“Hey American, George Bush!”
These were the first words former Eastern Mennonite University men’s volleyball standout Dominick Porter (EMU ’06) heard when stepping off the plane in Frankfurt, Germany.
“I think the guy was just trying to get a reaction from me,” explained Porter. “I just shook my head at him, explained I was for Obama, and then the guy asked me who my favorite rapper was.”
Porter has been in Germany for almost two months playing professionally with the Dresden Volleyball Club, and has already seen a difference in the way the game is played in Europe compared to the United States.
“The intensity of practice has been the biggest change,” he stated. “We go for three hours straight, and water breaks are limited. We have been practicing twice a day for the past month along with a vigorous, early-morning weightlifting regimen.”
The Hopewell, Va., native spent four seasons on the EMU men’s volleyball team and broke the school record for career hitting percentage (.385). He finished his career ranked fifth on the all-time kills list with 708 and second in career blocks with 226.
“I was on the bus the other day to our next game, and I was just looking around, taking it all in as the other guys were sleeping,” Porter said of his new terrain. “Dresden is a beautiful city. The only pictures I had seen were from history books and that had mostly ruins and destruction due to World War II.”
Porter credits former EMU men’s volleyball coach Jason Axford (EMU, ’95) in helping him get started on the professional circuit. “I was eating dinner at his house one night and asked if he thought I could go pro,” explained Porter. “Ax looked at me and said without a doubt that I could and hooked me up with the agent he used when he played professionally in Austria.”
From there, Porter played in the Volleyball US Open in Atlanta, Ga., and made some highlight clips to showcase for professional teams. “I had tryouts in Spain and Greece, and then got two offers from clubs in Germany,” he noted. “I really relied on Jason’s guidance when picking the team and eventually making the move.”
Porter also points to EMU head track & field coach Seth McGuffin and head men’s volleyball coach Steve Benson as others who have helped him on his way. “Seth put me on a workout plan during the summer before I moved to Germany, and Coach Benson allowed me to use the gym and work on a few things,” he said. “I’m just really thankful for everyone’s help!”
The assistance he gained from his friends at EMU was put to use during his first professional game. Porter and the Dresden Volleyball Club were playing Usti En Laben, a Czech Republic team that was ranked third in the region.
“When we began warming up I was so nervous and thought, I am playing against a professional team, let’s go!” he recalled.
After finding the 6’4″ middle blockers on the opposite team tough to break through on his first few attempts, Porter switched his strategy and avoided hitting straight down, something he had been taught to do with great success in college.
“In the second set I had seven kills and two blocks and was feeling it!” Porter said. “We won the game, and I was so excited I can’t even explain it. I called everyone, including my good friend Frankie Coto and told him about the game and my stats!”
When talking about his current team and head coach, Porter adds: “My current coach is a bit aggressive, and he yells a lot, but for good cause. He’s very technical and no mistake goes unpunished. Let’s just say I spend the last 20 minutes of practice doing pushups and suicides.”
All the hard work Porter is doing under head coach Christian Schilder, even the push ups and suicides, has paid off in his game.
“My passing and jump serve have improved tremendously. We spend an hour or so serving and passing at the beginning of practice,” Porter stated. “The one thing about this level of volleyball is that even if your jump serve is bad you have to jump and serve it hard, because if the opponent receives an easy reception you better believe the ball is going to be crushed down on your side.”
The two three-hour practices give Porter little time to explore his surroundings, but it has also allowed him a chance to connect with his teammates, many of whom question the “American boy” on his faith.
“I do miss being around fellow Christians, and I never had to defend my Christianity at EMU, but I’ve been given a great chance to do something most people only dream of,” he smiled. “I am a part of a plan created for me and I am just trying to do my part.”
Future goals while in Germany for Porter include learning the German language at a nearby school and getting involved with an international church in Dresden.
“My contract here is for two years, so I’ll be here through 2010,” he said. “After that, I’d like to play in a warmer climate, like Puerto Rico, which would be ideal because it would allow my family to travel down and watch me play.”