It’s a scorching summer day in Huntington Beach, California, and Casey Patterson squares up to serve the ball.
Beads of sweat drip down his face. His right-hand man and partner, Jacob Gibb, gives the signal behind his back as to where he should strike. Casey tosses the ball up, utilizing his 3-foot vertical jump. He crushes it over the net, right in the middle of his two opponents — leaving them helplessly wondering what just happened. Casey shouts “Boom!” at the top of his lungs after the ace serve and does his signature victory dance for the awestruck crowd.
Casey Patterson, standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, and a Southern California native, is a powerhouse beach volleyball player and a BYU alumnus. He played on the BYU volleyball team in 1999 and 2002–2005. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the Association of Volleyball Professionals and training to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Patterson’s mother and father, Nancy and Steve Patterson, said they saw athletic potential in their son from an early age.
“He had natural athletic ability since he was born,” Nancy Patterson said. “I went into labor at my husband’s softball game, and after he was born I had this impression that he was going to be a professional athlete — we both did.”
They said that Casey Patterson was always involved in all types of sports, from soccer to basketball. Eventually his mother, a former volleyball player herself, convinced him to try out for the volleyball team his freshman year at Newbury Park High School. Casey Patterson was not enthusiastic the first time his mom suggested he try out for the team.
“I said, ‘That’s a girl’s sport! No way am I going to go play volleyball,'” he said. “But I eventually tried out and fell in love with the sport right away and had a little bit of natural talent in certain areas, so it was really fun to me — I got hooked.”
Years of hard work and dedication accelerated his high level of talent. However, some people questioned his future aspirations for volleyball.
“During his high school years he had people tell him, counselors or different leadership, would say, ‘Oh Casey, you need to get a regular job and a career plan besides volleyball. That probably isn’t going to work out for you,'” Nancy Patterson said. “My husband and I never believed that.”
Casey Patterson eventually went on to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Little Rock, Arkansas. During that time his father, Steve Patterson, said his son worked hard to stay in shape so he was prepared to play when he came back.
“When they offered him cars on his mission he would say, ‘Nevermind that, we have bikes, and we can walk,'” Steve Patterson said. “So his companions would not always be happy.”
After returning from his mission, Casey Patterson was offered a chance to play on the BYU men’s volleyball team. The assistant coach at the time, Grayson Dubois, was someone Casey Patterson looked up to and connected with. Dubois said Casey Patterson was somewhat of a unique player because of his never-ending enthusiasm for the game, as well as for his fellow teammates.
“His enthusiasm was a big strength, and it rubbed off on the other guys,” Dubois said. “He was enthusiastic; even on the bench when he wasn’t in, he was still celebrating his teammates and doing all kinds of nice things.”
Dubois said he had no doubt Casey Patterson would go on to do great things with a career in volleyball. It was Casey Patterson’s work ethic that set him apart from other players Dubois had coached previously.
“He was willing to spend extra time in the gym, honing his craft to be good,” Dubois said. “He wanted to be a jump server, so he would come in and would serve 100 extra balls a day. He wanted to be an opposite hitter, so he would come in and have our setters set an extra ball to get the extra reps that he needed to catch up.”
Casey Patterson said during his time at BYU he had to play almost every position. This variety prepared him to play beach volleyball where, he said, one takes on more responsibilities as a player.
“You have to be an all-around player,” Casey Patterson said. “You have to be great at strategizing. You have to be good at having great chemistry with your partner and communicate, so a lot more relies on you as a beach volleyball player rather than indoor. Indoor you can hide or be good at just one thing.”
Casey Patterson said he became interested in beach volleyball during his time in Provo because he found various sand courts around town. He also learned the art of playing in front of large crowds and interacting with them — which is now part of his signature playing style.
“At BYU there’s so many people watching, so you learn how to play the crowd and be entertaining and fun at the same time,” Casey Patterson said. “That’s probably one of the biggest things I learned there was how to have a lot of fun, how to play in front of a lot of people and make it fun to watch.”
Being the current No. 1 male player in the AVP and winning a 2014 men’s Team of the Year title have been assets to Casey Patterson and his partner, Gibb, who are trying to nab a top-qualifying spot in the Olympics.
“It’s probably the greatest tour (the AVP) in the world,” Casey Patterson said. “It’s super important for us U.S. athletes, because it prepares us to go try to play in the Olympics and play in the World Tour.”
These days Casey Patterson is busy training and conditioning to qualify for the Olympics in 2016. He trains, along with Gibb, for more than six hours a day, four days a week. His rigorous training regimen consists of morning practice at the beach for three hours, a healthy lunch, then training at the American Sports Center and weight-lifting for two-and-a-half hours.
His intense training schedule is to help him and his partner meet the necessary qualifications for the Olympics. To qualify, Casey Patterson and Gibb have to finish in the top 16 in the world ranking and be in the top two teams in the United States.
“We have about 20 tournaments starting now until about two weeks until the Olympics start,” Casey Patterson said. “All these grand slams count in those important tournaments, and that ranks you — whether you’re in the top 16 or the top two in the nation.”
In 2013 Casey and Gibb were ranked the second best team in the United States and the fourth best team in the world.
“I feel we’re going to be battling for the next two summers to snag one of those Olympic spots. It all starts this summer,” Casey Patterson said.
Family is everything to Casey, who, he says motivate him to go far in his career. He married his wife, Lexi, in 2005 and has two sons, Cash and Guy, and a daughter, Ray. His wife is a former BYU volleyball player herself, and both wore No. 9 jerseys during their time playing at BYU.
“Putting food on the table is number one, so if I don’t win then we don’t eat,” Casey Patterson said. “A family requires a lot, so you have to take it more serious because that’s four other people depending on you being successful. It’s awesome, because it makes you work harder than you ever would.”
Steve Patterson said his son interacts closely with his fans while he is playing and after the game.
“He will spend hours talking to people and taking pictures with fans, and he will never turn anyone away,” Steve Patterson said. “He just really enjoys people and enjoys letting them be a part of his life and his game.”
He added that Casey Patterson is good at encouraging and lending words of advice, especially to youth who have aspirations of being professional athletes.
“As parents we’re really proud to see him encourage the young people to believe that they can do it too,” Steve Patterson said. “He is always willing to take his time to call them or spend time with them on the court to help them out.”