The leading podcast for beach volleyball and stories in the volleyball world.
It was somewhere in the space between the Gstaad Major and the Espinho four-star when the façade came crashing down.
How long had it been since Sarah Sponcil had decompressed? Relaxed? Reflected on all that had happened in her life in the past six blurs of months?
In that span, she and Lily Justine, her partner at UCLA, established themselves as the best No. 2 NCAA beach pair in the country. In May, the Bruins repeated as NCAA champions. Days later, Sponcil was on a flight with Kelly Claes, her professional partner, to Itapema, Brazil, for an FIVB four-star where they’d play Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat in a country quota.
They lost in 28 minutes.
“It’s such a surreal fast-paced experience, national championship to pro in three days, trying to adjust my game to match the opponents, the best in the world,” Sponcil said when she and Claes joined us on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I’m just speechless when I’m asked that question. You’re never ready. You never know what you’re really doing and if I didn’t (go for the Olympics), I’d regret it for the rest of my life.”
On the outside, though, it very much appears as Sponcil is ready for all of this, as if she has keeping up with her rapidly-changing world, no problem. She and Claes rebounded from Itapema with four straight top-10 finishes, including a ninth at the FIVB World Championships.
They didn't just look like they knew what they were doing. They made it look -- dare we say? -- easy.
On top of all of that, in Warsaw the week before, while the rest of Sponcil’s teammates and classmates at UCLA were walking across the stage back home, Sponcil and Claes put on a comical photo shoot of Sponcil “graduating,” cap and gown included, diving for a ball on the sand.
It can all look so glamorous sometimes -- the world traveling, the funny Instagrams, the hilarious videos of them running through airports and Sponcil walking around the world doing handstands -- that it’s easy to forget that she’s never done any of this before.
“Sometimes I can’t even wrap my head around how stressful this year has been for her,” Claes said. “I think back to my first season coming out of college. We finished the USA Pairs Championship and jumped on a flight to Rio. We jumped on the world tour and it was so stressful and we had so many new things coming at me and I felt like my head was spinning and on top of that it’s an Olympic qualifying year for her.”
And then, after dropping in the qualifier in Gstaad, now two months on the road with stops in Portugal, Tokyo, Vienna, and Moscow still looming, Sponcil let down her guard.
“Sarah sent me a text to come outside and she’s balling,” Claes said. “And I’m like ‘OK, we’re doing this.’”
They’re a fun-loving duo, Claes and Sponcil. They’re goofy and happy and wildly talented, two of the top players in the country despite being in diapers when Kerri Walsh Jennings, who they’re trying to beat out for the 2020 Olympics, was making her Olympic debut on the beach. But they are -- in spite of how magnificently tailored their lives may look at times -- human. Three months on the road is a monumental task for a human being, much less one who had never done any of this before. Full-time World Tour, Olympic race, figuring out flights and hotels and meals and how in the world to survive this thing.
“Honestly, I felt like I had nothing together,” Sponcil said. “I was missing home, I felt like I was trying to change so many different things in my game, and you can’t change a whole lot and still feel like you’re playing free. Everything was just crazy in my mind, and definitely had some teary moments, and I was just honest with Kelly and open and vulnerable and I was like ‘I am not OK right now.’
“To get closer you have to be vulnerable in those positions and it sucks to acknowledge that you don’t have it all together, especially coming off of college where you had everything. You did so well and now you’re being pushed in ways you didn’t think you could be pushed because you won a month ago, on cloud nine, and now it’s ‘Oh, shiz.’
“But Kelly had been in the same position and her listening to me means everything. It was a step in the right direction to know if we win, we lose, whatever, we’re still in this together, and that’s really powerful. That was a huge moment for us.”
Claes may be the perfect partner for Sponcil, old enough to have done this for three years now, young enough to still be able to fully empathize with where Sponcil is in life. Perhaps that explains why, once considered underdogs by many in this race, these two are eighth in the world in the Olympic ranks and third in the U.S. They trail only April Ross and Alix Klineman and Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, with another 12 or so events -- depending on what they want to play -- left in the qualification period.
Theirs is a chemistry wholly unique to them. Last October, Claes was still unsure with whom she was going to partner for this run. She and Walsh Jennings played a few events, and when Walsh Jennings turned to Sweat, Sponcil turned out to be an easy decision.
“Chemistry is huge for me. So that’s why when Sarah and I initially started talking I was leaning towards her,” she said. “Once we started talking and hanging out and training together, I was like ‘Shoot, we line up on so many things.’ I get that a lot of people see a partnership as more of a business but I think it’s important to have that chemistry. There’s so much time off the court.”
On flights, they write rap songs together, which they debuted, hilariously, terribly, on SANDCAST. How much fun they can have off the court allows them to play free and creative on it, allowing them to stretch their full skillsets without fear of making mistakes.
“We had a flight from Czech to LA, and literally the entire flight we wrote songs,” Sponcil said. “The lady was like ‘Do you want something?’ and we were like ‘No! We’re working on something!’”
Indeed they are. They’re working on an Olympic run. A full album of songs. How to get from one place to the next, be it in the air or on the ground. They’re figuring this thing out, Claes and Sponcil, and the first step to doing so is acknowledging that they have absolutely nothing figured out.
“You’re trying to force yourself to figure it out, whether it’s transportation or strategy in a game. It’s so different than in college and I think when you accept that you’re never going to have it all figured out and just accept it -- moral of the story, we don’t have it figured out,” Sponcil said. “So don’t try to figure it out. Delayed flights, canceled flights -- just smile and wave. We’ll somehow find our way to the next destination, we just don’t know how yet.”
Oct 29 2019
This week on SANDCAST, Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter break down all of the partner switches happening in United States beach volleyball.
Nov 27 2019
Troy Field had to pause for a second on the set of SANDCAST to catch himself.
“Back in the day,” he repeated, laughing. “Back in the day, like, three years ago.”
It seemed to catch him off guard as much as it can oftentimes do to those who have seen Field play. Three years ago, nobody had seen the kid in the pink hat. Hadn’t seen him flying around with a vertical north of 40 inches out of sand. Hadn’t seen him reverse wind-milling, evoking images and comparisons to a young Sean Rosenthal. Hadn’t seen him at the South of the Border Volleyball Vacations. Hadn’t seen him medaling at NORCECA’s with Reid Priddy, one of the greatest the indoor game has known. Hadn’t seen him donning those signature Slunks boardshorts of his. Hadn’t seen all of that coalesce into his being named the winner of the Top Gun Award at the AVP banquet, given to the male and female who, well, most look the part of volleyball players in the Top Gun movie.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Field said. “Just up and down.”
Mostly up. Both physically and metaphorically. Field’s matches invariably draw some of the biggest crowds to watch him go up up up. He wishes he could explain it, too, that massive, explosive, enviable vertical of his. Wishes he could give a legitimate answer to the legions of fans who ask how he jumps so high and if he can teach them. He feels bad that his only answer is really a shrug and a sheepish grin that implies the gift of God and genetics.
"I feel so bad because I'm not that person who trained it out," Field said. "I'm not the guy who repped it out. That's kind of it."
Field is more than an enormous vertical. Far more. When the AVP needs a volunteer for its AVP First events, Field is one of the first to sign up. During season, at the Sunday clinics, lest Field be playing in the semifinals or finals, he’ll be coaching the kids. This off-season, he’s been traveling back and forth, doing South of the Border Volleyball Vacations and multiple events in Texas. He’ll be the first to engage with fans, both in person and on social media.
Shoot, the guy is the first to offer help to the guys he’s playing against. When he’s knocked out of tournaments, he’ll go grab a camera for the McKibbins or Casey Patterson. He’ll run up to the Amazon booth and hop on the mic with Camryn Irwin and Kevin Barnett.
Immediately after finishing this podcast, he offered to do video, photo, whatever SANDCAST might need, just give him a call.
Just Troy being Troy.
“With the AVP 2018 season being his first full year on tour,” the AVP wrote on Instagram. “Troy Field immediately made his presence felt! Between incredible plays on the court, engaging with the AVP Family and working with the community through AVP First, Troy is becoming the ultimate AVP pro.”
Three years ago – or, “back in the day,” as Field likes to say – such praise from beach volleyball’s biggest tour would have been unthinkable. Three years ago, Field had been playing ball in Doheny where "the youngest guy was, like, 45 years old." Working odd restaurant jobs. Watching enough film of Karch Kiraly that he eventually adopted his signature pink hat and the goofy-footed approach.
“Now,” he said, “it’s onto the mental side of things… I went from qualifier, right on the cusp to a main draw athlete and now I have to be the guy who qualifiers are thinking about. I was that guy, like ‘I have to beat Tri and Trevor’ or ‘I have to beat Rosie.’ I don’t want to be the guy that people are watching film on. It’s weird. Roles have reversed and switched and doors have opened.”
And they’ll continue to open, to the point that, not too far from now, he’ll look back on this story, laugh at where he was at that point in his career, and say “Back in the day…”
Mar 27 2019
Mike Dodd apologized.
He’d been getting all wound up, or as wound up as the man, labeled by anyone you ask as one of the nicest guys in the world, can get. He even dropped the f word not once, but twice.
“Sorry about that,” he said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I think I said the f word.”
You can forgive the man for being impassioned. He’s seen beach volleyball in its every iteration, every stage of its growth, from infantile to colossus to broken to slightly built up once more. He competed when there was hardly any money in it at all, in the early 1980s, when he was fresh out of college and finished with a brief – very brief – stint in the NBA with the San Diego Clippers. He’d boycotted the 1984 World Championships, not only witnessing the formation of the AVP – then only a players’ union, not a tour – but playing an integral part of it. He’d won five consecutive Manhattan Beach Opens with Tim Hovland. He’d talked smack to Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos. He’d played in and won the only Olympic qualifier to date, securing a spot in the 1996 Atlanta Games with Mike Whitmarsh, where they’d win silver in one of the greatest shows of dominance the United States has had on the beach, on the men’s side, at least.
And he’s since commentated (in 2000 and 2004) and coached (in 2008 and 2012) and you won’t ever find the man too far off the beach. He’s not one to preach about the old-school days, as some, mostly fans, are wont to do. But he does look at the current landscape of the game in the United States and wonder if there isn’t a simpler solution to the sometimes-complicated hierarchy.
