A nervous 17-year-old Ben Patch finished the tryout and waited anxiously to find out the results. He knew the competition was stiff. He was up against 500 other athletes with the same goal in mind.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Patch said. “You had to wait like a three-month period. It was really dreadful because you are just thinking about it every single day. You had to play your best.”
He did eventually make the first cut of the U.S. men’s junior volleyball team, making the list of 22 who weren’t cut among the 500. After another week of tryouts, the list was narrowed down to 13, and Patch was on the team.
He would go on to lead that team to a gold medal in the NORCECA tournament, a junior North American volleyball tournament, and claim the MVP award, which would springboard his volleyball career to where it is now — the starting opposite hitter on the No. 1 ranked BYU men’s volleyball team.
Anyone who has been to a BYU men’s volleyball game this year has undoubtedly noticed the freshman. He is a 6’8″ bean stalk who is as passionate, animated and happy as can be. He dances around during games, gets his team fired up and tortures opponents with his deadly spike, all while keeping a giant grin on his face. A year removed from local Provo High School, he is only 18 years old.
Patch entered Provo High as a relatively short 5’9″ freshman. Volleyball wasn’t his choice sport at that time.
“I really wasn’t tall going into my high school,” Patch said. “I grew like a foot. I probably would have played soccer if I didn’t play volleyball. Our high school basketball coach tried to get me, (and) I said, ‘Once you see me dribble there’s no way you want me to play basketball.'”
Provo didn’t have a club volleyball team, so Patch played for a Pleasant Grove club team his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He wasn’t always a star, though.
“I wasn’t very good when I started on this Pleasant Grove club team,” Patch said. “I was on the lowest team on their third string, and I was really bad. (After) not making it year after year, (I) finally made the top team. I thought that was kind of relatable to Michael Jordan, I mean that’s so stereotypical because he got cut off a team. He persevered and didn’t give up. His resilience is amazing, (and) his success that he’s had is something that I want to emulate because he didn’t give up.”
Patch eventually did become the star of the top team. Making the youth national team, he opted against playing his senior year and instead started and coached a club team at Provo. His team experienced a lot of success and took third in state.
Patch made noise playing on the youth national team, and college coaches took notice. He was heavily recruited as a top-10 prospect out of high school by USC, UCLA, UC-Irvine, Hawaii, Pepperdine and Pacific, but he opted to stay local and play for BYU. That decision is paying off for him and for the Cougars.
Even though it wasn’t his choice sport initially, Patch knew volleyball was for him the first time he played it.
“I knew from the moment I started playing that (volleyball) was the best thing ever,” Patch said. “I just never thought I would love something so much.”
Volleyball wasn’t always his passion, and neither were sports. Patch’s first love is pottery and ceramics. Before he was serious about a volleyball career, he was preparing a portfolio for pottery and art scholarships. He got heavily involved in it during high school and even placed in the national show for grade school aged kids.
He still enjoys doing ceramics as a hobby although he isn’t majoring in art. He is studying management and hopes to one day become a dentist. However, his perfect day consists heavily in ceramics and art.
“I’d go into a ceramics studio, and I would just throw all day,” Patch said.
Patch has the opportunity to play in the junior world championships as part of the U.S. national team but is also anxious to serve an LDS mission. Fortunately, he has the support of a loving family to assist in his decisions. His close-knit family shaped him into the person he is today.
Patch is the third of four children, but he and his younger brother are adopted. He has had the opportunity to get to know his biological parents, an opportunity many adopted kids don’t have.
“I’m really, really close with my birth mom,” Patch said. “She comes to most of the (volleyball) games. I know all her kids, and all her kids know who I am, and for them to be here and support and watch the games is something that most kids that are adopted do not get to experience.”
He has recently gotten to know his biological dad too. Patch said getting to know him has played a significant role in his life.
“My birth dad played in the NFL, so he’s retired now,” Patch said. “He flew out to one of the games a couple of weeks ago, and that was actually the first time we’ve ever met. It meant a lot that the first meeting he was willing to reach out. Being able to meet him and feel his support is just really cool. I’m blessed in a lot of ways, and mainly in that way I get to know who my biological parents are.”
Winning gold for the U.S. and being the MVP of a major tournament has helped Patch learn and grow. He is learning what it takes to be elite in the volleyball world and the value of winning a gold for the U.S.
“It was really humbling because it was a lot of hard work, and a lot of hours spent in the gym paid off,” Patch said. “I didn’t even really know what winning the gold actually meant. Being able to win, you really get like a sense of how much it means to be a U.S. citizen, to represent your country.”
His All-American teammate Taylor Sander is happy to have Patch on the team.
“He jumps high and has a really good arm,” Sander said. “He’s young, but he’s just going to get better as the season goes along. So I’m trying to mentor him, and I think he’s just going to do a phenomenal job as we get closer to the championship. I’m excited to have him.”
The work and determination Patch has put into being a great volleyball player and a great person while having a smile on his face is an inspiration to his team, and the road he has traveled to get here has been memorable for him.
“I would say this whole journey is the highlight of my life,” Patch said. “Starting off as a local Provo boy and then making the youth national team was a real humbling experience. Then being a high recruit, a top-10 recruit, and then coming to BYU and being able to start as a freshman. It’s the highlight of my life so far, in the short life I’ve lived.”