Jan. 27, 2016
(photo by Tommy Lagland | urheilukuva.fi)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – OhioStateBuckeyes.com recently caught up with Buckeye alum and current professional volleyball player, John Klanac, to find out the latest. Klanac played for Ohio State from 2007-11, winning the NCAA national championship as a senior.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where did you start playing volleyball and how has it progressed into playing professionally.
I grew up in Buffalo, New York, a pretty solid spot for volleyball in WNY. I was always a basketball player growing up, but a friend on the volleyball team told me to come out for the team because I was tall, jumped well, and it would help me with my overall basketball game. I ended up being a pretty decent volleyball player and continued to stick with it during my time in high school. I got scholarship offers and took some visits, but I always loved Ohio State. Actually, my coach growing up, Matt Lexner, played on the OSU volleyball team in the early 90s. I fell in love with the school, the people and the tradition. I was fortunate to go through college with great people and athletes that always pushed me to be better and it’s made me the person I am today. In 2011, we won Ohio State’s first National Championship in volleyball, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys and coaches to go to battle with every day. After we won, and I graduated, a few teams reached out to me asking if I would like to continue my career in Europe. Soon after, I signed my first contract to play in Germany’s top league, the Bundesliga. From playing against and with the best players in the USA … I am now playing against and with the best players in the WORLD. Fast forward to 2015 and I’ve played in, Germany, Finland, Belgium, Bahrain, Romania, and Puerto Rico, while winning a Championship in Finland in 2013.
How difficult was the transition from collegiate volleyball to professional volleyball?
The transition from collegiate volleyball to professional volleyball took some getting used to. Men’s volleyball overall is a power game, so I’ve always been taught, jump hard, swing hard. In Europe, it’s a lot more technical, where there was a lot more emphasis on taking a little power off your swing to hit a controlled shot or angle. Also, with that being said, there is more emphasis on the speed of the game. Setters like to play fast because there will always be a double block in front of you. I think overall, the European game has taught me to be a smarter player.
How did playing for The Ohio State University help prepare you for playing at the professional level?
Playing for The Ohio State University prepared me for everything I could ever experience. From the daily physical grind of hitting the weights in the morning followed by practices that day, to the mental toughness it brought me in being able to deal with the highs and lows of winning, losing, performing, and staying healthy. I could not have asked for better teammates, coaches, trainers, and support staff during my time at OSU. They truly helped me grow as not only an athlete, but a person as well.
What is it like living in another country for seven-plus months without being able to come home?
Living in another country for 7+ months has its pros and cons. I’ve been all over the world, and would not change anything. I’ve met friends for life, a few that have come and visited me in the states. I’ve been to Europe and the Middle East experiencing cultures first hand and fully embracing them. The people I have met made life a lot easier for me being thousands of miles away. There, lies the cons. Being away from home that long can cause a lot of people to get pretty homesick when you have downtime in another country. It very well is possible that you miss big events and occasions because you are so far away. Thanks to things like Skype, and FaceTime, it has definitely gotten easier, but it does get tough sometimes when you are that far away from your family and friends.
How is the team chemistry when you are playing on a team as a foreigner and not many people speak your language?
Chemistry has always been really good. For the most part, every place that I have played, my teammates and management have all spoken English, and if they didn’t, they wanted to learn, or at least learn the important things so they would be able to speak with me. I’m thankful for that. I also liked to learn as much of the native language as I could while I was there. It made being on the court that much easier because we all had the same celebrations, signals etc.
What are some challenges that you have to overcome on a daily basis?
On the professional level, you generally will practice twice a day, with weight lifting on some of those days as well. The biggest challenge is just being able to stay healthy. Keeping your body in tip top shape by maintaining a good diet, hitting the weights, rehabbing when needed, massages, and most importantly getting proper amount of rest. It’s a lot of stress on your body, so being able to cope with that will keep your mind and body fresh.
What are some of the best things about being a professional athlete?
Meeting the people that I have met through my time playing professional volleyball is one of the best things about playing professional volleyball. These are friendships that I won’t ever forget. Also, being able to do the traveling that I have done and seeing so many historical places. But hands down, the best thing about being a professional athlete is knowing that I accomplished a dream of mine. As all athletes are competitors, it’s been rewarding to know that I have played against some of the best players in the world. It’s something that I will never forget.