“If I were the czar of USA Volleyball, I would mandate that my eight best guys would just go down. Just go down for five hours in the afternoon, when it’s windy and [crappy] and it’s not little morning 9 a.m. perfect, no wind, no nothing,” he said. “Draw your lines, switch partners, and see who’s the fu***** best. See who’s the fu***** best. Keep score. Keep track. It’s an easy pick.”
It was less about the money than it was about who won, who had bragging rights in an era of bombastic bragging and smack talk, and few won more than Dodd. Few, lest the tour returns to its halcyon days of 20-30 tournaments a year, ever will. Seventy-two times Dodd finished atop the podium in the United States, 73 if you include winning that Olympic qualifier in Baltimore in 1996, which Dodd does.
“If you don’t think an Olympic trial prepares you for the Olympics,” he said, “you’re outta your mind.”
Yet it hasn’t been done since. The FIVB has become the road through which U.S. teams must qualify for the Games. For now, at least. There are other countries who operate differently. Dodd has seen it himself.
Prior to the 2016 Games, he was hired by the Italian federation as the beach program’s head coach. They rented a house in Southern California for the eight potential candidates, and what did Dodd do but bring them out to the beach, draw up some lines, and have them play. They’d mix partners, play in the wind, in the most imperfect conditions. And he’s see who wanted it most, who could just find a way to win, just as he used to do during those endless days when he was a 20-something kid out of San Diego State.
He and Hovland and Karch Kiraly and Sinjin Smith would practice for four hours with the United States indoor national team, put in another hour of jump-training, then find the closest liquor store, pick up a couple of Mickey’s big mouth beers, and play beach until the sun went down. And they’d learn how to win.
It is hardly a matter of coincidence that those four are now all in the Hall of Fame, four of the winningest players in history, four individuals where only a single name will do – Hov, Dodd, Sinjin, Karch – and you know exactly whom they mean.
“It was just the jungle,” he said. “It was natural selection. Smith and Stokie, they’re winning, they’re great. Dodd and Hovland. Dodd and Whitmarsh. This team and that team. You migrated to each other and you did it by survivial because you had the best chance of winning. There was money and this but everybody just wanted to win. At the end of the day, it’s how many opens did you win.”
And then, coaching those eight Italian players a little less than a decade ago, he saw those very same traits emerge again. A cocky, swaggering young player named Daniele Lupo was rooming with Paolo Nicolai, a 6-foot-8 blocker who had won consecutive youth world tour events in 2007 and 2008. When Dodd swung by the house, as he sometimes did, he saw them, after hours on the beach, dinking a ball back and forth in their room, competing still.
“I had the analytics that said they were probably the best team,” he said. “But that’s what told me they would be the best. They just had the love for the game.”
Sure enough, in 2012, Lupo and Nicolai would qualify for the London Games, stunning Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena in the first round. Then they’d claim silver in Rio in 2016.
It’s that love of the game that Dodd wants to see.
Who wants it more?
Who wants to be king of the jungle?
Dec 04 2019
You know what they say about plans. Some say that when God hears you making plans, he just laughs. Mike Tyson claims that everybody’s got plan, until they get punched in the face.
Eric Beranek had plans this year. He was going to get a coach. Play the year with one guy. Do it the right way, finally.
Then God chuckled, and Beranek was, proverbially, punched in the face. He began the year well enough, with Curt Toppel. Straight into main draw. But Toppel was, well, “Toppel,” Beranek said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. He said this with a laugh, because Toppel is Toppel. Full-time job. Kids. Just had enough points to make main draw, so why not go out and play?
Beranek knew, though, that Toppel wasn’t his full-time guy. Wasn’t into it like he was. So he turned to Marty Lorenz. That, too, went well enough at first. They made main draw in Austin. Played well, too. Only thing was, Beranek had a cyst on his tailbone. Didn’t tell anyone but shew wee, you should have seen that thing. Went to the hospital right after he got home, and the surgery seemed to go ok, until, an hour later, he was sitting in the bathroom, body rejecting everything, plunging into septic shock.
He spent a few more days in the hospital. Had to skip New York, and then Seattle, though the latter turned out to be a bit serendipitous. When Lorenz called Beranek to tell him he couldn’t play Seattle, Billy Kolinske phoned no more than two minutes later, asked him to play the Pottstown Rumble, a big money grass tournament just south of Philadelphia.
“I still wasn’t quite right,” he said, but he went anyway, and wouldn’t you know it, they made the finals. Won a good bit of cash, too. Maybe this year was looking up. Going to turn around, close on a high.
Somewhere, God laughed.
Maybe he knew Beranek was about to get punched in the face again.
The day before AVP Hermosa, where he was set to partner with Lorenz again, Beranek’s girlfriend broke up with him. Then salt was poured in by Dylan Maarek and Dave Palm, who knocked him out of the final round of the qualifier.
“I didn’t play two AVPs, don’t qualify, girlfriend breaks up with me, ‘I’m like, awesome! We’re back. All time low. Sweet!’” Beranek said, laughing. That’s the things about slamming into the bottom: You bounce.
And he did. He set up a practice with Corey Glave, just the two of them. He told Beranek that the player he once knew only wanted to win. He needed to become the player who expected to win.
“You gotta find that, and you gotta work super hard to get back,” he told him.
“Ok,” Beranek said. “Here we go.”
Here we go meant eighth seed in the AVP Manhattan Beach qualifier. No longer with Lorenz, Beranek was back with Kolinske, his Pottstown partner. Lorenz almost encouraged the move. He had trouble dialing in Beranek’s set in transition. Kolinske, who’s world-class at the art of transition setting, would be a better partner for him.
That’s one plan God didn’t laugh at.
Beranek was finished, for the weekend, at least, getting metaphorically punched in the face. They qualified, and then, after dropping their first match to Ed Ratledge and Rafu Rodriguez, they battled back to win a three-setter over Travis Mewhirter and Raffe Paulis. Their legs were toast. Didn’t matter. They rallied, one more time that day, to beat John Hyden and Theo Brunner. With six matches on their legs, they were moving onto Saturday.
“Holy shit,” Beranek thought. “This tournament just started.”
It would have been funny, for anyone in the stands, to see Beranek’s dad there. He’s made quite the turnaround. He’s his biggest fan now, Mr. Beranek, but a few years ago, to imagine his son competing on a Saturday at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open? No way.
He’s got his own Aerospace manufacturing business. His son was set for life. Didn’t matter if he had dropped out of OCC, dismayed by grades and volleyball. Eric had a job.
“You’re set!” he pleaded with his headstrong kid. His friends weren’t much different. When Beranek told them he wanted to play beach volleyball professionally, “they looked at me like I was crazy,” he said. “They said ‘Ohhh, you want to be an actor too? You probably have a better shot at that.’ That was a funny and weird thing I struggled with.”
So his friends would laugh, and his dad would send his daily offer: Want me to help pay for trade school? Stay in the shop? Want to be a hairdresser?
Nope nope nope.
He may have dropped out of OCC, but he had his own kind of education in mind. He skipped work one day and biked down to the strand to find Holly McPeak. He asked if she knew of any coaching opportunities available, and she said no, but there’s this guy, always dressed in Pepperdine gear. Name’s Marcio Sicoli. He’d be down at 15th street tomorrow morning. Go find him. So he skipped work again, found Sicoli, and for the next four months, became the world’s most dedicated ball shagger. From 8-10, he’d be with Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, and from 10-12 he’d work with Kolinske and Casey Jennings.
He took the work he saw them doing and applied it to his own game. The results, as they do, lagged at first. Took their time to come in. But a main draw in Seattle of 2018 led to Hermosa, and Manhattan, and Chicago.
And then he made plans for the 2019 season, which is when everything began to dissolve – crystallizing only when Kolinske, in a poetic reunion, needed a partner. Then came Manhattan, qualifying, stunning one team after the next: Hyden and Brunner, Avery Drost and Chase Frishman, Ricardo Santos and Sean Rosenthal, Chaim Schalk and Jeremy Casebeer.
And now they were in the semifinals?
The kid who had to trick his way onto the court at OCC, telling the starter that the coach wanted him in instead, only for the coach to notice, one play in, and yank him again?
Oh, yes. He had made the switch Glave wanted. Eric Beranek expected to win.
“It was ‘We need to win. How are we going to win?’” Beranek said. “We were playing good ball. I’m playing good volleyball against these guys. We can beat them.”
He’s able to sit back, relax now. Now that the legs aren’t feeling like jello and the adrenaline has reduced his heart rate to somewhat normal. He didn’t know when his time would come, only that it would.
He simply had to be ready.
“Everyone’s timeline is different,” he said. “Some people will say ‘I’m this age, so I should be doing this at this age because he is,’ but there is a lot of those pressures and I think it’s easy for younger guys, girls, to look up to people, the superstars who come out of college and are placing super high. There’s a lot of that. There are girls my age that are in contention to winning tournaments. I thought ‘Man, when is that going to come? Am I going to be 25? 26?’
“I didn’t really know, and I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to do that. I just said it’s going to come when it’s going to come. Everyone has their own timeline, so I’m just going to keep grinding.”
The one plan God doesn’t laugh at.
Aug 28 2019
It almost seemed as if Trevor Crabb couldn’t believe what was coming out of his own mouth, when he recalled his conversation with Casey Patterson following his victory at the Manhattan Beach Open. Crabb’s first AVP win came after seven losses in AVP finals. It came after the beach volleyball world populated the hashtag #NevorTrevor, where some pushed it in their posts seriously and others just jokingly.
Everybody knew, of course, that Crabb would get his. One doesn’t simply make seven finals and lose all of the rest to come. Crabb claimed, on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, that there was no added pressure with each passing tournament and no title. What it did do, however, is build up that moment, when he sealed the seam with his right hand and blocked Patterson for the final point of his first win on tour, at the biggest beach volleyball tournament not named The Olympics, no less.
The euphoria afterwards was so high, such a rush, in fact, he told Patterson that “I almost wish it didn’t happen, because I know the feeling and what it did so I want that same feeling again. It’s all downhill from here.”
So where do we go from here, Trevor?
“Just rack ‘em up,” he said. “Tally ‘em up. Win as many as possible.”
