Fixing Jumper’s Knee with Pro Volleyball Player Lexi Pollard

Clance: All right. Lexi Pollard. Welcome to Dominate Discussion.

Lexi: Thank you.

Clance: We’re happy to have you. So just tell people who you are and what you do.

Lexi: My name is Lexi Pollard. I’m a professional volleyball player and I’m going into my second year professional overseas, and heading into Germany next year after I just finished my season last year in Sweden.

Clance: Nice, nice. So how was your season last year in Sweden?

Lexi: It was a big transition from university volleyball in Ontario heading over there. I started out in Greece and then I ended up transferring to Sweden from COVID issues and it was just a massive transition from playing collegiate to now you’re getting paid to play a sport. So, you know, the expectations are higher, the pressures bigger, and I’m away from all my friends and family. They don’t speak English or either. So that was a lot of new experiences for me that I had to learn how to deal with. It was huge learning curve for sure.

Clance: You say expectations. So what type of expectations are you talking about? Obviously, I guess there’s team expectations, but what about expectations for yourself?

Lexi: The way that it works over there is so you have your foreign athletes in one pool. So Americans, Canadians, and then you have your local athletes as well, and you have to mix them together. It’s more expensive to bring foreign athletes over cause your flights, your transfer fees, and you’re also expected to be more of an impact player because otherwise they wouldn’t bring you over. So your expectations are up here.

Clance: So it’s a big deal bringing you over.

Lexi: Yeah. Essentially and their local player expectations are a little bit lower. So you always need to be performing at your best, a hundred percent all day, every day.

Clance: What are some of the biggest struggles you had last year in Sweden?

Lexi: I think just adapting to a new environment for me, I’m very routine-based. I found being four years at my university, you know, you get comfortable with the gym, your coach, your teammates. I was very comfortable with performing.

Clance: You got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Lexi: Exactly. So going over there. Yeah. I was, you know, new travel schedule. I had a coach that could barely speak English too. A lot of my teammates, they spoke Swedish so it was just exactly I needed to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and learning how to thrive in an environment that I might not be the most comfortable in. Learning how to deal with it.

Clance: Is there one thing you can key in on that helped you overcome that? Or help you deal with that situation?

Lexi: I found a lot of meditation actually helped me.

Clance: Interesting.

Lexi: My game day I would spend about 20 in the morning and I would prepare all the different scenarios in my head on how a game could go if I would, you know, if I started off slow, how would I deal with that? Or if I started off well, how would I maintain? And put myself in those situations and figure out how to consistently have a good game regardless of how it starts or how it’s going or how the other team’s playing.

Clance: That’s amazing.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: So you basically meditated on different scenarios and how you would react to those different scenarios. And that helped you in stress situations cause it’s like you’ve been there before.

Lexi: Yeah. That’s exactly it.

Clance: The funny thing was one of my athletes called me yesterday and asked me, what do I think about meditation? I told him if an athlete can really key in on that, it’s big.

Lexi: Yes.

Clance: I try to tell athletes all the time. Some people are meditated, some people are not. And I feel it’s a type of manifestation in terms of putting yourself in the big game, down the line, championship, they’re coming to Lexi for the game point. So on and so forth when you’re there, it’s like you played that scenario in your head so many times. That’s another part of meditation as well.

Lexi: Exactly.

Clance: Am I right?

Lexi: Totally. That’s what it feels like is whenever things start to happen that I’ve already acknowledged that could happen. It’s more of a comforting situation because I know how I’m able to get out of it cause I’ve mentally have been there before, you know? So that’s what I found helped so much for me.

Clance: That’s beautiful man. How often would you meditate?

Lexi: Usually, definitely on game day. That’s the most. Then whenever I found I was getting tired or fatigued, I would meditate just to kind of ground myself and be able to show up for practices or lifts and just have a clearer mind instead of focusing on my fatigue. I’m able to think about something in a different way.

In terms of meditating, would you find somewhere quiet? Would you walk or drive? What forms of meditation would you use?

Lexi: I usually like to do, I had a couch that I would just sit on pop in my headphones. I use Headspace, that app for meditating, and just sit on my couch in the morning after my breakfast, or if I had a long drive, I would pop in my headphones and just stare at the window and you can, you know, you can meditate anywhere.

Clance: Anywhere?

Lexi: Anywhere. You know, you don’t have to be lights off in a dark room, closing your eyes. Like it’s just, you know, a state of mind that you have to get into.

