COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 29, 2017) – For roughly seven seasons, middle blocker David Smith was known as a strong player off the bench for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

After spending the winter starting for an international club team, Smith would return to the United States ready to substitute for middle blockers like Ryan Millar, David Lee, Russell Holmes and Max Holt.

In 2017, Millar, Lee and Holmes were off the roster and Holt opted not to play in the FIVB World League, giving Smith the chance to start consistently for the first time.

Smith, 32, made the most of the opportunity and has been named the 2017 USAV Male Indoor Player of the Year.

While Smith was happy for the chance to start, it also required some mental adjustment.

“I had to learn something of a new role for the team,” Smith said from Poland, where he is competing for Aluron Virtu Warta Zawiercie. “For most of my career with the National Team, my main purpose was to bring a spark or energy when I get put on the court in the middle of a match.

“This summer, I started the majority of the matches so my focus was more about keeping a consistent level of focus and energy through the entire stretch of a match, weekends and tournaments.”

Smith led the team in blocks with 40 (.53 per set). His hitting efficiency for the season was .548. He also served as team captain during the FIVB Grand Champions Cup.

He was also one of only two two-time Olympians on the roster (along with Matt Anderson<, who returned to the team after World League) helping lead a team that, at times, included two players still in college (T.J. DeFalco and Jeff Jendryk).

“The biggest highlight for the team was that we were in the fight for a medal up until the last match of every tournament we played in this summer,” Smith said. “With some of the other veterans taking some time off, we had a really young group of guys for the majority of the summer, but we learned a lot and grew through the challenges we faced and we never stopped playing hard.”

The U.S. Men made it to the final round of the FIVB World League and finished fourth. They finished fourth at the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, but could have medaled had they not lost to Italy in the final match. The U.S. finished the season by winning the NORCECA Championship and qualifying for the 2018 FIVB World Championship.

In the final NORCECA match against Dominican Republic, Smith was the second-leading scorer with 10 points, including seven blocks.

Smith is looking forward to competing in the 2018 FIVB Volleyball Nations League (formerly known as World League) and at the World Championship. Truth be told, he is also hoping that he will be in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games and still making an impact.

“I’ve always looked at my national team career in blocks of quads with the Olympics being the grand finale,” he said. “Even if I don’t make it all the way to the end of the road this quad, there is no other road and no other group of guys I’d rather be taking this journey with right now.”