It is funny, how that first win came. Tri Bourne had broken his hand at the Vienna Major, leaving Crabb not short of options but certainly short of his No. 1 option. He asked the AVP to allow Italian Alex Ranghieri, with whom Crabb is good friends and plays the Manhattan six-man, but they shot it down. He shot a text to Sean Rosenthal, with whom he had made the 2018 Manhattan Open finals, but that got shot down, too. Which left, of all things, a text from Rich Lambourne that went without reply.
“Priddy-Crabb on the Pier, 2019?” Lambourne asked Priddy and Crabb in a group text.
Nobody replied, though it remained in the backs of their minds. Crabb was going to reach out to Priddy before he did, so when Priddy gave Crabb the call, they were both all in. Didn’t matter if Priddy hadn’t blocked since 2017, for just a single event, or that they had never played together before, or that they had once shared some trash talk and brief rivalry.
Crabb knew they could win.
“To be honest, I knew it was definitely a possibility,” he said. “It was going to be tough to do but I knew that both of us really just wanted it bad. I’d been to the finals seven times, that was my eighth, lost all seven. Reid’s never made a final yet in his two years so we were both long overdue for that.”
That win was more than just a victory for Crabb and Priddy, but a win for the mindset they share: To be the best, you cannot specialize in one element. You must be versatile. You must, as Crabb and Priddy proved, be able to play both sides, both positions.
Basically: You just gotta get the job done, from anywhere, anytime, in any condition. And they did.
“In order to call yourself a beach volleyball player, you have to be able to side out from anywhere on the court so I kind of took that on me and focused and learned how to side out on the right side,” Crabb said. “It’s a lot more challenging than the left. You have a lot less vision, you have to rely on a lot of things first. It’s going pretty good so far. I can’t say I miss the left at all though. It’s nice to play both sides. I think that’s what separates me from someone else.”
And now the next chapter of his career begins. His AVP victory – his first, certainly not the last – is finished. Now it’s time to rack ‘em up, tally ‘em up, build ‘em up to the ultimate crescendo: The 2020 Olympic Games.
The one victory he would never wish didn’t happen.
Sep 18 2019
I’ve always been one for mythology. I loved reading the tales of Zeus and Poseidon, Hades and Hermes, Athena and even those of the Norse orient, Thor and Loki and Odin. One of my favorites has always been the myth of the Phoenix, that stunning bird that never really dies. It burns, sometimes spectacularly in in a show of flames and combustion, sometimes in a simple and subtle decomposition.
Either way, the end result is invariable: From its own ashes, it rises again.
I think that’s beautiful.
And so the beach volleyball world must do the same.
This past week we, as a whole, as a single community with a single, beating heart, have been reduced to ashes. The death of Eric Zaun has impacted the entirety of the AVP and those well beyond.
In Virginia Beach, there was a moment of silence before an AVP Next Gold Series. Folks from the snow volleyball world expressed their condolences. The FIVB, too. The Pottstown Rumble, site of one of Zaun’s most famous and epic and wonderful temper tantrums, will honor the kid who once took a red-eye after Seattle to play on zero sleep but put down no small amount of cash on a match anyway.
Everywhere you look, the beach world is rising. It is rising in its own unique way. Donald Sun reached out to every player on the AVP, expressing his condolences, encouraging players to reach out of there was anything the AVP can do to help its own.
To help them rise.
We at SANDCAST are doing the same. We’re replaying Zaun’s episode this week. Maybe it will help some. Maybe it won’t. The hope is that it can provide, if just for one, that first stirring amid the ashes, that maybe it can begin to lay the foundation to the first step in recovering. Not moving on, no. But moving up. Onward.
This is not a good thing that has happened but good will come of this. I am sure of it. I am sure of it because I’ve already seen it. I’ve seen it in such abundance in only a week that it’s a wonder, should this spirit, this Zaunian spirit of an unbridled zest for life and fun and mischief carry on, what incredible things could come of this.
Already, Ed Ratledge is pondering how the beach community can make an award, the Eric Zaun Grinder Award. Something to do with the van, Zaun’s hysterical but wonderful abode for a few years. He doesn’t know just yet. He doesn’t have to.
Point it: It will be something good. Something new.
That, above all, is what I love so much about the myth of the Phoenix. It’s never created entirely new, but from the ashes of its predecessor. It never loses pieces of itself but instead uses them to grow into something brighter than its previous self.
And so, at AVP Seattle, at Pottstown, the beach volleyball world recovers from the previous version of itself this week, and all those that will follow.
This week, the community rises together.
Jun 19 2019
Two years ago, maybe it would have worked. Maybe, when Miles Evans put a ball away, looked directly at Reid Priddy and Trevor Crabb, flexed and yelled with everything he had, “C’mon!” it would have done the trick. Thrown Priddy off.
It had worked two years ago, from the guy who was now on the same side of the net as him. Crabb, in the semifinals of the Manhattan Beach Open, had famously run his mouth. It did a number on Priddy, then, though he couldn’t fully understand why. He didn’t understand where all that talk was coming from.
Hadn’t all their previous interactions been cordial? Polite? Even friendly? Priddy didn’t know, at the time, that was just what Crabb does on the court. He talks trash. Doesn’t matter if you’re out of the qualifier or out of four quads with the indoor national team: You’re going to hear him.
Afterwards, Priddy broke it down.
“‘Why was I so mad?’” he wondered.
“And it was ‘Well, he showed you disrespect,’” Priddy recalled on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “But why should I have the expectation that somebody should respect me? So it was almost really great because I let go of that expectation at all, even if I subconsciously had it. It was probably that moment, that interchange, that I let it all go.”
So when Evans buried the ball to close out the first set, and piled a little talk on top of it, Priddy didn’t mind. He’d been there before. He’d learned from it. And then he gave it right back.
“From that moment on,” Priddy said, “it was just ‘All right, now we’re in it. Let’s battle.’”
Let’s battle. If there are two words that could accurately summarize the mindset of William Reid Priddy for these past 41 years, those may be the ones to do it. He’s a self-proclaimed underdog story, but unlike a number of athletes who like to push that sometimes-false narrative, his is rather genuine. Raised on a steady diet of soccer, Priddy is the son of Ken and Sharon Priddy, who thought it was funny that, after 11 years of soccer, Priddy was going to try volleyball.
“They were like, ‘All right, we’ll just come watch. We have nothing to offer,’” Priddy said. He was athletic enough to help Mountain Pointe High in Phoenix, Arizona, to the school’s first state title, in 1995. Still, the sport was so new to the state, in just its second year as a varsity sport, that Priddy was no blue-chip prospect or can’t-miss recruit. He was still the blue-collar kid who had played mostly soccer his entire life.
It was enough, however, for LMU to offer him a spot on a team that recruited seven outside hitters and hadn’t yet developed a single All-American.
In 2000, Priddy would become that All-American. Years later, after the program was shuttered, he’d become the first volleyball player to enter the LMU Hall of Fame.
That was, in the grand scheme of his career, the easy part. At 6-foot-4, even by the standards of the early 2000s, he was undersized for an outside. Now he was set not to compete against of diamonds in the rough at LMU, but against the best in the country for a spot on the national team. It is that exact environment, though, where the kid who wasn’t the biggest, the one relegated to the “sandlot teams” growing up, the one who only got in fights with bullies because he just couldn’t see the bigger kids picking on the smaller ones, thrives.
He didn’t spurn the odds but embraced them, clutched them to his chest.
“Nobody ever looked at me and was like ‘That guy’s going to be great.’ I was never the blue-chip guy,” Priddy said. “Now I purposefully channel that. A lot of us, we could have these mental lapses of confidence, ‘Oh man, can I do this?’ Once I learned to channel the competitiveness, how I felt about myself was no longer relevant, because a job had to be done, I gotta put this ball away.”
Oh, he would put balls away, all right. For 16 years, he’d represent the United States. He’d play in four Olympics, win a gold and a bronze. His tenure with Zenit-Kazan would be so wildly successful, in fact, that it almost felt weird, how expected it was to win.
“That was a strange feeling,” he said. It went against everything his underdog upraising had fostered.
If the expectation was to win then where did the satisfaction come from? It seemed, at times, that there was no real reward: Win and it’s what you were supposed to do; lose and what just happened?
He’s not a fan of expectations, Priddy. Steals not only a lot of the joy of playing this game but from the purpose of it all.
“I have tremendous self-belief but I don’t like expectations,” he said. “In my best years in indoor, my mental routine was do whatever I wanted to do. We could play cards on the bus and we’d be betting but there was always a moment in the locker room where it was ‘Ok, now it’s go time.’
“The shift that took place when my generation came in and with all of our coaches, it was very focused. We’re here, so let’s be here. All in. I really love that stuff.”
But expectations, from the outside, anyway, are inevitable when one has had the success Priddy has enjoyed.
Unless, of course, you switch sports. Change settings. Do something totally radical that nobody could have ever expected him to really make the Tokyo Olympics on a different surface, right?
That, in a way, is what happened when, in 2017, Priddy took to the beach.
Hacking the beach. That’s what Priddy called his strategy to transfer his indoor skillset to the beach. He gently kicks himself for the name now. He never meant it to imply there were shortcuts to success in the beach game, but optimizations.
How could he make those proverbial 10,000 hours as efficient and effective as possible, so as to rapidly expedite the improvement of his skillset to the point that Tokyo 2020 really wasn’t out of the question?
He brought an entirely new developmental strategy to the beach. He had statisticians at practice, charting serves, both location and speed. He had trainers. He had coaches ranging from Marcio Sicoli to Rich Lambourne. He fostered a community in Huntington Beach, where the training was no longer separate, just a bunch of teams meeting and winging it, to a full-on program of hundreds of reps in a compact, 90-minute training session, where teams weren’t pitted against one another, but worked alongside one another.
“There’s no shortcuts to skill acquisition,” he said. Which is how, after two years of reps reps reps reps reps, he found himself down one set to none to Evans and Doherty at the Manhattan Beach Open. A loss would leave him and Crabb in ninth. But this wasn’t the Priddy Evans would have faced two years prior. This was a different Priddy, one who had grown in abundance from the previous edition.
“I have no expectation of how people should treat me, how they should interact with me,” he said. “I don’t feel 41 in my brain, I don’t feel like a gold medalist. I don’t go into matches thinking ‘Oh, I’m a gold medalist.’ I’m super aware of my deficiencies.”
