Earthbound, but still experiencing the wonders of winged migration

Wyatt Patterson Jr. is a standout front row middle blocker for a professional volleyball team in Germany. 

Wyatt Patterson Jr. is playing professional volleyball for VC Bitterfeld-Wolfen in Germany. (Provided photo)
Wyatt Patterson Jr. is playing professional volleyball for VC Bitterfeld-Wolfen in Germany. (Provided photo)

He would not have thought life would take him down this route, but Patterson says the sport has been a good fit for him. He attended two schools on scholarship and has found a great group of friends through the sport. 

And, as a Homewood-Flossmoor High player “volleyball helped me be around people I liked and the direction of being the person I felt comfortable being.  And it all came from a sport. It sounds cliché, but it’s true,” he said.

Patterson admits volleyball wasn’t always his thing, and he only turned to the game after not making the freshman baseball team at H-F. He joined the volleyball team thinking it would keep him in shape for basketball tryouts.

Wyatt Patterson Jr.
Wyatt Patterson Jr.

Turns out, Patterson, at 6 feet 5 inches, was better at volleyball than basketball. He played volleyball four years at H-F, and was part of the Chicago Volleyball Club during his junior and senior years of high school. 

As H-F graduation approached in 2013, Patterson was recruited by McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois. The small, private school was developing a Division 1 volleyball team, and offered him a sports scholarship.

He had just turned 18 in May, so he was one of the youngest players on the court when McKendree went up against teams from Ohio State University, the University of Hawaii and Brigham Young University.

“It did take time to get used to the speed of the game. It was a lot faster than I was used to,” he said. “The biggest change was the guys are more physical. As a senior in high school, I’m 17 playing against 17- and 18-year-olds, and now guys are 22, pretty much grown men. That was the biggest change.”

He majored in sociology and kept up his strengthening and conditioning regimen so he could better compete on the court. 

Patterson graduated and came back to Flossmoor. He worked at a few jobs, including a temporary position in the research and evaluation department at the Shedd Aquarium, but knew he wanted to go on for a master’s degree.

Patterson turned to a sports recruiter. His work on the court for McKendree University was what several teams were looking for. He chose to attend and play volleyball for New Castle University in England on scholarship. He was one of three Americans on the team that included students from Italy, Poland, Greece, Hong Kong and England.

Living overseas was an adjustment, as was the game of volleyball.

“They don’t trash talk, no swearing or anything. That was the first think I noticed,” Patterson said. “And the physicality that I noticed between high school and college, it’s not that much of a thing in England. For them (volleyball) is more like a hobby. I was one of the more physical, talented people.”

With the scholarship, he was able to be part of a strengthening and conditioning program that the other players didn’t have available to them.

As Patterson was completing his master’s degree in computer science, he thought his volleyball career was coming to an end. Professional leagues in Europe started their season in August, and he wouldn’t be done with school until September.

He returned home to Flossmoor. And then a recruiter for the VC Bitterfeld-Wolfen team called asking if Patterson would take a one-season contract. Their middle blocker was injured and the team needed someone in short order.

Patterson joined the team in October and now has a regular routine of practice four nights a week, and games on Saturdays or Sundays or both. He lives near Lipzig, Germany, and is about 90 minutes from Berlin. He hasn’t learned much German, but he can understand his coach’s instructions in German.

Once he completes his contract in late April, Patterson, son of Wyatt Patterson Sr. and Julia Patterson, expects to be back in Flossmoor. He admits he could keep playing volleyball as long as he stays healthy, but he’s ready to return to the Chicago area.

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