In professional beach volleyball, the gap between advancing in a tournament and losing out on a payday is slim. In a sport full of athletes who are all similarly skilled and performing at their physical best, the key is to find that extra something to set you apart from the field.
For players like Canadian Sam Pedlow, volleyball is an easy game—from a physical standpoint. It’s easy to warm up and hit the ball over the net. What Sam excels in, what has propelled his team to a top-10 world ranking, is mental preparation.
Becoming a Peaceful Warrior
To cultivate the right mindset, Sam tries to create an environment where he feels he can consistently bring his best, week after week.
“I think everyone has their own way of approaching that side of the game,” Sam says. “For me, something that’s really helped is mindfulness and meditation. Just trying to approach every situation the same. Not get too high. Not get too low.”
To reach this consistent mental state and be the most effective volleyball player he can be, Sam tries to put himself in a flow state—a calm intensity where he’s aware of what is going on but doesn’t need to think about what to do. He just plays.
“It really is being a peaceful warrior,” Sam says. “You know who you are and what you’re capable of, and it’s just a matter of letting it happen. That expression of everything you’ve worked for and all the work you’ve put in just flows. It’s my goal every game to go out there with that quiet intensity—the warrior mentality— and stick to what I’m good at and not question myself.”
Finding Consistency, On and Off the Court
Sam is the same on the court as he is off, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. He’s a believer in the sport adage: what you bring to practice is what you bring to the game. Sam strives to live his life with quiet intensity. His preparation for what he wants to be on the court begins with who he wants to be off of it. And to help, he uses analytical feedback to parley into his mental preparation.
“I actually have a headband now that monitors my heart rate, monitors EEG, like my brainwaves,” Sam says.” It gives me feedback to show me that, even when I think I’m in a good headspace and can control my responses, it’s not necessarily true. I’ve always been a data guy, and having this tool to give me some feedback has been life-changing.”
By monitoring his vitals, Sam has found he can focus on calming himself down and controlling his physiology, which has paid dividends. “During the game when things aren’t going right, or even when I start a game, I have feedback to show me what is closer to my optimal state.”
A Matter of Perspective
When he was young, Sam’s parents were involved in their local volleyball community, which gave him an opportunity to compete, eventually taking him to the university level. But he never expected to play volleyball for a living. He was just a kid who loved the game.
After graduating from college, where he played for his school’s indoor team, Sam completely stepped away from volleyball. He went on to earn his master’s degree in physical therapy. It was then he was asked to start playing a little again. He saw this as an opportunity to get out and get a little more active. But, even after not playing for two years, he ended up making the national team as a developmental athlete and had some success in zonal tournaments in North America, South America, and the Caribbean.
Now, nearly nine years into his professional career, he has learned to embrace and enjoy the process that has earned his team a world top-10 ranking and the opportunity to represent his country every week as Canada’s number one team. Through this growth, Sam has adopted the perspective that volleyball is so much more than just wins and losses—even at the sport’s most widely known event.
“Our sport is so crazy,” Sam says. “Every single week we’re in a new country, playing another tournament, trying to express ourselves to the best of our ability physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. This sport has taught me more about myself, who I am, and who I want to be than anything else I could ever imagine—more than any academic setting, more than any job could have taught me.
“I really want to go to the Olympics—I really want to win it—but I think there’s a lot more this sport has to offer me than that tournament, itself. At the end of it, whether I make it or I don’t, whether I win it or I don’t, I know I’ll come out the other side of volleyball as such an amazing person because of the experience.”
7 Facts About Sam
Why he trusts USANA: It’s simple, but effective. I know what I’m getting, and I’m not worried about what’s in it.
His favorite USANA product: BiOmega™. It’s one of those things that, even if we’re on the road for six weeks, I’m counting out to make sure I have enough put away. If I’m taking an overnight flight, I make sure to put them in my pocket to be sure to take them.
Favorite places to play: There are some unique places around the world that really stand out. We just finished playing in Gstaad, Switzerland. We’re playing in a luxury ski town in the mountains, and these people love beach volleyball. You feel like a celebrity and you feel the love these people have for the sport. It’s a special experience, because it’s not something you get everywhere you go.
I’m also always excited to play in Vienna. People in Austria love beach volleyball—they are the craziest fans in the world. They put up a stadium on an island in the middle of the river and it’s full of tens of thousands of people, every day. People come from all over Europe to see this tournament. It’s something special, the atmosphere at this event. It isn’t necessarily the location—like Rio or Southern California—it’s the fans that make it super special.
What he does to relax: Honestly, the gym. It’s not that I’m doing a preset workout, I just need to get in there and see what feels good. There’s no plan. It could be yoga, stretching, and mindfulness. It could be a little bit of body building or cardio. It’s like therapy for me. I’ve been programmed to move all my life in this sport, so on a day off, in order to relax, I start my day with breakfast and then by moving. After that, I’ve really taken a love to reading.
When I’m home, it’s spending time with my wife and our two cats. We spend a lot of time outside, working in our gardens, hanging out with the cats in the backyard, and just experiencing life together. It takes a unique person to be married to a beach volleyball player who is traveling around the world for months at a time, putting these lofty aspirations first for years and years. When I’m home, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my wife and just enjoy being home with her.
Cheat meals come in volume: My wife and I are huge Mexican food fans, so we often have the exact same cheat meal for like a year. It’s funny, what we’re eating isn’t necessarily like a cheat meal, it’s probably the volume. We’re not eating ice cream and candy, we’re eating fajitas. But we’re going to eat fajitas until we feel sick.
A special song on repeat: A song I always seem to pull up is “May I Have this Dance” by Francis and the Lights. I can listen to it on repeat over and over and over. When my wife and I got married, this was the last song we played at the ceremony before she came down the aisle.
Best way to follow him: Instagram, for sure. Everything else links from here. @pedlowsamuel