Which is why he’s able to shore them up so quickly. And with each match, those deficiencies became harder and harder to find. They came back to beat Evans and Doherty, 15-13 in the third set. Then they knocked out Tim Bomgren and Troy Field, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, and, in the finals, Chase Budinger and Casey Patterson.
In winning the Manhattan Beach Open, Priddy hadn’t hacked the beach. He had simply out-worked a lot of people on it. No learning opportunities went to waste, something he refers to as “double-black belt status.”
“When I think about volleyball, and anything, I like to channel martial arts,” he said. “The sensei did not get there thinking ‘I’m 21-0.’ Martial artists, it’s about proficiency. It’s about competence. The way I like to look at it is: ‘Here’s my end goal. This is what I think is possible for me as a player or us as a team. What are the behaviors to display, what are the feathers I need in my cap to be that player?’
“And then you work towards that. It’s kind of like a street fight. Now you’re in Manhattan, you’re playing in a match, you are who you are. It’s not like being 1-0 or 0-1 has somehow changed your proficiency, so it’s always about trying to level up to the next level. That comes not from wins and losses, you can learn from both, but it comes from ‘How good can you guys get as a team?’ That’s what’s important. It’s hard to do that when it’s your profession. I want to get to that double-black belt status.”
Not that Jose Loiola would ever let him think he has that. No, the coach of Priddy and Crabb during Manhattan Beach had them back on the sand two days later. He wasn’t full of congratulations. He didn’t take it easy.
“Nobody cares,” he told them.
Priddy loved it.
“The ultimate is when you can win but you treat wins as losses,” he said. “When you can take just as much from a win as from a loss, to me, that’s double black-belt, like legendary status. I think that’s the goal for all of us. How can we not let all of the little things go just because we won? Once that little euphoria dies down and we think we’re on top of the world, how can we look back and say ‘I could have done this better.’”
Sep 04 2019
Tyler Hildebrand doesn’t really know what you should call him.
“Official title is Director of Coaching,” he said of his new role at USA Volleyball. But they’re working on title changes because, candidly, nobody really knows what that means.
“At the end of the day,” Hildebrand said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “who really cares? I think some people call it coach, head coach, director of coaching. I did some presentations at the AVCA and nobody knew what the heck the title was.”
What matters is not the title Hildebrand takes – or doesn’t take – but the role he plays. He was hired by USA Volleyball, after just a year at Nebraska in which he won a national championship as an assistant coach, to push the United States back on top of the world of beach volleyball. Ask most any player, and you’ll get the same response: They picked the right guy.
Hildebrand is what you could call a player’s coach. He was there at Long Beach State, his alma mater, last Friday night, watching the 49ers take on then-undefeated Hawai’i. He was there with Taylor Crabb, arguably the most promising and talented beach player in the United States.
Beach in the morning. Indoor at night. Volleyball all day long.
That, if nothing else, is why Hildebrand is so good at what he does. And he is good. After setting for Long Beach from 2003-2006, leaving as a three-time All-American, Hildebrand has enjoyed success everywhere he has gone.
As an associate head coach for Long Beach in 2016 and 2017, he helped the Niners to consecutive NCAA semifinals. In his lone year at Nebraska, in 2017, the Huskers won an NCAA Championship.
On the beach, he oversaw the most successful run of Casey Patterson’s career, there in the box as Patterson and Jake Gibb established themselves as the top team on the AVP Tour, winning more than double the next team. He was there for a Manhattan Beach Open win and an Olympic berth.
But again: Don’t call him coach. Hildebrand doesn’t just oversee one team anymore – he oversees the development of all of the top teams and prospects in the USA Volleyball system, everyone from the established talents in Jake Gibb and John Hyden to the promising prospects in Carly Wopat and Troy Field.
“Our vision right now at USAV Beach, it’s to be the best students at our craft,” Hildebrand said. “And I know that sounds like a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, blah blah blah. But the people who are really excelling right now are at the learning or technological edge.”
Hildebrand has an old soul, but still: There’s a wealth of technology and statistics in the sport. It’s time the United States began using it to its advantage. Which is why, more often than not, you can find Hildebrand in the film room, either with the athletes or just by himself. It’s possible that nobody on Earth has watched more film in the past year than Hildebrand, who is constantly searching for trends – quick sets, shoot sets, options, jump serving, float serving, whatever.
“In beach volleyball, what I realized when I came out here five or six years ago, it was like ‘Whoa, in indoor we would use video,’” Hildebrand said. But in the beach?
“We’d watch maybe a set,” Bourne said.
It’s something Hildebrand is trying to change. Not radically. Not revolutionarily. Just a bit here and there. An hour or so every few days. Watch yourself. Watch opponents. Just watch the game. See what you can find.
“One thing I’ve been doing, probably more than any other coach in the United States, is watching the game,” Hildebrand said. “Watching the world. That’s the one I’m pushing big with our athletes and coaches. All of this stuff, maybe we’ll see something, ‘Wow! That’s useful!’ And then asking the question why.
“The hardest part about beach volleyball is that everybody is on their own. You can have great practices. You can work really hard. You can be really tough. But in the middle of the game, how do we think through the game? Let’s say we watched a couple matches, we can think through them.”
So he’ll pour over the film. He’ll find the trends. He’ll present them to the athletes and from there, they can make of it what they will. It’s not his job to coach every specific team now. It’s to simply put them in a position to be as successful as possible. So if there’s one thing you could label Hildebrand – not coach, not director, not a director of coaching – it’s this: He is, simply, one of the most passionate people in beach volleyball.
Apr 17 2019
Joe Houde had just begun his career with USA Volleyball, and there was a dead man was in the road.
“Oh, yeah,” he said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Just not a good day.”
It was certainly one way to start his stint as USA Volleyball’s newest traveling physical trainer. His first trip with the U.S., to a NORCECA in Guatemala. First time to a third-world country. And there was a dead man in the street.
“It was eye opening,” Houde said. “I got off the plane, and I had never been to a third-world country before, and I was like, ‘Alright!’”
It didn’t end there, of course, because this was a NORCECA and nobody knows when the NORCECA adventures will begin or end, only that they will happen, as inevitable as a sunrise. When Houde and the men’s team cabbed back to the airport, a ride the driver expected to take around a half an hour, the ride kept going, and going…and going. A little less than three hours later, the players sprinted through the airport, just making it in time.
Houde was stuck in Guatemala for another day and a half, where he’d fly to Florida, Dallas, and then home, to Boston.
“That,” he said, “was my first trip with USA Volleyball.”
Some may view that as the worst possible start to a trainer’s career with USAV. Look at it from another perspective, however, and it may have been the best. For now Houde has the mindset that his next trip, to China, “was great!” and he said it with such enthusiasm that he genuinely meant it, making him potentially one of the first representatives from United States Volleyball to describe a trip to China as great.
“I just love to travel. It doesn’t matter where I go. It’s about enjoying it, being with these guys, helping them get to where they need to be,” Houde, a Boston native, said. “I’m not going for vacation. I’m going to work. It’s either, ‘Ok, hopefully everybody loses so I can have a trip.’ Well, I don’t want that to happen. Let’s get on the podium so I have to work hard. It’s humbling.”
Houde was there, for the final event of the season, in Chetumal, Mexico, for the most successful event of the season. He helped keep Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb and Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb fresh enough to win a pair of medals, a gold and a bronze, respectively. It was the first time the American men had won a medal in a four- or five-star since Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena took silver in Doha in March.
That’s what he’s about, Houde. He doesn’t get any medals, but he wants nothing more than to see the men and women he’s there to support to come home with them. That’s how he got the job in the first place, anyway. When Sara Hughes was breaking into the professional scene, she recommended Houde, as they were both located in Orange County and he primarily worked on her for recovery.
His foot was firmly in the door. Not that he travels much. USA Volleyball’s budget only allows Houde to travel a few times per year. And so, in between trips where he navigates dead bodies in the road in Guatemala, he has his own practice, Paradigm Chirosport, and also works with the men’s field hockey team, which won its first medal at the PanAm Games in 24 years.
Houde, of course, takes no credit. This is the guy who told the players to run through the airport so they could make it and he’d be stuck in Guatemala for an extra day and a half.
“I’m a small one percent of their 99 percent,” he said. “It’s very humbling to work for these guys.”
Dec 25 2019
As if his path to beach volleyball wasn’t unique enough – raised in Minnesota, little to no volleyball background aside from a little club indoor, not a clue who men named Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser were – in his nine-year career thus far, Stafford Slick may have authored his own personal record book.
Name another who has played with six different Olympians, including three gold medalists. Or anyone crazy enough to play in 17 – 17! – different NORCECAs with eight different partners.
“We might have to do some fact checking,” Slick said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “But I think I’ve played with more Olympians than anyone else. I played with Dain [Blanton], retired him, put him out to pasture. I played with Rogie [Todd Rogers] in his last event, so I retired him. I played with Rosie [Sean Rosenthal], I played with Casey [Patterson], I played with Adrian [Carambula], who wasn’t an Olympian at the time, but he is now. And then I played with Reid Priddy. That’s another thing I might have a record for: I have a lot of partners too.”
For an individual who has been playing beach volleyball for a hair over nine years, indeed, Slick has gone through his fair share of partners, though that’s less a detractor from his talent than it is an indicator of it. It’s only so often you get a coordinated, athletic, hand-setting 6-foot-8 blocker out of Minnesota.
“I guess those guys saw something in me,” Slick said. And of all people, it was Blanton, a gold medalist, who saw it first.
Slick was in his cabin in Minnesota for a July 4 getaway in 2010 when he got the call: Blanton, a gold medalist alongside Eric Fonoimoana in the 2000 Sydney Games, wanted to give Slick a shot. They’d be automatically in the main draw, Slick’s first. He wouldn’t even have to qualify.
“It was huge for me,” Slick said. “Dain was kinda poking around, looking for a big man to play with because it was the tenth anniversary of his gold medal. So he was kind of connected with some of the people in the USA office and they dropped my name.”
And just like that, Slick had his first of many accomplished partners. And yet, funnily enough, his unofficial Olympic partnership record may have never happened without his willingness to play in his unofficial record number of NORCECAs that, frankly, borderlines on absurd.
