised again within the heyday. It’s been actually enjoyable and rewarding to be again concerned on the broadcasting facet. I’m sitting watching this volleyball from Italy and it’s an incredible stage, or doing the Seaside Professional Tour from India or the World Championships from Rome or Mexico, simply the streaming platform is an incredible know-how that may entry thousands and thousands of individuals from across the globe. I’m lucky to be part of it, and it’s rewarding and quite a lot of enjoyable.
“I can relate to what the gamers are going by way of in sure moments and now I can share broadcasting which is the place I provide the most important worth to a viewer. It additionally permits me to finish the circle on the identical time.”