Clance: For me, I do active meditation. So I work on a problem and I’ll focus on it, which is more work-related.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: But after that I will just relax my mind and I love to walk in nature. So if I’m working, having long days in the gym, I’ll go walk. It just calms me down, you know? Cause I’m err type of person. I just feel wonderful.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: Every morning, even this morning I walked and meditated, look at the little ducky. So I wouldn’t say it by like meditate, but just that walking, nature, clearing mind, I guess is a form of meditation. I appreciate that.

So talk about Greece, like how was that in Greece. So Greece was your first year?

Lexi: Greece was my, yeah, the first half of my first year.

Clance: First half of your first year. How was that?

Lexi: So Greece was a culture shock to me. That was a huge transition. Sweden was a little bit more similar to Canada, but Greece, it was like, people are different, foods different, climates different.

The people are very, I kind of love it because the people are, they’re very upfront and honest, you know, there’s no filter, they’re loud, they’re ecentric, and that’s how they play volleyball there. That’s how they coach. So going from, you know, a little bit more, I wanna say refined people in Canada to outgoing, I loved it. It was an experience, definitely an experience for me. I don’t know, I loved Greece. It was awesome.

Clance: How was the coaching in Greece different from Sweden?

Lexi: They were more aggressive for sure. I personally, I like whenever coaches, I learn best whenever coaches are a little bit more similar to you. I like coaches like that. Then someone that’s pampering you because that’s how I learn best. It also pushes me more.

Clance: So similar to me? Be a little bit clear on, in term, which is important because it’s your first year. I kind of scare a lot of people, but-

Lexi: I’m not scared.

Clance: I’m not a scary person. I just want the, I’m the best. I just want the best out of you.

Lexi: Yeah

Clance: So in terms of a coaching style, what agrees with you in my style?

Lexi: I like how passionate you are in, you want the best for everybody around you and it’s not, you know, I’m just here to own LPS and be the owner of it. Like you truly, you can see that you want the best in your athletes to become the best that they can ever be. In that, in the way that your coaching is, you push people outside of their comfort zone, even if they don’t even believe that they can go out and then whenever you look back and it’s like, oh, you know, I could have actually done that. Thanks, Clance, thanks for that.

So you can see that, I think that’s so important in a coach to have, and that’s how you build mentally tough people or athletes.

Clance: I’ll say it and I’ll say it again. I so appreciate that you pick that up. Because one of the things I love about working with you is you’re pretty much in a male dominant environment and that can be intimidating for some females, but the way you handle that situation, the loud music, you know, I guess testosterone, you’re just focused. I told some of my colleagues, man, you gotta watch her work, you know? And I don’t know, is that your mentality? Like you come in, do your warmups, get on the platform, and you’re. That’s what we preach here. That’s what we love here. That’s we want to do. I get it, you have a little chit chat, whatever, but when it’s time to work, time to work, and you encapsulate that beautifully.

Have you always been like that? Or did you get some of that from this environment?

Lexi: I think I definitely got some from this environment, but that’s something that I’ve always, that’s been true to my values. It’s just like hard work every morning. Whenever I wake up, I would rather, I would not want to be doing anything else in this world than what I’m doing right now. So essentially like at the age of 22, I’m living my dream job. So it’s really easy to work hard at something that you love. So coming in here, having that focus, it’s easy. It feels like it doesn’t even feel like work because I enjoy doing every step of the way, you know? Whenever it comes to the guys, like I just find, for me myself, I can’t compare myself to them or because as much as it’s great to compete, it doesn’t help me to you know, look at Gordon and be like, I’m never gonna, you know, out back squat him, or I’m never going to beat Malcolm in a 30 yard dash. It’s not gonna happen. So they can compete and do their thing, but I just need to be better than I was yesterday.

Clance: And that’s it. That’s why I’m saying that.

Lexi: Yup.

Clance: Because I’ve never heard you complain about sprinting with the guys. I’ve never heard you complain about, you know, doing the work.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: If I say, do the work, you do the work. You don’t, there’s no questions. There’s no backtalk. There’s no this and that. You just wanna exactly, clearly know what you’re doing.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: And you know, I guess you understand, I’m doing everything in my best for you. You ask, “Okay, could I do, you’re not doing any strong man. Could you do strong man?” Which I appreciate the fact that, but I’m saying, okay, that’s not the best transfer for your sport, so we’ll—for fun maybe—but right now let’s stick with what’s the best transfer is for your sport. You accept that. Anything I give you to do, you work. No questions and that’s it. After your work, you’re working on your skills, doing volleyball. That’s like, what? 10, 11, 1. That’s three hours in the gym. Pretty much lifting and sprinting. Then you’re doing extra work, volleyball. By the time I’m leaving you, so you’re here probably what? An hour.