“I don’t think that would happened without me playing all those NORCECAs,” he said. Because about those NORCECAs: They were on a lower international tier than they are now. When Slick moved to California in 2009, NORCECAs didn’t count for international points. The prize money, even if you won, wouldn’t cover the expenses for the majority of the tournaments. The incentive for American teams was, well, what was the incentive?
In Slick’s case, to put your name on the map.
“In 2009 and 2010, it was trying to scrounge and figure out a way to keep playing, and at the time, NORCECAs didn’t count for international points, so it was just sign up,” Slick said. “Back when I started playing it was ‘Hey can we play in this tournament?’ and they said ‘Great!’”
Enough to get Slick on the map. Enough to get him a partnership with a gold medalist in just his second year attempting to qualify. Enough to kickstart a career that, two years from now, could turn Slick into an Olympian himself.
Indeed, he has come a long way from the guy with the blonde Viking locks who didn’t know who Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser were. Back with Allen, with whom he won his first AVP tournament, Slick is no underdog to make Tokyo, should that be their goal.
"When it came time to make that decision, it was something that just fit," he said. "It was something that just made sense. That was a big part of our conversation was 'Do our goals align? Are we making a run for Tokyo?' I"m excited. I'm hopeful."Popular on SANDCAST:SANDCAST: Eric Zaun, the Happy Gilmore of the AVP TourSANDCAST: Taylor Crabb, AVP Seattle championSANDCAST: Sarah Sponcil, Pac-12 Champ, National Champ, AVP FinalistSANDCAST: Jake Gibb ain't finished playing yet!SANDCAST: Tri Bourne is BACK ON THE BEACH
Nov 28 2018
Sinjin Smith knows the world is different now. That guys just can’t play volleyball for four hours, jump train for one, take a ride down to South Mission Beach and then play for another four. Jobs. Kids. Families and responsibilities and such. But he is curious. Curious as to why the beach volleyball culture has changed so much from his days. Days when he and the boys would put a ball down on center court and have at it for an entire day. No need for drills or simulated plays.
You just played. And you never stopped playing.
“You’d want to get on the No. 1 court, and you’d play all day,” Smith said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Eight hours! Imagine all those guys that set up matches, if they all went to Sorrento or Manhattan Beach. All of them. Or Santa Barbara. There’d be a group, and you’d be bummed out if you were third in line to get on center court. You wanted to be on the first court. You’d compete all day long.”
And the guys who did that won. They won more than anybody in the history of beach volleyball has ever won. Mike Dodd, Karch Kiraly, Smith, Tim Hovland and Randy Stoklos – all members of the Hall of Fame, all of whom are proponents of the play all day ethos of training – combined to win 513 domestic tournaments in their careers. It might have been more difficult to get any of them to take a break from playing volleyball than it was to get them to lose.
“If I won the tournament, I’d take Monday off. If I didn’t win, I’m going hard on Monday, all the way through,” Smith said. “We were winning quite a bit, and I’d feel bad sometimes. If it was an easy win, if I didn’t feel like I was totally torched, I’d go out on Monday anyway.”
What Smith found was that the more he played, and the more he played, in particular, with Stoklos, the easier winning became. Why change?
“He was a big 6-5,” Smith said of Stoklos, with whom he played 198 events and won nearly half. “He jumped so well for someone his size, and he played so much volleyball growing up that he had an incredible sense for the game. And of course, he had incredible hands, probably the best hands on the beach. He could set any ball from anywhere. We complemented each other very well. He was great at the net at a time when blocking was becoming more important for the game, and he could dig, but he was better as a blocker, and that freed me up to do in the backcourt to do what I do. We played to each other’s strengths.
“Communication is so important, right? But it got to a point where we didn’t even have to talk. I knew what he was going to do in every situation, and he knew what I was going to do. When you play long enough together with somebody, that’s the beauty of it. You’re not running into each other. You know where he’s going to be, and you know where to go. And if he gets in trouble, I know exactly what to tell him and if I get in trouble he knows exactly what to do.
“It didn’t seem like we had to do anything special or different. It was just natural for us to do what we did.”
What they did was win more than any other partnership in American beach volleyball. When this point comes up, Smith shrugs. He doesn’t quite understand all the hype about the weight room, unless it’s to rehab an injury or work on a specific movement. He’s a proponent that you play on the beach, and the beach is therefore where you should train.
He and Kiraly, with whom he played 14 events and also won a National Championship at UCLA, would put on weight belts when they played at South Mission. When Smith wanted to get a workout in, he’d just jump – jump with no approach, jump with a full approach, slide sideways for three shuffles, slide the other way for three, jump on one foot, jump on the other, then do it all over again.
“We’d do that every day,” he said. “We couldn’t get enough volleyball, indoor, outdoor, it didn’t matter. We just wanted to play.”
Not drill or lift or do yoga.
Jan 08 2020
It was almost as if Sean Rosenthal didn’t believe the words that had just come out of his mouth.
“Leaving Jake [Gibb] for Phil [Dalhausser],” he said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “might have been the worst volleyball decision of my career.”
He smiled, laughed. Then said it again, as if to cement it into reality what he had just admitted.
Rosenthal’s partnership with Dalhausser was a fascinating one, though the reactions to it, including Rosenthal’s own, are complicated. By conventional standards, they were the best team in the world, winning their first event together in 2013, piling on two more Grand Slam golds. Rosenthal had never won that many tournaments on the world tour in a single year. And then he did it again, as he and Dalhausser tacked on three more FIVB golds during a run of four consecutive finals appearances in Navanger, Gstaad, The Hague and Long Beach.
Less than a month later, they won the Manhattan Beach Open.
For two straight seasons, they were the leading gold medalists on the world tour and also took home the biggest domestic tournament.
By any human standard, the partnership was incredibly successful. But Rosenthal isn’t considered human. No, this is the Son of Jorel, the kid from krypton. This is Superman we’re talking about here, and Superman doesn’t live by the mortal standards the rest of us do.
“For two years, we were the best team in the world,” Rosenthal said of his partnership with Dalhausser. “I think a little bit of it is because we didn’t win as many tournaments on the AVP as we were expected, but we won a lot on the world tour. Leaving Jake for Phil was the worst volleyball decision of my career. It’s crazy, it’s hard to say, but I think it might be true.”
It might be true not because Rosenthal and Dalhausser were disappointing – they played together two years, they were the best team in the world for two years – but because Rosenthal and Gibb were just that good. They had just won the FIVB Team of the Year. Rosenthal, in an era of Emanuel Rego and Alison Cerutti, of Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, of Reinder Nummerdor and Richard Schuil, was named the best player in the world.
Even after the FIVB season closed, they followed it up with a win in Santa Barbara during the AVP’s truncated, two-event revival season under Donald Sun.
And then Rosenthal gave Gibb the call. He had already been in touch with Dalhausser. He knew, no matter what happened in Santa Barbara, he was going with Dalhausser for the next season.
“[Phil] was just like, ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to play together next season?’” recalled Rosenthal. “And I was just like, ‘Uh, yeah.’ If your boss comes up to you and asks you, ‘Do you want a raise?’ It’s not like, ‘No, I’m good where I’m at.’ It’s kind of one of those things, not only from prize money but sponsor money, which went way up, too. Got RedBull and UnderArmour and a couple others, like SmartCar, which were basically through Phil.”
But would he do it again?
“I’d probably do it again,” Rosenthal said. He’d do it again because Dalhausser is a name that belongs in discussions with those of Kiraly and Smith and Stoklos and Steffes, the best the game has ever seen. He’d do it again because, even with a rash of injuries and awful timing to both Rosenthal and Dalhausser, they still finished as the best team in the world in consecutive years.
Such is the standard of Sean Rosenthal. When finishing as the top on the world tour is cause for questioning a partnership change.
We are now in the final act of Rosenthal’s brilliant career, one in which he has accumulated more than 20 wins, compiled a resume that will rank him amongst the all-time greats and won with a playing style that will immortalize him in the South Bay community.
His focus is still on volleyball, yes, but it’s turned more to his kids, constant bundles of energy. It’s turned to taking some time off. Golfing. Enjoying beach volleyball for what it is – a wonderful sport, an incredible way to make a career. More important, a way to get the kids out of the house and spend some energy.
“We all,” Rosenthal said, “need to get down to the beach and practice.”
One generation of Rosenthal gradually fades out. The next charges in.
Feb 27 2019
It’s May 16, 2018, the eve of Camryn Irwin’s debut as an Amazon Prime broadcaster calling AVP tournaments. She gets a call from the AVP. They inform her that she’ll be calling play by play.
“Ok!” Irwin says. “That’s new!”
“We don’t know what the format is going to look like, we’re just going to figure it out as we go.”
“Ok,” Irwin replies again.
“Don’t screw up. This is our brand.”
Now it’s Amazon on the horn, and they’re telling Irwin that “This is our Amazon brand. Don’t screw up.”
“Ok,” Irwin says one more time. “Here we go. I’m calling play by play tomorrow!”
A year and a half later, she’ll recall this experience on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. And she’ll say “talk about fear,” because she’s human, and any human being would be more than a bit intimidated when put into those circumstances. But she did it all the same. And she’s still doing it, establishing herself as a popular and lovable personality on the AVP and Amazon, because this is Camryn Irwin, and she’s done all that before.
Fear? No, fear isn’t the AVP and Amazon asking you to do something you know you’re talented at, that you know you’ll figure out, because you’re the queen of figuring things out on the fly.
Fear is when load up on a block, jump, and, just as you’re about to peak, you feel your back “just release,” Irwin said. “There is nothing supporting me and there was nothing I could do. I landed and my whole spine went thwack. I went back to go serve the next point and I remember tossing it, I went to jump, and I couldn’t breathe.”
This was in Sweden, just two years into her professional indoor career after a successful indoor stint at Washington State. It would take a month for Irwin to find out that she had a rupture in her back, that she had absolutely no business playing volleyball after that jump but she did so anyways because volleyball was what Irwin knew and volleyball was where her teammates and friends were. So she finished her season on her broken back, and when she returned, she figured she’d move onto the next phase of her life’s plan: Irwin was going to become a professional beach volleyball player on the AVP Tour.
Until she began training, and she began to lose feeling in her legs.
