LONDON (AP) — At UC Irvine, coach John Speraw had the "David Smith Rule" for his star middle blocker.
"That means, 'When David wants it, David takes it,'" Speraw said. "Because in the middle of a play, you can't call him off."
The reason? Smith is nearly deaf and primarily uses lip reading to understand his teammates. In volleyball, such face-to-face communication is not always possible.
Hence the David Smith rule.
It was easy for Speraw to institute the rule because when Smith gets the ball, he knows just what to do with it.
"He's mitigated any issues he has by being a great all-around volleyball player," Speraw said.
Smith, 27, is a first-time Olympian with the U.S. men's volleyball team, which opens play at the London Games on Sunday with a match against Serbia. Speraw is an assistant coach with the team and one of Smith's biggest supporters.
Smith was born with his disability. He says that his doctors believe that that his hearing loss is in the 80-90 percent range and he has worn hearing aids in both ears since he was 3.
"Every once in a while it affects me," he said. "But this is the only way I've ever known how to play."
Really, the main problem is that sometimes when he sweats a lot, the hearing aids go out.
"But I just got these before the Olympics and I don't seem to have any problems," he said, raising both hands to his ears.
Smith was something of a surprise addition to the U.S. team in London. The 6-foot-7 middle blocker was not on the roster when the men qualified for the London Games at the NORCECA Olympic qualification tournament in May.
"It has been a crazy summer, that's for sure," he said. "There were some opportunities that came up for me to show what I could do, and I think I did a good job with that. I wasn't counting on being here, but I knew I was capable of being here." Continued...