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Posted on Mon. Jul. 21, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Retired series: Ball adjusting to family life again

Traveling to play often means loved ones left behind

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Fourth in a series of eight

Few professional athletes get the choice when to retire, and every other one is usually angry about it. Injuries happen, age limits their physical abilities or employers decide they no longer are necessary or don't want to pay the current rate.

Even fewer leave their professions healthy, partly because they retire one year too late versus one year too early.

But what happens to someone who has had to retire and lost their dream before reaching middle age? What's next after the only thing you ever wanted to do is no longer possible? How do you plan the next 30 years of your working life or replace that competitive appetite which has driven you for so long?

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Depending on the sport, not every athlete gets to share all of their success with their family.

Because the United States does not have a professional volleyball league, Woodlan and IPFW product Lloy Ball played his last few seasons in Russia. The money was great and the competition outstanding, but it wasn't the perfect atmosphere for a family so Ball's wife Sarah and their two children remained behind in Indiana.

While dad worked halfway around the world, Dyer, now 12, and Mya, 7, stayed home with mom and started school. Because of cell phones, the internet and Skype, the Balls communicated several times a day.

But when Dad retired and came home a couple years ago, he had to find his way back into his family's routine. Many athletes need to learn to be married again or their family members have to get used to dad being around all the time. He may not fit the same any more or may be used to doing things on his own all the time without considering the implications for the family.

For Ball, it was almost the opposite of that as he wanted to be involved with all parts of his family members lives and do everything he had been missing out on.

``There were some things we needed to fix,'' Ball said. ``The last four or five years she was in charge of everything with the kids, the house and bills. I came back and I want to do those things, too. There were some toes stepped on and odd looks and some compromises. Momma likes taking the kids to school every day so I let her do it.''

He took over paying the bills.

``I don't think we had a hard time transitioning,'' Sarah Ball said. ``Maybe it was more of a transition for him because we were always waiting of him to come home so there was always ample place for him to come into all three of our lives again.''

He spends a lot of time with his wife as they work out, play golf or go to movies in the afternoons.

``I always joke that most married couples come home and ask, `How was your day?' '' he said. ``I know what she did because I was standing next to her at the time. We end up having conversations about the kids over and over.''

Ball did not need to find a regular job, but he did need to find things to occupy his time. He coaches his kids' teams, travels the country to give clinics and watch the U.S. Men's National Team play and he organized a team to go to the USA Volleyball Nationals the last two years. He recently started competing in beach volleyball.

``The only transition now is my ego,'' he said with a laugh. ``There are times and places where I miss playing in front of people and traveling with the boys or wearing the USA colors. Now Dyer and Mya are involved in their things and I'm involved in the community. being retired at 70 sometime is one thing, then being retired at 40 is something else. It can get you in trouble, man. I get it.''

He also said coming full circle with his family keeps him grounded. Sarah and the children traveled extensively with Ball when Dyer and Mya were younger so it wasn't like Lloy had to learn a new way to coexist. He just needed a refresher course.

``You try not to step on each other toes, but if you never have the conversation it never gets fixed,'' Lloy said. ``If I screw up, behind closed doors she lets me know about it. There's a united front at all times.''

bsebring@news-sentinel.com


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