After hammering shots with his right arm in six matches in a four-day span, Cody Caldwell felt sore at practice earlier this week.
He was still recovering from all the action at the Orange County Championships. On Monday, he led the Newport Harbor High boys' volleyball team to a runner-up finish in the top division at the tournament.
Two days later, mentally, Caldwell was not in the Newport Harbor gym toward the end of the practice. Coach Dan Glenn called him out for tuning out.
Glenn was not instructing Caldwell, but he checked to see if the best player on the court was paying attention.
"What did I say to Rusty [Sary]," Glenn asked Caldwell, who stood on the other side of the net.
Caldwell did not have the right answer and that did not sit well with Glenn.
The senior described the practice as one of the worst. Even though Glenn did not allow Caldwell to swing with his right arm, so he could rest, the 6-foot-6 outside hitter knows he cannot take days off.
In his fourth season with the Sailors (9-6), Caldwell understands what Glenn expects.
"Physically, he doesn't care what we do, as long as we're trying hard," Caldwell said. "But mentally, he just wants you to pre-think before the play and know what's going on."
What is going on with the Sailors' program is no secret. The Sailors have only three players with big-match experience.
The rest of the team lacks it. And the player Glenn said he needs to lead and energize the Sailors is Caldwell.
"Those new guys, [they] got to learn how to play on the varsity level, but [they] also have to learn how to practice at the varsity level," Glenn said. "It's just hard because someone like Cody, I didn't let him swing with his right arm [during practice] because he [swung] at so many balls [during the tournament]. He kind of needs a little rest, but my team is so young that you can't give my older guys the rest that they probably need because the younger guys need to learn how to play.
"My theory on that is the older guys just got to suck it up."
Caldwell said he is more than willing to do whatever it takes to win.
He has goals of winning Sunset League, CIF Southern Section Division I and CIF State Division I titles before he graduates and moves to the Midwest to play and study at Loyola University Chicago. After what happened during his junior year, Caldwell is not taking his final high school season for granted.
Twice Caldwell found himself in trouble.
Before the volleyball season last year, Caldwell was involved in an incident that got him dismissed from the boys' basketball team. He did not want to talk about what happened, but it almost jeopardized his volleyball career at Newport Harbor.
"I didn't think I was going to come back," said Caldwell, who returned toward the end of the basketball season and went on to play volleyball, only to have to sit out a short time because of academic issues
"It's all about rebuilding. It is about what happened, but it's more about how you react to that, what you do to bounce back."
Glenn said Caldwell has improved his work ethic. The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week has come a long ways.
"It's always hard for someone that is as gifted as he is, but yet he's always played with guys older than him," Glenn said of Caldwell, who recorded 29 kills and 11 digs in a five-game win over Laguna Beach Thursday. "I think the biggest change for him is now he's looked up on [in] a different role. It's just not his playing ability, but also his leadership ability and his enthusiasm on the court."
Caldwell showed it during the tournament and in the finale against Santa Margarita, ranked No. 2 in the Division I coaches' poll. The Sailors lost in three sets, but they challenged the Eagles, who had swept Newport Harbor the previous week.
"We're getting more confidence," said Caldwell, who finished with a match-high 15 kills against Santa Margarita. "We know that we can play with any team now. Now, we just got to keep improving to get above those teams."
Born: March 28, 1993
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 185 pounds
Sport: Boys' volleyball
Position: Outside hitter
Coach: Dan Glenn
Favorite food: Shrimp burrito from Chronic Tacos
Favorite movie: "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy"
Favorite athletic moment: "The Orange County championships two years ago, winning my sophomore year."
Week in review: He led the Sailors to a runner-up finish in the top division at the Orange County Championships at Edison High.