The virtual speaker series ‘Cardinal & Gold Conversations with USC Olympians’ began Wednesday with its first session featuring volleyball stars April Ross, Murphy Troy and Nicole Davis.
Ross, a two-time women’s beach volleyball Olympian won silver at the 2012 London Games and bronze at the 2016 Rio Games. At USC, she won back-to-back NCAA Championships in women’s indoor volleyball in 2002 and 2003.
Troy, a multi-year captain and men’s volleyball All American won a bronze medal in men’s indoor volleyball at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Davis, a two-time Olympian, won silver in both the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games in women’s indoor volleyball. She was also a back-to-back NCAA champion with Ross in 2002 and 2003 at USC.
The panel was moderated by current USC women’s beach volleyball coach Dain Blanton, who is an Olympian himself. Blanton won a gold medal in men’s beach volleyball in the 2000 Sydney Games.
When asked about their careers, Ross, Troy and Davis all credited their time as student athletes at USC with preparing them to play at the professional level.
“The more time goes on, the more I realize how lucky I was to have the girls on the SC team that were there,” Ross said. “I think more than anything it just solidified that’s how you want to be and that’s what it takes to win. I feel like I’ve just continued being like that on the beach.”
Troy said that it was the lessons he learned through failing at USC that propelled him on his Olympic journey. During Troy’s sophomore year, the USC men’s volleyball team lost in the national championship, and during his senior year, when the team was ranked number one, it ultimately lost in the semi finals. It was those experiences of being so close and coming up short that Troy said kept driving his professional career.
Davis noted the importance of being able to stay in the game and sustain success while also continuing to work hard and grow. Learning what it took to be on top of the game through winning back-to-back national championships at USC is one of the things that she took with her to the USA team.
After graduating from USC, all three went on to play professionally overseas for some time. Despite facing challenges of being in a foreign country and playing at the professional level, they all agreed that they would not change their experiences at all. Troy and Davis said they would absolutely recommend playing abroad as they learned a lot about themselves through navigating new countries and cultures.
“I consider my time playing overseas my formative years,” Davis said. “And it was by far some of the greatest experiences that I’ve had. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that there’s a commonality everywhere we go and I feel so much more tolerant of differences because of my experiences traveling the world. I think that’s something that’s missing in society right now.”
The three even picked up new languages during their time overseas, although Troy admitted his Italian is no longer what it once was. However, Ross noted that although she would not change her time overseas, she did not have the most enjoyable experience at first, but the learning opportunities made it worthwhile.
Additionally, throughout the virtual session, all three emphasized the importance of the willingness to show up each day ready to succeed. Being enthusiastic, being relentless and having grit are the traits they described are essential and necessary to succeed.
“That’s one thing that we tried to do every practice,” Troy said. “Who’s going to bring the fire today? And after volleyball I still look for people who are going to come in and be enthusiastic about what they do.”
The combined list of achievements of the panel is extensive and although there are many successes to choose from, they all said that bringing home that Olympic hardware is tough to beat. In volleyball, the Olympics are the pinnacle of the sport and winning an Olympic medal is what players work their whole lives for.
“You play for your high school and you play for your college, and it’s rare that you get to play for your country,” Blanton said. “You’re playing for so much more than yourself and that really sunk in once I got back from winning the gold medal.”
Out of everyone on the panel, Ross is the only one still playing and preparing for her third Olympic Games prior to the decision to postpone them until 2021. She is still continuing to train for next year’s Games and will be going to Brazil to do a training block there to gear up to compete next summer.
As for Troy and Davis, they are now retired from the sport. Troy, who retired after the 2016 Olympics, now works for an analytic software company. Davis, who retired in 2015, now works with Michael Gervais and former USC head football coach Pete Carroll for Compete to Create which is a program that provides mindset training to teach people to be their best every day.
The online speaker series is free for all Trojans and is sponsored by the Trojan Athletic Fund and the Heritage Association. The next session is on Oct. 14 and will feature track and field Olympians Allyson Felix, Andre De Grasse and Nia Alia.