DALLAS -- In August, they'll compete for an Olympic gold. For now, they're competing for a million dollars.
"This is the one time we get to showcase what we do day in, day out," said Reid Priddy, an outside hitter on the USA Men's Volleyball Team.
Team USA is in Dallas for the World League, an international volleyball tournament. Teams that advance out of pool play will compete at the finals in Poland next month. First place is $1 million.
"Obviously, the gold medal means more," said middle blocker David Lee. "But we actually win more money in this tournament than we win if we would win a gold medal."
The money is secondary to the ultimate prize, playing in Rio. It will be Priddy's fourth Olympics.
"I can't wait to get down there and actually play and compete," he said. "There's nothing like the intensity of those matches."
To play volleyball at the Olympic level, you have to be tall -– you don't see many 5-foot-9 guys on the court. You also have to have intense desire, something Thomas Jaeschke has definitely shown.
Jaeschke played collegiate volleyball at Loyola in Chicago, where his teams won back-to-back national titles. Instead of returning for his senior year, he turned all his focus to making the Olympic team.
"The logic was, basically, if I stay in school and did not make the Olympic roster, I would always wonder, 'Had I gone pro, would I have made the team?'" Jaeschke said.
Two-thirds of the players on this team have never played in an Olympics.
"You just can't prepare for the emotional involvement you feel," Priddy said.
Team USA last won a gold medal in men's volleyball in 2008.