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We got to speak with Jeff Jendryk, a pro from Chicago and member of the USA Men's National Team. He had an outstanding career at Loyola Chicago as a middle and is in his fourth year as a professional. He spent his first two seasons with BR Volleys in Berlin, his third season at Asseco Resovia in Poland. Now he is back in Berlin for this year.
He talks about what he focuses on while he's playing, confidence, his lessons as a pro and some of his favorite USA Volleyball experiences.
Hey Jeff, can you introduce yourself?
Alright, my name is Jeff Jendryk. I'm 26. I'm currently on my fourth year playing pro. My first two years were with Berlin Recycling Volleys. My third year was with Asseco Resovia. And now my fourth year, sir, I'm with Berlin Recycling Volleys again.
When did you realize you could be good at Volleyball?
It was my seventeens year when I played up on the 18s team. And I don't even remember what happened. Maybe it was like puberty, or I don't know. But my I just remember my dad saying, I was starting to hit the ball, like really hard. All of a sudden, I was like crushing balls and was way more athletic. But when I thought I could start playing like Pro or like really getting into it, or thinking I can go somewhere was probably when I was like 18. And that was when I was just feeling super confident on the court. Like, I just love being an attacker. That year I was ready to play and excited to see what I can do with Volleyball. It got to the point where it wasn't just for fun anymore and I knew I could go further.
Do you remember when you knew you wanted to go pro?
Yeah, I think obviously in college freshman year, just to sum it up; I was pretty cocky. My guys put me in my place. I'm a freshman, I gotta prove myself all this stuff. I thought I was going to play pro after freshman year because I knew I had the ability to do so. I was going through the USA pipeline with the junior national team and working my way up. Then consistently playing really well from freshmen all the way up to senior year.
And then I was on the not the USA national team in 2017. And that's when I actually got a ton of games. Because it was a year after the Olympics, some of the old guys take time off and let the young guys get a shot. So that was my year I came in, I started playing immediately in World League. And I played really well. You know, I'm a super aggressive attacking middle and I love getting the ball. I feel super confident when I'm spiking. The coaching staff gave me a ton of playing time, and that's probably when I got my first exposure for going overseas to play all those teams.
So then, you know, going from, it was funny. We were talking about Micah Christenson story of he was in college. They won World League and he couldn't accept the money because he was in college. So in the back of my mind, end of junior year I was like, "man, if we win World League, I have a decision to make." So I can take that money if we win and go and play pro immediately, or I can just finish up school. We we ended up getting I think third place we lost the Canada. But that was the first time I was on the edge of playing.
And then that's when I started to get exposure through agents and stuff. And a lot of people don't have the same situation as I do. I was lucky to be picked for the USA national team, and all these agents know who I am already. I think a lot of volleyball players in the USA, just from us don't get this type of exposure. So their first couple years overseas is sometimes pretty crappy, playing really small leagues. Everyone knows these type of situations, but I didn't have that. I had my first year with a really good contract playing for Berlin Recycling Volleys, the best team in the German league and a really professional organization. So I didn't have any crazy stories of not having a car not having a place to stay anything crazy.
How did you find your Agent?
I talked to all my teammates in the USA gym. And I'm a pretty big planner. So I like to know things so I was just asking my teammates "Hey man, like who's your agent? Are they curious with working with me?" And they gave me this guy Luka Novi is probably one of the best agents to work with. So I gave him a call and we met and he was like yeah, let's let's work together and then after that, it was just like smooth sailing a super finding me a contract in Berlin.
You're in a really unique situation with USA Volleyball. What's been your favorite moment you've had?
The thing I remember the most was my first tournament, in Serbia for World League. Everyone puts on their jersey and John goes to every guy and asks, "What does like USA mean to you?" I was caught off guard, I was like, Oh, alright, well, here we go. I gotta think of something. But I said it just means all this hard work that I put in growing up, from high school to college through pro, of really training and wanting to get better to be on this team was worth it. Because it's not easy. I worked hard for this jersey. And now it gives me some like faith and like some proof that I earned it and gives me so much more desire to keep working hard, because I know I can do better. So that was a cool experience. I still remember it to this day, like what I was saying and all that and my teammates around me, it was cool. It was really cool feeling.