She is positive enough to label the injury a “total God thing,” because without that injury, she wouldn’t be spending her summers in the booth with her good friends Kevin Barnett and Dain Blanton. She wouldn’t be spending exponentially more hours in beach volleyball than the players she’s calling. She wouldn’t have a job she hesitates labeling a job because it’s just so much dang fun that it feels wrong to call it anything but a dream.
“It’s literally a dream job, because it’s not just about volleyball, it’s not just about athletes,” Irwin said. “I get to work with two of my best friends and their amazing families on a regular basis. My job is to share your story, so you can impact someone else’s life. That’s the stuff that gets my engine going.”
Irwin was one of the rare collegiate athletes who saw past her career in her respective sport. Even as a successful setter at Washington State with professional prospects down the line, she kindled her passion for storytelling, sacrificing sleep to shoot, edit and produce videos only a handful of people would watch.
“I knew I had this gameplan: I want to tell stories, I want to shape lives,” Irwin said. “I was so driven. But even with that drive in my brain, I was like ‘How in the world do I do this? Where do I even start?’ I’m out from the sticks in Washington State. I grew up on a farm, there’s no network television. It’s not like there’s some guy saying ‘Get an agent, get a head shot.’ I just said ‘Grind it out. Connect with people. Talk to people, and fail 100 times a day and figure it out.’ Still to this day people will ask me how I got to where I am and I say a lot of hard work without knowing the outcome.”
When she returned from Sweden to finish her degree at Washington State, she was able to call football games, learning under the legendary – and enormous personality – Mike Leach, one of the finest minds in the sport. So when she’s calling games for ESPN or the Pac-12 Network, she’s doing so with the education from men like Leach, who is 139-90 in his career with two Pac-12 division titles to his name, and Graham Harrell, the current offensive coordinator at USC. The jobs she was working paid $15 a piece; the education she gained continues to pay dividends, mapping out a rapidly ascending career as a broadcaster.
“It was all about building relationships and writing stories on these guys and I was just hoping the Pac-12 would give me a chance and they did,” Irwin said. “There’s no training for this. You just have to be super ballsy, and you have to be ok sounding like an idiot and not knowing what you’re doing and just listen to yourself, critique yourself, be super hard on yourself, and trying to find out what your voice is.”
Her voice, as creatives know, will be an ongoing project for the remainder of her career. It’ll evolve, improve, change. But her passion for what she does and the people with whom she does it, be it the athletes she’s calling or her colleagues calling with her, is what makes Irwin so good at what she does. It’s what allows her to run off four hours of sleep during AVP weekends, nerding out on volleyball by studying her self-made binders. It’s why she can take calls from the AVP and Amazon the night before her long-awaited debut in beach volleyball and know that it’s going to work out fine.
“I was a volleyball player since I was 5 years old,” she said. “I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where beach volleyball wasn’t a thing. I love the indoor game and I love the beach game, but my biggest thing is to be able to help build and represent a brand and a sport that is so cherished to me, especially something that I got to participate on the indoor side in college and overseas for a few years, I feel like it got ripped from me. To be so involved in a sport that is still so dear to my heart and to have that shown, I can’t work hard enough for this sport because I love it that much. The 4 hours of sleep at night, the stupid binders I make, the relationships – it’s all so genuine to me because I love this game so much and I love all the people in it.
“To get the call from Amazon and the AVP was way more meaningful to me than anybody really realizes.”
Feb 19 2020
It wasn’t exactly an audacious start, was it? September 12, 2016. The first match of Melissa Humana-Paredes’ and Sarah Pavan’s partnership: A country quota against Brandie Wilkerson and – who else? – Pavan’s former partner, Heather Bansley, in Toronto, no less, the training center for the Canadian national team, where Pavan has played something of a revolutionary role.
She did not, however, play that role on September 12 of 2016. On that day, her and Humana-Paredes, an affable young defender of 23 years at the time, lost, 21-23, 13-21.
They wondered, almost incredulously, if they could feel such an emotion at the time, why a reporter had reminded them of that loss. He had reminded them in the moments after they had won the World Championship. It was Canada’s first. A momentous achievement not just for two individuals carving out history in a sport rich in it, but for a nation that is rapidly creating a foothold in a space traditionally dominated by countries south of the Canadian border.
“Why would you remind us of that?” they wondered, simultaneously.
Because it makes the narrative that much sweeter, the process that much more real. There is no relating to a story with a smooth beginning, steep curve in the middle and a World Championship at the end. They know it, too, even if they didn’t want to relive that country quota loss quite so soon after reaching a new pinnacle for Canadian beach volleyball.
“Every failure,” Pavan said, “has led to this moment. Nobody sees the tough moments.”
What most see is that Humana-Paredes and Pavan are currently doing for Canada, on their on relative scale, what Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor once did for the United States: They’re writing their own country’s history.
It was at Gstaad, where the best players in the world are currently competing, a year ago where Pavan and Humana-Paredes claimed Canada’s first major title. Didn’t even lose a match, those Canadians, dethroning the countries that laid the foundation of beach volleyball’s traditional powers that be: 21-15, 21-15 over the United States, 14-21, 21-12, 15-13 over Brazil, 21-17, 12-21, 17-15 over Germany. Only months before that, they had become the first Canadian team to win a Commonwealth Games.
It was last June when Humana-Paredes said, on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, that “we have so much more that we need to improve on and that we can improve on and I think our potential – it seems limitless right now."
Prophetic words. It hasn’t all been pretty, and they knew it wouldn’t. Pavan knew she was taking a chance on Humana-Paredes then, who had been relatively unproven at the time. She knew the potential upside, an upside that is now paying dividends in the form of history, of major titles, of World Championships.
“It happened much quicker than either of us expected,” Pavan said on that episode a year ago, and those same words ring true a year later. “It’s nice to see the grit and the fire of not being satisfied with making one semifinal or one podium or whatever.”
And so they’ll continue to remain unsatisfied. So long as reporters continue to remind them of their humble beginnings, if not only to show them just how far they’ve come.
“The things we have overcome this week, last week, this year, in the last two years, three years and now we’re world champions,” Humana-Paredes said. “I have no words.”
No need for words when you have history.
Jul 10 2019
The relationship between brothers is often too complicated for even brothers to fully understand, let alone communicate to the world beyond, especially when their immediate world beyond knows their life history – where they grew up and went to high school, where they went to college and what they’ve done since.
When you throw into that the fact that the two brothers in mind – Taylor and Trevor Crabb – were, for a period of two years, also simultaneously maintaining the most volatile of relationships – business partners, roommates, volleyball partners, running among the same group of friends – it would have been quite curious if they didn’t fight a bit than to the extent they did.
So yes, when Taylor and Trevor Crabb played beach volleyball together, as they did at the professional level in 2015 and 2016 and in various tournaments in 2011 and 2013, there were times they didn’t get along.
And there were times – almost all the time, really – on the court, that it just didn’t matter.
“It’s every partnership,” Taylor said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “The longer you’re with someone, the more stuff is going to get on your nerves. Being brothers just amplifies it that much more. For the most part we were able to put it behind us and perform, and we played great for the year and a half that we were together. But just like every partnership it gets harder and harder as it goes on.”
Watch any sibling partnership and you will see much of the same. Nicole and Megan McNamara at UCLA “will say things to each other they would never say to a different partner,” former Bruin assistant coach Jeff Alzina said. But they’re able to snipe at each other, to demand more, because they’re sisters. The McKibbins, Riley and Maddison, are no different. This is just what siblings do.
They demand more. Expect more.
And besides, it’s not as if a true blood relationship is needed to dig at one another. Growing up, the Hawaiian crew – the Crabbs, Bourne, McKibbins, Brad Lawson, Spencer McLaughlin – simply labeled Taylor “little shit.” Nobody is quicker to talk a little trash to Trevor than Bourne, his own partner, and vice versa.
“They still try to give me crap,” Taylor said, “but it’s getting harder to.”
The point in their careers is a rare one for siblings of any sort in the sense that, 18 months from now, it is not all that unlikely to see both Crabbs in the Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020. Taylor and Jake Gibb are the No. 2 team in the U.S., Bourne and Trevor No. 3.
“You really gotta stay present in it,” Bourne said. “It’s such a long process. As much as our sport weighs on Olympics, you want that label, that’s everyone’s dream, it’s literally one tournament of your whole career. If you get caught up in two years of that certain event putting pressure on every other event, you’re really wasting your time. You just had a great finish on the world tour? Enjoy that. Be there.”
And so the process begins. Taylor and Gibb are in Sydney this week for a three-star, their first event of the Olympic push and of the 2019 season. Trevor and Bourne skipped Sydney, focusing instead on a four-star in Doha the following week. By 2020, three kids from the Outrigger Canoe Club could be donning the red, white, and blue.
“It’s pretty nuts,” Bourne said. “We were – well, we still are – cocky little shits.”
You see, whether the birth certificates say so or not, this Hawaiian bunch is a family. And, like most competitive siblings, the trash talk never stops, no matter what side of the net you’re on.
Mar 06 2019
With one, final Jeremy Casebeer – or Uncle Jer Bear, as he was known at Lake Sammamish – swing in Seattle, the AVP officially reached the midpoint of the 2019 season. It has, by any measure, been a rollicking success. Every event has been home to packed stadiums and sold out VIP areas and flowing beer gardens.
Most importantly, it’s been home to excellent beach volleyball.
Upsets have become the norm this season, a sign that the field, on both the men’s and the women’s side, is deepening. Qualifier teams have upset the one seed in the men and the women. Three different teams have won a men’s title and three different have won a women’s title. Two of those victors on the women’s end – Karissa Cook and Jace Pardon, Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman – have been new winners, while one, Uncle Jer Bear and Chaim Schalk, has been a first-timer for the men.
It’s made for a fun season to watch for fans, one in which new faces are emerging, older ones are being pushed, and people are coming out in droves to see it.
On SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, the hosts break down the mid-season AVP awards.
Men’s: Taylor Crabb
Few have ever looked so indifferent when being introduced in an AVP final. Yet there Taylor Crabb sits, legs crossed, paying attention to seemingly everything but his name being called to play an AVP final. Such is the state of mind when you expect to be there, and it’s easy to see why Crabb does, indeed, expect to be there. Crabb and Gibb won the first two events of the season, in Huntington Beach and Austin, making it three straight when dating it back to Chicago of 2018. In the past two seasons, they’ve made eight finals in 10 events, not including the Hawai’i Invitational. Much of this is due, yes, to Gibb, but Crabb is playing at a level unmatchedon the AVP this season.
