Annie Drews (USA)

In 2021, USA went from winning the FIVB Volleyball Nations League and claiming a third consecutive title in the competition to standing atop the podium in Japan after defeating Brazil in the final of the volleyball tournament at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

One of the leaders of the team was Annie Drews, her country's second best scorer at the Olympics. She told Volleyball World about her experience of the Games.

Volleyball World: Team USA's mantra during the Tokyo Olympics was that you were ’12 Strong'. Could you explain that concept to us?

Annie Drews: To me, our 12 strong mentality gave us all something to buy into and lean on when we weren’t feeling our strongest individually. 12 strong kind of took the pressure off of any one person to be perfect and allowed that person to rely on the power of the group to get the job done.

Volleyball World: How do you think the '12 Strong' concept applies to future events?

Annie Drews: '12 strong' was this idea that if we were going to win gold, it would take every single person on the roster. We may not have the very best player in the world, but we believed that we had the very best group of 12, and would need all 12 to contribute at some point. For our team and our offensive system, we require balance. This mantra is certainly relevant for the next Olympic Games and any tournament we will play in the meantime. The secret to our success is the power and cohesion of us as an entire team.

Volleyball World: What was winning Olympic gold like?

Annie Drews: Honestly, the biggest feeling was overwhelming relief. I have been working towards this for five years, but in that time, you learn everyone else’s journey and what winning gold means to them. I wanted to do everything I could to make that happen for this group of people. Beyond that, it just feels surreal. I still find myself talking about it sometimes and in the back of my head I’m like ‘I can’t believe that actually happened!’.

Volleyball World: How did you celebrate winning gold?

Annie Drews: We definitely had some celebrations, perks, award ceremonies, community events. But for me, I celebrated the following few weeks with friends and family. We rented a cabin for one weekend, a beach house, and had a lake weekend. After two years of not seeing loved ones much due to COVID protocols, I really just wanted a few weeks off the grid with my people.

Volleyball World: What was your most memorable experience during the Olympics in Tokyo?

Annie Drews: My roommate Jordyn Poulter and I would go to the lawn outside our building and read after matches, but we really would just sit and have coffee and talk it all out. We both had some injury and role changes throughout the tournament, so it was cool to just have some time each day to reflect and help each other and navigate what was happening. I really enjoyed those days!