Alumnus Joel Schneidmiller moves overseas to play professional volleyball

January 20, 2022 — by Sarah Zhou

Schneidmiller hits the ball in a match.

SHS and UCI alum committed to play abroad for Lycurgus.

The greatest men’s volleyball player in school history, 2017 graduate Joel Schneidmiller, is now playing the sport professionally in Europe.

After SHS, he went on to play at UC Irvine, earning a string of honors, including selection as a three-time National Volleyball Association/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I-II Honorable Mention All-American. The UC Irvine Class of 2021 alumnus is now playing for Lycurgus, a Dutch professional volleyball team.

Schneidmiller’s 9-month contract began in August; the Netherlands was one of Schneidmiller’s top destinations when looking at clubs overseas, as most Dutch natives are fluent in English due to the standard education taught in Dutch high schools, removing the language barrier he would likely have faced in some other countries.

Before going on to play professionally, the 6’-6” Schneidmiller was a star at UC Irvine, where he built strong bonds through living and eating with his teammates. Still, the bonds differed from those cultivated through playing professionally.

“When I played at UC Irvine, it was a balance between school and volleyball and trying to find time for some personal time in between,” Schneidmiller said. “Now, volleyball is my job and basically all I do. Guys come in, work hard, do what they need to do and we go our separate ways, whether that’s to an ‘actual’ job or back to their apartment.”

Playing professionally, Schneidmiller found, requires dedication and focus. 

“Playing professionally takes a different level of commitment and love for the game,” Schneidmiller said. “You don’t have some of the distractions that you have when you’re at school. Volleyball is a job and everyone treats it that way.”

Every morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., the team meets to lift weights or have morning practice. They then practice beginning at 4 p.m.

In between practices, Schneidmiller usually relaxes or cooks, he said. He routinely stays in touch with friends and family through various communication platforms.

“Living on my own was probably the hardest thing to get used to, and just being away from my friends and family for nine months takes a toll on my mental health,” Schneidmiller said. “But the more I get out and do things or hang out with teammates, the happier I am.”

Though members of the team try to spend time with one another, the ongoing pandemic has posed challenges — Schneidmiller tested positive for COVID-19 in December and was quarantined for a week in his apartment.

Schneidmiller said he began playing volleyball because of his dad, citing that the two would go to Santa Cruz to play beach volleyball. When he was 12, Schneidmiller began playing at the Bay to Bay Volleyball Club in Campbell, which was when he “really started to focus on Volleyball.”

“What I love about the sport is just the team aspect. In order to have success each person on the court must be doing their job well, or else it’s very hard to win,” Schneidmiller said.

Schneidmiller credits his UCI volleyball teammate, Dante Chakravorti, a starting setter who graduated in 2019, as someone who helped him through his first two years in college. 

“Dante took it upon himself to make sure I passed all of my classes while also being our starting setter and having a ton of work to do for his own classes,” Schneidmiller said. “We spent late nights studying together after practice. While I hated him during those moments, I am extremely grateful for him and the way he helped me. I would not be where I am today if not for him.”

In regards to the future, Schneidmiller is still undecided on his plans after his volleyball career.

“If you asked me [about my goals and aspirations] a year ago I would’ve said I want to play professionally as long as possible and hopefully make the national team roster in the U.S. someday,” he said. “But honestly, I’m not sure where I want to go with this sport. I will definitely need to make some decisions in the near future regarding what I really want to do with the next ten years of my life.”

Though his plans for the future are unclear, Schnedimiller’s goal while playing for Lycurgus is to enjoy an experience few athletes are lucky enough to have. 

“I just want to become the best player I can be during my time here and want to win and make lasting friendships with my teammates,” Schneidmiller said.

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