In the running: Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena, Jake Gibb, Jeremy Casebeer
Women’s: April Ross
In discussing Ross, Bourne wondered when the last time the 37-year-old wasn’t only the best player in the country, but in the world. She has played two AVPs this season and won both. Her and Alix Klineman have played six FIVBs and won two. As with Crabb, much of the credit goes to Klineman’s 6-foot-4 presence at the net, but Ross is the engine, fueled by a serve that has earned her FIVB’s Best Server five times since 2013, and an all-around game that has awarded her four AVP MVP’s since the same year.
In the running: Alix Kineman, Sarah Sponcil, Betsi Flint, Emily Day
Rookie of the Year
Men’s: Paul Lotman
Of the many skills, both tangible and not, you cannot teach in beach volleyball, one is this: Being an Olympian. Lotman has that distinction, and it’s beginning to show, as his indoor game translates to the beach. A year ago, Lotman showed glimpses of his beach potential in a titanic serve and the physicality that earned him a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. But there were a few skills that needed grooming.
Consider them groomed.
Lotman and Gabe Ospina have qualified for three straight events, all small draws, and became just the second 16-seed to beat a one in AVP history, topping Gibb and Crabb in Austin. They don’t seem to be slowing, either. Now, with enough points to likely get them straight into Hermosa and Manhattan, they won’t have qualifier legs, but fresh ones prepared to make a move deeper into main.
In the running: Gabe Ospina, Kyle Friend, David Lee
Women’s: Terese Cannon
Truth be told, I don’t know whether Cannon is still, technically, considered a rookie, because she’s made a handful of main draws prior to this season. But if she’s eligible, Cannon has a runaway case for Rookie of the Year. She took third in Austin – she skipped Huntington Beach for NCAA Championships – to begin the year and has taken a ninth and seventh since. Her and Irene Pollock have enough points where they’ll be in main draw for the remainder of the year, making Cannon the early, and heavy, favorite to win.
In the running: Kim Hildreth, Sarah Schermerhorn, Falyn Fonoimoana, Emily Hartong
Men’s: Troy Field
Field’s rise on the AVP, both as a player and personality, has been meteoric. He has gone, in the span of two years, as that qualifier guy wearing a pink hat who could jump really high to a bona fide contender to winning AVPs. In four events this season, he and Tim Bomgren have made three Sundays, including a final, Field’s first, in New York City. With Hermosa and Manhattan expected to be a tad watered down, with teams skipping for Olympic qualifiers, odds are that Field and Bomgren will be back in the finals soon enough.
In the running: Tim Bomgren, Chase Budinger, Jeremy Casebeer, Chaim Schalk
Women’s: Jace Pardon
A few weeks prior to Huntington Beach, Pardon wasn’t sure who she was going to play with. She had popped around with a few different partners in 2018, never really finding a consistent rhythm with any, one player. Then Karissa Cook freed up, and the rest, you could say, is history in the making.
They took a fifth in Huntington, and then worked their way through the contender’s bracket in Austin to claim their first AVP titles. Far from one-hit wonders, they made another quarterfinal in New York and then a second Sunday in Seattle.
In the running: Karissa Cook, Emily Stockman, Sarah Sponcil, Irene Pollock
Jun 26 2019
It began as something fun. Nothing much more than, well, why not? Why not put two childhood friends on the same team? Friends who play the same side, the same position, who had never played defense at a professional level.
And yet there Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb were, winning in Manhattan Beach, finishing with a seventh. Winning in Chicago, improving to fifth. Winning in China, claiming a gold medal. Winning in Hawaii, making a Sunday. Winning in Las Vegas, nearly stunning Russia’s top team, Viacheslav Krasilnikov and Oleg Stoyanovskiy, for a bronze medal. Winning despite Bourne not having played for nearly two years. Winning despite Bourne tweaking a rib. Winning despite neither of them really having any clue what to do on defense at the game’s highest level. Winning despite neither having played much right side in their careers.
And now here we are, in 2019, with the Olympic race beginning in earnest this week at The Hague, and Bourne and Crabb, the team that few, even themselves, predicted to be legitimate contenders, or even a team at all, are training full-time, pushing for a berth to Tokyo in 2020.
“We’re gonna stick with our plan,” Bourne said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “We’re still a new partnership, obviously. Last time we played in 2018 it was a honeymoon phase, even though me and Trevor have been playing against each other our whole lives. We had a lot to figure out, were just winging it at the end of 2018, so now we gotta figure out what our system is, figure out how the hell to play defense, and so I’m excited.”
The commitment establishes Bourne and Crabb as the only split-blocking team in the U.S., and one of the few in the world at the game’s highest level. Currently, Spain’s Pablo Herrera and Adrian Gavira, Latvia’s Janis Smedins and Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Brazil’s Evandro Goncalves and Andre Loyola are the handful who have been able to succeed with neither partner specializing in either defensive position.
“You just feel like you should specialize because the rest of the world is,” Bourne said. “I’m super excited about it. I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being able to do every skill. Indoors, I played libero a little bit at USC, played middle blocker, so I’ve taken a little skill set from each position indoors and that’s what’s developed me for beach. I didn’t like being a specialized blocker even though it’s my favorite skill and the one I probably took the most pride in the last five years.
“But now I get to do it all. I’m stoked on that.”
He knows there’s going to be a learning curve, that their quick success was perhaps aided by the unconventional style and the lack of preparation teams could do against them. Which is why the Olympic race is not a sprint, but a two-year international grind, one Bourne and Crabb are now set on doing together.
“At the end of the year, we both took some time, and we weren’t for sure going to play with each other, we took time to figure out what was best for ourselves individually, but we both kind of came around – this is too fun,” Bourne said. “Why not, you know?”
Jan 02 2019
Karissa Cook is a self-dubbed “inside cat.” She doesn’t need to go anywhere to have fun. Doesn’t really need to see anybody, aside from her fiancé, Shayne Skov, and her pup. She’s good with that.
So when Katie Spieler, her partner throughout the 2017 and 2018 beach volleyball seasons, asked if she wanted to play in a NORCECA playoff for a one-off event in a pinprick of an island named Martinique, she felt very little compulsion to do so. But she did, because Cook loves Spieler, and she does – though she rarely admits it out loud – love volleyball, event at the end of a year.
She was in.
And so began one of the strangest, world-crossing, successful years of Cook’s life. Her and Spieler would win gold in Martinique, which wasn’t so much a beach tournament as it was “jungle ball,” as she dubbed it on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, seeing as it was played in the middle of a tropical forest, in a grove of cleared out trees.
In reality, it would be one of the most normal events Cook would play over the next calendar year. A month later, Cook and Spieler were chatting again, about a new, slightly absurd invitation to play snow volleyball in Russia in December. They added Allie Wheeler and Emily Hartong to the crew, and thus the “Snow Dogs” were born.
“I feel like this year is still bookended by Moscow because that was the origination of the snow team,” Cook said. “Looking back on these 12 months, I’m like ‘How did we get roped into all these strange, amazing country trips and all these amazing environments?’
“Basically, USA keeps emailing and we keep saying yes. Every time, I’m like ‘I’m done for the year’ and then I get an email saying ‘Do you guys want to…’ and I’ll probably say yeah.”
For Wheeler, there is never a hesitation. Not anymore. She said yes immediately to Moscow, and everything thereafter.
Did she want to play snow volleyball in Austria and Italy, three weeks before the AVP season? Yes. And another in Argentina? Yes. How about a fours tournament at the inaugural World Beach Games in, of all places, Doha, Qatar?
“It’s always just ‘Yes,’” Wheeler said on SANDCAST.
It’s easy to see why, too. Every time she’s said yes, she’s returned home with gold. When she agreed to play a one-star FIVB in Vaudz, Liechtenstein, in August of 2018, as the No. 12 team in the qualifier, they wound up winning the whole thing. Perhaps her decision making is expedited by the fact that her goal is rarely about the winning, though for anybody as competitive as Wheeler, a national champ at USC, winning is always a plus.
“For me, I think about it – in Liechtenstein, me and Lara were down, 13-12, in the third set in the quali, obviously terrible scenario, so we were like ‘Alright, it’s a win win. If you lose you get to travel. If you win you get to play more volleyball,’” Wheeler said. “We ended up winning and then won the whole tournament so it was pretty cool.”
Everything about this year has been cool for the two. Cook has won events in a forest (Martinique) and in snow (Moscow). She won her first AVP, in Austin, and claimed gold at the Pan American Games with Jace Pardon in Lima, Peru. Together, her and Wheeler, adding Geena Urango and Kelly Reeves to the snow team, won the inaugural World Beach Games in Doha.
“This year, I went into it with a lot of uncertainty, but my only two goals were to not get burned out and be really conscious with my limits and not doing too much because I feel like I have to,” Cook said. “And then just to play with really good people. I think getting slightly more points than opponents was cool, but it was just a cherry on top. Winning helps, it definitely makes it more fun, definitely preferable, but I can’t control that.”
So here’s what they can control: The mindset and the team they bring with them. They’re all close friends now, the snow dogs, and the two “desert queens” in Urango and Reeves. Good friends and world champs.
“Well they’re going to pay for us to go to cool places so long as we keep winning,” Cook said. “So let’s do it.”
Nov 06 2019
On Tuesday morning, what seemed to be the inevitable alas became a reality: The 2020 Olympic Games were postponed, to sometime in 2021. For some, it’s heartbreaking.
“I can understand why other people are devastated,” said Sarah Sponcil, who is third in the Olympic race with Kelly Claes. “They waited literally four years and now they have to wait five.”
Notice that Sponcil said “others” when mentioning those who are devastated. For some, the Olympic postponement is devastating. For others, it’s a blessing not even in disguise: It’s just a blessing.
This week on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, we discussed, among a number of covid-19-related topics – is there anything else to discuss at this point, anyway? – how each team in the Olympic race could benefit or set them back from the postponement. We dug into how, depending on the FIVB schedule and any changes the IOC makes regarding the qualification process, the postponement could put additional teams in the race.
