Relyea Speller first learned how to play volleyball during freshman year at Wauwatosa East High School. His neighbor invited him to watch the women’s indoor National Team play while they were hanging out one day. He immediately fell in love with the sport, and decided to tryout for his high school team. Although he was a beginner, he automatically made the Freshmen team because they only had seven players at the time.
“Our first match came after I only got two practices under my belt. Thankfully, I was able to remember the rotations and where to play defense. It was a nerve wracking win for us, but my love for the game began there,” shares Speller.”
After his first season of club volleyball during sophomore year of high school, Speller realized that playing in college was something he was interested in pursuing. His high school team won the state championship during Speller’s junior year and shortly afterwards, he started to get recruited by college coaches.
“How explosive and technical this sport is truly sets it apart from other sports I played, which were basketball and baseball.”
Growing up, Speller witnessed his parents grind through adversity and continue to move forward and work hard to provide for their family. They always made sure to drive him and his older brother to where they needed to be, and to pay for whatever was needed so Speller could play volleyball.
“I appreciated that greatly, and never really asked for much because of that. Seeing them grind through the adversity while their approach and attitude never faltered, showed me that no matter the circumstance, you have to move forward and work for what you want.”
Despite being recruited by several college programs, Speller took a two-year break after high school due to academic reasons. However, he was determined to play college volleyball; so at the age of 20 he sent an email to every junior college program in California.
“Golden West College’s head coach Tim Johnson was the first to respond to me, sold the program to me, and that’s how I ended up there,” adds Speller. As my coach he gave me all of the confidence in the world, and sparked my interest to continue my playing career after college.
Speller finished his career at Long Beach City College, where he experienced the most personal growth, not only in his volleyball career, but also in his drive and aspirations for life after college. After Long Beach City College, he decided to pursue a professional career in volleyball. Today, at 32 years old, Speller continues his volleyball career overseas, as well as for the Volleyball League of America men’s professional league.
Photo credit: Todd Jay Photography
“What I love most about being a volleyball athlete is the connections made and gained over the years, but I most love where volleyball has taken me. I’ve been to places I never thought I would end up, and I credit my travels to the sport of volleyball.”
Currently, Speller is competing for VLA’s Rising Tide out of Southern California, and describes his experience with the team so far as “amazing.” Many of his teammates are his good friends, and he enjoys sharing the court with them.
“I love being a part of the VLA. It’s a bunch of very talented players that are hungry and looking to grow this game into what it should be here in the states. My journey has been an unconventional one, but it’s been an honor being able to do what I love in different places all over the world.”
Watch Rising Tide compete in person or on Youtube at the JVA West Coast Cup in Long Beach on May 28-May 29, 2022. You can watch the live stream or replay of every match at the Volleyball League of America Youtube page.