Meet the ever-improving Sam Pedlow
Canada’s Sam Pedlow was named the FIVB’s Most Improved Player in 2017 – so we asked him what it meant after a consistent season on the sand
The first thing Sam Pedlow’s friends asked when they heard he had won the FIVB’s Most Improved Player award was ‘hey, doesn’t this mean you weren’t very good last year?!’
After the laughter dies down, the 30-year-old Canadians composes himself to give a very good answer.
“Actually in the 2016 season I thought I played the best volleyball of my career,” Pedlow tells swatchmajorseries.com. “This year, however, I also went on to play the best of my career – but yes, I was a bit surprised to win the award.
“I’ve not played as much as some of the others who have enjoyed better results. Taylor Crabb had a pretty solid season since partnering Jake Gibb and I thought Ryan Doherty was also in contention.
“Honestly, I think it was just a feather in my cap to be nominated, so to receive the award means a lot. There’s a plenty of players in there that I look up to but we’ve enjoyed some pretty good results and there are signs of playing better, so there’s definitely exiting things to look forward to.”
The season of yet more improvement has come following the 6ft 5in blocker’s new partnership with Sam Schachter.
Having partnered Grant O’Gorman for the past five years, Pedlow enjoyed a consistent first season on the sand with Schachter. The two Sams finished in the top 10 in all seven FIVB World Tour events they entered, posting two fifth place finishes, including one on the Swatch Major Series in Gstaad when they were unlucky not to beat Evandro/Andre in the quarterfinals.
As Pedlow explains, it’s been two seasons of back-to-back progress – and that makes him a happy beach volleyball player.
“Yes, I mean I’ve switched partners and it took me and Grant a couple of years to get to the stage where we started to achieve some good results and we became very consistent,” explains the Barrie-born blocker. “And consistency is the biggest thing for me.
“Winning this award is great but I’m not the kind of person who needs recognition to create motivation. A lot of my strength is internally driven. I know the potential is there, as is the technique and the physical side of the game, it’s just being consistent and playing the most consistent beach volleyball we can that we need to focus on.
“I don’t think there were any real lows this season, but whenever there were a few down times, we just accepted it, stepped back and got on with it.
“It wouldn’t have bothered me if I wasn’t nominated but to win is the icing on the cake. A lot of people asked ‘does it mean you didn’t play well last year?’ but for me, I look at it differently. Last season with Grant, I played the best volleyball of my career. We were ranked down in the 50s and 60s but almost qualified for the Olympics. I was playing good volleyball then and now I believe I have played even better which is a great feeling.”
The Sams also recorded a top-10 place at the World Championships, knocking out Olympic silver medalists Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai on the way – before losing to Liamin and Viacheslav Krasilnikov, the eventual bronze medalists.
For Pedlow, there’s more to come, more to learn and more to get excited about as he and Schachter enter the 2018 season with hopes of nailing down a spot for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
“Looking at next year, well…I want to get out there now – I wish there was a five-star tournament next week but we’ll be patient,” he says with enthusiasm. “We’re building something and the key is how to think about it. Being in the top 10 is great, but if we’re not, and if we start slow, there’s no reason to panic.
“You have to trust the process and trust the work you have done in the off-season. It’s not always about the ‘now’ – the aim is to reach our goals at the right time.”
And with another year under his belt alongside Schachter, who would bet against even more improvement from the Canadian duo.
“Playing with Sam is a little different, it’s what we call ‘one and done volleyball’, there’s less transitions, we’re not involved in so many exchanges and that means our energy can last longer in matches – our win record in three-set matches is pretty good,” says Pedlow.
“Sam has an unreal volleyball IQ – he’s our quarterback. I’m happy to be up there at the net and for him to be at the back and let him do his thing back there, he gets everything. I’m still learning a lot though and he learned a lot from Josh [Binstock, his former teammate].
“I knew playing with Sam would take my ability to the next level. We know we can compete with the best. I’m 30 now, the goal is to maximize the years I have left on the highest level and playing with a guy that has won medals made it a clear decision.
“I wanted the best chance to get to 2020 and Sam was that guy.”
So what about another Most Improved Player award this time next year?
Sam laughs. “We’ll see. We’ve set our goals as a team. There were no podiums in our first year, but we have the belief they will come.”