Getting to play on the team has also been so cool, because I've gotten to play with my idols, like Max Holt. I love the way he plays. And I also think I'm similar in the way I play. Here I am, I'm playing. I'm on his team, we're teammates. And I get to ask him anything. So I asked him a ton of questions of being a middle blocker, what do you see? What are you doing? What's your routines? What are you trying to look for? And that was a really cool feeling that I had my role model right in front of me
What's been the most unexpected part of your journey as a pro?
I mean, the unexpected is probably the free time you have and living by yourself. So the biggest thing is you're away from your family. That's like the hardest thing every pro athlete's gonna say you're away from your whole family, your friends, everyone, you're a lone wolf over there. And that's when you learn a lot about yourself and what you want to do with your life and what else you want to learn. So definitely my first year was a like eye opener.
I realized I could be doing this for a while, so I need to figure out how to make the most of it. And what I was just doing is just finding ways to compete on the volleyball court, but also enjoying my life outside of the volleyball court. And, yeah, just some small things I like doing now. But just having that amount of free time was maybe a little unexpected. And like you said, you have to find ways to take up your time and find hobbies. If not, you'll go crazy just playing volleyball.
I like to play video games, but also super into finance and investing. Now it's crypto, obviously, but also find like reading books on eating health finding ways to become a better Volleyball player. So mindset all the way through eating healthy through recovering. Also, not all Volleyballball stuff, but also exploring the city. Berlin is beautiful. So yeah, finding all the cool little spots.
Have you had any tough moments in terms
So for me, during COVID last season I was just kind of stuck at my house, chilling. My girlfriend was back in the US. So I didn't see her for the whole nine months, which is pretty wild. It was really important to find ways to enjoy life. Playing for nine months, just five all I realize, I do love volleyball. But there's so much more other than volleyball and like finding ways to be happy. Because there is for sure a time probably the last couple of months I was done. I didn't even know what I wanted to do. I was like just over it didn't even want to train and practice, probably for the last three months, just going through the motions, just waiting to get out of there to be honest. And the team was amazing. The players amazing all this.
Just being COVID away from my family can't do anything for fun can't like, release my stress on volleyball was definitely a hard thing to do. But yeah, I think every person was gonna say the same. Just like, what I could have done better is probably find ways to get more involved with other people in the community and try to find more of a reason to fit instead of just being with some of my friends for the whole nine months.
What advice do you have for guys who want to go pro?
As far as playing goes, it doesn't matter who we play. And also, I don't really care who I'm playing. I'm focusing on how I need to play. How I need to get better. Because at the end of the day, there's no matter who you're playing as long as Yeah, you're feeling confident out there, and you do your thing.
The the biggest thing is, for me, now it's my fourth season is stay in contact with your friends back home. Obviously, as time go on, I start to realize I'm getting further and further away from those guys, which is unfortunate, but just keep finding time to talk to the talk to your friends back home. But what I started doing actually, my first year was I created a Google doc of just a ton of questions, what I like to do things I want to learn about. And it could be like throughout the day, or randomly I'll think of something like "Oh, that'd be kind of interesting to learn about." So I just write down this question in a Google Doc. And whenever I would get super bored, I would just open up this Google Doc and start researching. Now I'm like, obviously, you know, I'm baking stuff, like completely besides volleyball, but is a good life skill. I'm gonna learn how to do it. I would create a Google Doc with just a bunch of things you want to learn about? Or want to do, and eventually write them down whenever you get bored when you're over there and just open up a Google Doc and just start going to town.
You really have to go outside your comfort zone, man. And just like being okay, and talking to people you don't know, learning the language or trying to doing things you're uncomfortable with is probably like, the biggest thing I would say it's like, you're gonna be uncomfortable in a lot of situations, you got to deal with it. You got to be okay with it. And you got to be able to like, Okay, this is what's going on, but like, just go with it. Because if you're pretty, like shy, you're gonna start being alone overseas, and that's gonna be like, the worst thing. It's gonna get worse and worse as time goes on.
What's next for you?
My goal is to go to the Olympics in 2024 and 2028. Obviously, I was the Olympic alternate in Tokyo. It was unfortunate that I didn't make that team. But I know that I gotta just keep working. And I got to make sure it's obvious that I should be on the Olympic team. So that's going to be my focus for the next couple of years. I want to be one of the top middle blockers in the world. And I really think I have a chance to be one of the top five top 10 in the world. The biggest focus for me is just my blocking. I know I can kill a ball, like, majority of the time, eight to 10 times. I'm not too worried about that. It's just working on my blocking and my reading skills that really gave me that extra notch up there.