Lexi: Yeah. Like usually half an hour, depending on how tired my legs are. I’ll be here for like half an hour, you know, just working on my technique and stuff. Cause volleyball is so technique-driven, so angles and feeling, the biggest difference was feeling how the changes, the LPS, you know, lifting with you guys, the feeling it transferred to volleyball already. And I’m not even really practicing with my team yet. It’s been crazy, which has been awesome.

Clance: Dig into that a little bit. You say the feeling you get and it’s been crazy. So for example, you still have tired legs, you want to kind of get an idea of testing your vertical jump within the midst of the hip, the hard and heavy and volume is training. How much has your vertical jump increased?

Lexi: I’ve been training heavy for two months, roughly. And I think it’s increased around three inches, which is to be like, that’s-

Clance: Three inches in fatigued legs, you’re still in the midst of heavy hard and volume in training.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: That’s huge. So tell me about how you feel in terms of what are you excited about getting back on the court and so and so forth?

Lexi: Biggest thing with here is, this is the first time I’m training full range of motion and my joints, my ankles, my knees are thanking me for finally doing this. It’s like, thank you, Clance, I’ve been waiting for this. And now it’s like, I came in, you know, starting to do snatches. My ankles and knees are like, I don’t want to do this, it was restricting like crazy, and then finally, whenever they started loosening up, it was like, I found it whenever I’m just peppering against a wall, you know, the angles of my ankles and my knees are getting more flexible and I’m able to move and more fluently and stuff like that. So I’m finding that the full range of motion is the biggest thing that my body is loving right now.

Clance: That was a fight?

Lexi: It was.

Clance: Because you were-

Lexi: It was such a fight.

Clance: Because mentally, you’re coming from the outside into an environment where you’re telling you, “No, you shouldn’t squat to the full range of motion. You shouldn’t go below 90 degrees, and this and that. Because it’s going to hurt your knees.” But you found the difference.

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: You feel better. It is an epidemic in terms of knee pain, patella tendonitis, especially for volleyball jumpers’ knees. So you come in, how do we address that? We addressed it simply by—I’m just going to make, I’m not going to get complicated—but what we did is potentiate what we call the “Wrapping Effect”.

The Wrapping Effect is potentiated by the hamstring and the calves, touching one another. What that does is three things: number one, it enhances load distribution. So the concentration of forces are not on your patella, they’re distributed through the ligaments, tendons, and fascia through your knee, ankles, hips, and so-and-so forth. Number two, it enhances power and it enhances force development. So the force is going through again is also distributed. So enhancing load transfer is key. Number three, it reduces the compression forces on the patella, the retro patella compressive forces, which is vital.

Everybody knows the highest compressive forces are at 90 degrees. The highest compressive forces are at 90 degrees. So what we, if you go further than 90 degrees, touch your hamstrings, touch your calves at that patience anabolic and metabolic are gonna take place. And that’s what you’re going through. All those changes your body say, “No, this is new, the aches, the pains, the little, you know, feeling that, oh, is this right?” But once we ease you through that with light and working through the range of motion, this is what’s happening to you right now. New legs, dynamic, strong legs that are built for explosiveness, power, reactive ability, instant change in direction and jumping.

So I didn’t want to make it too complicated, but those are basic simple things that we’re trying to get people to understand. You have to train to full range of motion, not only train the full range of motion, or you have to train the full range of motion dynamically, explosively. That’s the key. Because your sport is dynamic explosive in a split that you have to make decisions. Those, the cellular mechanisms have to be developed. That’s why we make you snatch every day. That’s why we make you clean every day. Not to become a weightlifter, but to enhance those mechanisms that you need for your sport. Makes sense?

Lexi: Totally. Yeah.

Clance: All right. So I didn’t want to kind of go off on that, but in terms of the training, what would you say is that most toughest things for you going through this phase of training?

Lexi: Probably right now, I’m more perfecting my snatch. Like, that’s the biggest thing. Just my stability with my shoulder is something that I’m constantly trying to get better, but besides that, just getting stronger, like loading on the weight, getting those PR’s. I’m not content where I’m at right now. I want to get stronger.

Clance: You wanna get better.

Lexi: So, you know-

Clance: How does it feel coming in? Cause I know it can be mentally tougher, you know, every Monday and every Tuesday, you have to try to hit a PR. Is it mentally tough to know that you have to come in and lift and try to beat your PR? Or do you accept it? Do you embrace it?

