Retirement Series: Ryan Doherty and Stafford Slick
Former U.S. Beach National Team athletes Ryan Doherty and Stafford Slick retired from international volleyball in 2020. Find out what they've been up to in the past year.
Over the next few months, USA Volleyball will honor national team athletes who have decided to hang up their U.S. National Team jerseys. Whether on the court or in the sand, USA Volleyball thanks these athletes for their hard work and dedication over the years.
We continue the series by honoring Jake Gibb of the U.S. Beach National Team. After picking up the sport later in life, at age at 21, Gibb excelled for two decades. He emerged onto the international scene in 2005 when he was named the FIVB’s top rookie, and his immense (6-7) presence at the net powered him to four Olympic appearances. This year, at age 45, he became the oldest volleyball Olympian in history, finishing in the top 10 with Tri Bourne. He reunited with long-term partner Taylor Crabb for the 2021 FIVB World Tour Finals in October, his final international tournament.
These are Jake’s words…
Hometown: Bountiful, Utah
Years pro: 21 (2000-2021)
Career highlights: Four-time Olympian… four-time USAV Men’s Beach Player of the Year (2012, 2013, 2018, 2019)… 2005 FIVB Top Rookie… 2012 FIVB Tour Champion and Team of the Year with Sean Rosenthal… FIVB Most Inspirational (2013, 2014)… competed in eight World Championships, finishing fifth twice… 34 AVP wins, including three Manhattan Beach Open titles
Olympic Games: 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, 2016 Rio, 2020 Tokyo
Best FIVB finish: Gold seven times: 2006 Corona Open (Acapulco, Mexico), 2008 Prague Open, 2012 smart Grand Slam Rome, 2012 1 to 1 Energy Grand Slam (Gstaad, Switzerland), 2013 Shanghai Grand Slam, 2015 St. Petersburg Grand Slam, 2019 Chetumal Four-star
Q: How’s retirement going?
“It’s good, I’m really enjoying it. It’s surprising how much I’m enjoying it. Just the release from playing; doing what I’ve done for that many years is all-encompassing. All your focus and all your energy are put into that, so it’s nice to have a release and focus on some things I want to focus on. It’s really cool.”
Q: Does it feel like retirement yet?
“I thought I was going to take six months or a year off and just decompress and relax. I took a couple days. I didn’t like sitting around the house and having my kids see me not doing anything, so I started my beach club right away, and I’ve been all in: getting business licenses, getting permits, providing business plans to the state, and all sorts of things. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been cool to use business savvy and my brain for work instead of just my brawn, instead of just my body. It’s a really cool transition for me.”
Q: What new club?
“It’s called Spiker Beach Volleyball Club [in Huntington Beach, Calif.]. Spiker obviously for my middle name just so people will tie it to me. I’m going to coach 12–17-year-old girls and work on getting them scholarships to college and playing club tournaments. It’ll be really fun. I’ll be doing it four, five days a week after school. Some of my sponsors are coming along with me into the club world. It’s an exciting time.”
Q: What are you most excited about?
“I like the transfer of knowledge about something I love so much. I love the game, I just love it. I’m passionate about it and to share that passion with kids… I’ve just been coaching for a little bit – I’ll officially start in January – but I get involved with the kids. I start to care about their progress. It’s nice to be in something where it’s about them and not about me. My career’s been about me, or me and my team, for the last 20-something years. It’s nice to get away from ‘me, me, me.’”
Q: What were your goals when you started playing professionally?
“When I first started playing, my goals were to qualify for the AVP. I thought that would just be the coolest thing ever. I never had any aspirations for anything above that. I didn’t play Division I volleyball, I just thought playing AVP and AAA in California would be an amazing feat.”
Q: Did you accomplish the goals you had when you first started playing?
“Yeah, and more. If you would have told me 20 years ago about what I’ve accomplished, I wouldn’t have believed you. It exceeded all my expectations.”
“As you get closer and closer to Olympic medals and things I didn’t accomplish, you start to want that, but that came later. Looking back, I accomplished way more than I ever expected of myself.”
Q: Any particular Olympic Games stand out?
“I think the London Games were my favorite. We were playing the best at that time. We took a fifth (with Sean Rosenthal), which was decent, but I thought that was our best chance to medal. We were really playing well that year. There’s a lot of heartbreak with that, but also that was the best year of my career. We were the number one team in the world. I’ll always remember that Olympic Games.”
Jake Gibb and Sean Rosenthal at the London 2012 Olympic Games
Q: Did you get to experience London or being a fan at all?
“London in my mind was just the best-run Olympics that I’ve ever been to. Top-down, it was well done: the Athletes Village, all the houses that they had, the P&G house, all the places that the athletes could go, and their families were taken care of; it was just cool. The city was great, and they made everything very easy. And our venue was just ridiculous: right at the Eye and Big Ben, Parliament. It was one of the coolest locations you could be at.
Q: Any special off-court memories from your career?
“I remember winning in Rome in 2012. It qualified us for the Olympics, and we were in a tight race. We won the tournament, a grand slam, and we went out as a full USAV group [afterward]. We had a great night with dinner, we partied a bit and just bonded. It was one of the coolest nights I can remember where you’re just getting to know all your team members as human beings as opposed to just athletes, coaches and staff.
“Those are the treasures I take away from that National Team: really getting to know the guys.”
Q: How was it playing against your BNT teammates?
“A lot of people look at that as competition, but I look at it as a team, and we make each other better as we train against each other. Every once in a while, we have to play one another and we have to fight for Olympic spots – that’s real – but I look at it is we’re making each other better. You can look at it as those guys are the enemy, but for me, it’s a way of getting better. And if I push them to get better, then we get better together and take on the world better.”
Q: What did volleyball give you or teach you?
“Volleyball taught me the importance of team, and when I say team, I mean everyone around you. My coach, my strength coach, my PT, my chiro, my video guy Tyler Widdison, my sport psychologist Peter Habe, my head coach, my partner… that’s my team.
“It helped me realize you put the best people around you, then you never look back. If you put the right team around you, then there’s no question, you buy into that system and go for it.”
“That 100% is applied now that I’m starting this new business as the club owner because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m putting the right people around me, trying to get the right energy around me, the right coaches that I can teach my system, the right people to run my social media… it’s the same exact game. You’re putting the right team around you and then go and be successful together.
Q: How did USA Volleyball help throughout your career?
“Initially, the only thing USA Volleyball did is sign me up for tournaments. Now, it’s completely changed and they’re part of our everyday life. That team I talked about? A lot of that is USA Volleyball. It’s a complete 180, so props to them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect and there are areas of the Beach National Team that need greater support, but it’s really cool to see the progress they’ve made. They’re now the most important part of my beach volleyball team, and before, they played zero role.”
Q: What are your non-volleyball plans?
“The biggest thing is spending time with my kids and doing the camping/fishing/summer activities that I wasn’t able to do for the first part of their lives because I was always traveling. That will be the biggest thing, just spending time with them and doing the things they love to do. They love to hike and they love to fish. That and this club will be consuming my time.”