If you happen to be an elite basketball, football or baseball player in the U.S. there is no need to travel around the globe for strong competition and a paycheck. The best professional leagues – NBA, NFL and MLB – are all conveniently located right here in America.
If pro volleyball is your thing, however, a passport and some sturdy luggage are essentials.
Just ask 2003 Trinity graduate Pat Durbin.
In three years as a pro, the 26-year-old outside hitter has played for clubs in Puerto Rico, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and now Finland.
Home for summer
Durbin is back in Louisville for the summer after leading Team Lakkapaa of Rovaniemi to the Finnish League Championship and Finnish Cup in his first season with the club.
Durbin’s height (6-foot-6) and ability to elevate (11-foot-4-inch approach reach) make him one of the 12-team league’s top offensive threats, ranking No. 14 in total points and No. 21 in kills.
Local hospitality and some unique experiences combined to make his stint in Finland memorable. “As a foreigner, you never really know how you’re going to be treated in another country but the guys on the team and the people in the town were all super nice to me,” said Durbin.
“I’ve had the chance to do things I’d never get to do at home. As a team we’ve gone ice fishing, snowmobiling and even went to reindeer races,” he added.
All four destinations have come with a new language and communication has been a struggle at times.
While volleyball seems a natural fit now, Durbin initially had to be nudged into the sport.
“I played football and basketball my freshman year at Trinity and I wasn’t really interested in volleyball, explained Durbin.
“One day before tryouts, Mr. (Tom) Coverdale, my history teacher and assistant football coach, pulled me aside after class and said ‘You should really consider trying out for volleyball.’
“He said it would make sense because of my height and athleticism, but I think he just wanted me off the football team,” Durbin joked.
In just three years Durbin went from raw novice to legitimate college prospect.
He landed at Ball State where coach Joel Walton’s teams often rank in the top-10 nationally.
“In his time here we…had a lot of great wins as a program,” said Walton. “He was an unbelievable blocker, especially his senior year. On a nightly basis the attacker he matched up against would hit 100 to 200 percent below their average.”
Durbin was a four-year starter and holds the all-time single-season kills record (465) for the Cardinals.
Not ready for a nine-to-five job and still itching to compete, Durbin began looking for opportunities to play professionally.
“I thought there was a chance I could get in somewhere so I got with an agent, made a video and waited,” said Durbin.
Two months after graduation, a chance to join a team in Puerto Rico came up and Durbin was on a plane two days later.
After the two-month summer league ended in Puerto Rico, Durbin went to Anaheim, Calif., where he trained with the U.S. National Team for four months.
Season-long runs with clubs in Dubai (UAE) and Amriswil (Switzerland), and in July of 2010 he signed with Team Lakkapaa.
Durbin’s plans for next season are still in limbo. Preseason begins in mid-August.
Track and Field
Butler High School’s Tretez Kinnaird, Kentucky’s 3-A state champion in the 800-meter run, will compete with Team USA at the International Amateur Athletics Federation World Youth Championships (WYC) in Lille, France July 6-10.
The rising junior was named to the squad after posting a personal best 1:50.56 at the WYC Trials in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Kinnaird held off race favorite Cameron Thornton of Georgia down the stretch and set a new trials record.
Kinnaird has had an outstanding summer, winning at the Music City Distance Carnival (1:50.71) in June, then placing sixth overall (1:50.88) at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.
Kinnaird is still just shy of the state 800 record of 1:50.20 set by Male’s James Doaty in 2000.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at firstname.lastname@example.org.