Lexi: I accept it. I think that’s something where I actually look forward to that part because I’ve been in training environments before where I’m working at 70% for three weeks straight and it’s boring and I hate it. And so now being able, this is one thing that “Why”, this is probably one of my favorite off-seasons I’ve ever had.

Clance: Oh, thank you.

Lexi: You’re welcome. It’s because I love the fact that I can come in and be like, I’m trying to get better than I was last week and try, and, you know, “Add ’em two more kilos”, and to me, that’s exciting. I would rather that and maxing two times a week than coming in and just going through the motions and doing whatever. Done. Like I want to do something that I haven’t been able to do yet.

Clance: The main thing is that you have to put in effort, whether you like the effort has to be there to get better. You have to put in effort some accepted, some don’t and you know, it gets tough. Right? And I love that this is your first season, first year, that the sky is the limit. We see you progressing at a very fast, very good rate. Technique is looking great and I love your focus. Let’s go back to, you know, say high school or junior high. Was volleyball always your thing or were you all around athlete?

Lexi: I played a bunch of sports up until grade 11. I did rugby, basketball, flag football, track and field. But whenever I decided that I wanted to go play varsity, which was the next level, I kind of scrapped all those other sports and focused just on volleyball. That’s kind of-

Clance: That’s been your passion ever since.

Lexi: Since grade 11. Yep.

Clance: Who are your favorite volleyball players?

Lexi: Andrea Drews and Tijana Bošković. So one’s from the states and one’s from Serbia.

Clance: Serbia. And why did you pick those ladies?

Lexi: They’re absolute machines. Whenever it comes to offense, they’re consistent. They show up every single match. Their efficiency and their kill percentage to low error ratio is always huge. They’re both also left-handed and they play my position. So that’s another reason why I watch a lot of film on them to be able to pick up on their tendencies and see, you know, what parts of my game I can pull from, you know, theirs and bring it into mine.

Clance: What part of your game do you feel that you need to work on?

Lexi: Well, going into over in Europe, I am considered to be undersized. So I want to increase my vertical to be able to compete with those girls that have a couple of inches on me. And one thing is just continue to be a smart player because since I am shorter than most on my position, I need to be able to have, I call it weapons in my arsenal. Like I need to have different ways to be able to win games and score. That’s not, you know, the typical way of just brute power. I have to be able to have good shots, good decision-making, and yeah, go from there.

Clance: Excellent. So you have three inches.

Lexi: Yep.

Clance: And we’re proud of “Our legs feed the Wolf” and you have energy for days. That’s one of the things that based on, we do so much legs. We squat four times a week. You’re going to find your legs are going to be like, they’re going to have so much in you. I’ll be amazed if you feel fatigue in your legs. Right. Or for sure, you’re going to feel that the difference in terms of lack of fatigue.

Lexi: But besides the fact I’m pumped to get to Germany and see how this transfers over in like, six months in, one of our girls are starting to get tired from two practices a day. I can’t wait to see what my body is able to do. So I’m really excited for that.

Clance: In terms of hours of training, how many hours of like, in terms of strength training did you do before?

Lexi: I was about probably an hour and a half, four or five days a week. But it wasn’t the same intensity as here. So it’s a little bit different.

Clance: One of the biggest thing is intensity that you feel?

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: And the work capacity?

Lexi: Yeah.

Clance: Also, after you’ve finished your workouts, you do extra work, which is huge—working on your body strength and so-and-so forth. So that’s massive and I’ve been purposely just not putting like too much extra work in there, seeing how you adapting to, and you’re adapting well, and doing the extra work. So that’s fantastic.

Lexi: So, Lexi. I like to ask everyone who comes on Dominate Discussions. What does dominate mean to you?

Whenever I hear dominate I think mentally, that’s the first thing I go to, you know, you can be physically as strong as you possibly can be, but it doesn’t mean anything if it can’t transfer over mentally. And you can control your own body and your own mind. So whenever I think of dominate, I think of, you need to be able to dominate yourself before you dominate anybody else around you.

Clance: 100. That’s one of the biggest things I’m proud of, is we developing that mental toughness in here in this gym. And I’m thankful and grateful that you see that and that you’re a part of this gym and, you know, I’m sure you’re going to have a great career. Thank you for being part of LPS and thank you for coming to the Dominate Discussion.

Lexi: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I can’t wait to, you know, continue, come back in nine months whenever I finish. Can’t wait to come back for another off-season and continue to get stronger.

Clance: I’m excited to see and watch your season.

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