Here’s a team by team breakdown of the impact the postponement could have.
April Ross, Alix Klineman
U.S.A. rank: 1
This one is difficult to pin down whether it hurts or benefits. On the one hand, Ross and Klineman were coming off their best season together, with five AVP finals in five tournaments and three wins on the world tour. They could have continued that upwards trajectory all the way to Tokyo. On the other hand, it gives Klineman another year to develop on the beach, which she has done at such a rate you’d be forgiven to think she hasn’t been playing on the AVP her entire volleyball career. It’s a bit neutral for these two, who are still all but a lock to go to Tokyo, no matter what year the Games are held. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry to play this year as it was, as they decided not to play in the Cancun four-star that was eventually cancelled, so perhaps this will be a good rest period to heal up the nagging injuries that build up.
Until then, you can find Ross going viral with what has become the April Ross Challenge.
Kerri Walsh Jennings, Brooke Sweat
U.S.A. rank: 2
The immediate reaction when thinking of these two is that it would have to negatively impact them. But the more one would think about it, the more that might not be entirely accurate. Yes, Walsh Jennings and Sweat are on the older side of the athletic spectrum, at 41 and 33 years old, respectively. Yes, they have quite a list of injuries and surgeries on the ledger. But Sponcil said it best: “Kerri is a machine,” she said on Tuesday. “She’s just going to keep going all out.”
If there is one athlete in the world who can take this and benefit from it, it might be Walsh Jennings, whose three gold medals and five Olympic appearances did not come by accident. That, and she gets time at home, with her family, when she would otherwise be circumnavigating the world.
Sarah Sponcil, Kelly Claes
U.S.A. rank: 3
There are two teams that I really don’t see any downside to this: Sponcil and Claes, and Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman. For these two, it’s all upside.
“Everyone’s been asking how we feel about it and I feel great because the last year I’ve just been like ‘Ok, let’s get as many points as we can, let’s pass Kerri, it’s crunch time,’” Sponcil said. “It would have been crunch time right now and now I have the time to process the opportunity I have in front of me. I’m trying my hardest to slow down and be like ‘Whoa this is an amazing opportunity having another year to get experience, to slow down a little bit, and take it all in.’ It’s the best thing for our team and for me personally.”
It gives them more time to develop, both as players and professionals, and it allows them, as Sponcil mentioned, to finally slow down. Catch a breath. Sleep for a change. Sponcil has been competing at a breakneck pace for the previous few years, going from UCLA to the AVP then back to UCLA straight into the Olympic race. A break could be just what she needed. It could be exactly what the team needed.
Kelley Larsen, Emily Stockman
U.S.A. rank: 4
It is positively bananas that the fourth-ranked U.S. team is also the seventh-ranked team on the planet. America is deep. When you’re as good as Stockman and Larsen are, and you’re behind in the race, time and more events are what you need, and time and hopefully more events is what they’ll get. If they have a dozen more events to climb the ladder and take the second American spot, as they could, depending when the FIVB reschedules its laundry list of postponed events, they could very well do so. Their win in Warsaw proved they can compete with any team in the world. They just need some more time to do so. Now, they might have that time.
Taylor Crabb, Jake Gibb
U.S.A. rank: 1
It is hard to imagine how another year added to Gibb’s career would be a positive for these two, but it’s also hard to imagine how Gibb played some of his best volleyball at age 43 as he did in 2019. He, like Phil Dalhausser and John Hyden, have hoarded a gallon from the fountain of youth and just continue to defy athletic norms. For Crabb, it’s just another year to get better. With his trajectory the way it is – a sharp incline upwards – the postponement isn’t going to do any harm. Perhaps this will be a useful rest period for Gibb, a bit of a sabbatical before one final charge in 2021.
Tri Bourne, Trevor Crabb
U.S.A. rank: 2
Like Sponcil and Claes, and Larsen and Stockman, this is another team where it’s almost only upside. They held a slim lead over Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena for the second spot, slim enough where it was basically a tie. But now Bourne and Crabb have another year to dial in their team dynamic, which both admit they’re only just beginning to figure out. Bourne can dial in his world-class blocking again, while both can dig into the nuances of defense and different roles in transition. It’s inconvenient for anyone to have to wait another year, but as this is this only team where age is not a factor at all, there isn’t much downside to the postponement for Bourne and Crabb.
Phil Dalhausser, Nick Lucena
U.S.A. rank: 3
It is impossible to say how this will impact Dalhausser and Lucena. Dalhausser has readily admitted that Tokyo was it for him. Then it was onto family time and working at his new facility in Orlando, Fla. This news obviously pushes that timeline back. Like Walsh Jennings, though, it could just mean more time at home with their families for what could be the remainder of the year. They live close enough to one another that practicing won’t be a burden. If there isn’t another meaningful event until, say, August, maybe later, that’s another five months at home they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It could be exactly what they need, or it could be difficult to sustain the motivation needed to make an Olympic push for another year and a half.
Time will only tell. And time is exactly what we have in abundance.
Mar 25 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features the hosts, Bourne and Mewhirter, as well as a new voice on the show, Savvy Simo, as we celebrate our three year anniversary of doing the podcast.
On this episode, we recap the long and short three-year journey we've been on, and answer a wide variety of fan questions, such as...- How would you rank the top 10 men's teams right now going into the Olympics in 2021? Norway still #1?
- How would you rank Taylor within the group of top 5 defenders and why?
- What is the direction that USAV is headed with Tyler Hildebrand going back to Nebraska?
- Seems like the players would love more chances to play and you’ve seen first hand how into beach/sand volleyball places that don’t actually have beaches can be (Cincinnati) plus you’ve seen the indoor sand facilities. So what’s your take on playing sand indoors during the winter months?
- You’ve done a great job of interviewing the players and giving a bit more depth to the game from this fan’s perspective. You asked for some questions. You’ll undoubtedly get the most [surprising, best, worst, hilarious, .. etc], but I’m curious if you see the growth and acceptance of the game changing? Are you more or less positive looking forward? And what about existing and potential sponsors - how do you see that world now?
Many, many more. Thanks, as always, for listening to the show! If you want to drop us a review in iTunes, we'd appreciate it.
And, as always, thanks to Wilson Volleyball for sponsoring the show! If you want 20 percent off the best balls in the game, check out Wilson using our discount code SANDCAST-20 for 20 percent off!
Oct 28 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter features Julia Scoles, a phenomenal indoor player at the University of North Carolina who transferred to Hawai'i to play beach after a series of concussions. After an incredibly successful stint as a Bow, Scoles transferred to USC, where, a year later, she is still waiting to make her debut as a Trojan.
On this episode, we discuss:
- Scoles' path from Carolina to Hawai'i to USC
- Her steep learning curve on the beach
- Winning her first tournament at the Waupaca Boatride with Hailey Harward
- How she has found peace amid all these momentous life decisions, and the stress of going from the East Coast to halfway around the world to Hawai'i
- Her five-year plan as a professional volleyball player after she graduates from USC
As always, this episode is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball, makers of the best balls in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20 to get 20 percent off all Wilson products!
We would also LOVE it if you checked out our book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, which can be bought on Amazon. And, if you've already read it, drop us a review! It only helps spread the beach love :)
Oct 21 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter is with Avery Drost, a longtime pro who has been competing on the AVP Tour for 10 years.
On this episode, we discuss:
- Drost winning the Hyden Beach AVP Next with Miles Partain
- Just how good the 18-year-old Partain is becoming
- Drost finding the best practice regimen and weight lifting schedule for his body
- Finding the right playing weight
- His goals when it comes to beach volleyball
- Transitioning to a right-side defender with Ryan Doherty
- His overall confusion -- in a good way -- over what position to play, given his ability to thrive all over the court
This episode, as always, is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball, makers of the best beach volleyballs in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, for 20 percent off!
We'd love it if you checked out our book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, on Amazon, and we'd really love it if you dropped us a review as well! It goes a long way.
Oct 14 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, is with Jordan Cheng, the coach of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil, the 10th-ranked team in the world and No. 3 in the American Olympic race.
On this episode, we discuss:
- Cheng's career as a coach, how his intentions to play professionally were constantly derailed by "once in a lifetime" coaching opportunities at Pepperdine, under Marv Dunphy, USA Volleyball under John Speraw, UCI, Reid Priddy and, now, Sponcil and Claes
- How Cheng, 28 years old at the time, came to be the coach for Priddy, one of the best volleyball players of all time
- His coaching philosophy: "I don't want to be a JV version of Jose Loiola. I want to be a varsity version of myself."
- How he came to coach Claes and Sponcil
- The importance of pursuing something bigger than beach volleyball
This episode is, as always, brought to you by Wilson volleyball. They make the best balls in the game, and you can get 20 percent off by using our discount code, Sandcast-20.
Be sure to check out our new book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, on Amazon and, if you're feeling extra magnanimous, drop us a review! It goes a long way.
Thanks as always for listening!
Oct 07 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, is with one of the greatest players of all-time, with 123 victories, including four at the Manhattan Beach Open.
More than that, Stoklos, along with his partner, Sinjin Smith, is one of the most influential individuals in beach history, instrumental in pushing beach volleyball worldwide. Without Stoklos and Smith, it's possible the sport would not currently be in the Olympic Games.
On this episode, we cover a lot of ground, including:
- Stoklos' upbringing with his father, Rudy, a Polish immigrant who escaped a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.
- Winning the Manhattan Beach Open at age 20 with the legendary Jim Menges
- How he and Sinjin Smith partnered, both of them turning down an offer from Karch Kiraly to do so
- Stoklos' and Sinjin's epic 11-year partnership, in which they won more tournaments (115) than any team in beach volleyball history
- Their push for the FIVB, and international volleyball
- An incredible story from Ipanema, where he and Smith were dubbed the Kings of Rio
- So much more. Honestly, just listen. It's amazing. You'll love it.
Sep 23 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, is with the legendary, and ageless, John Hyden. At 47 years young, Hyden is still one of the best defenders in the United States, with his own beach facility just outside Nashville, Tennessee.
On this episode, we discuss:
- Hyden’s transition from an indoor Olympian to a beach volleyball player grinding in qualifiers
- Hustling side jobs, like hanging Christmas lights, putting in synthetic turf putting greens, and almost getting attacked by a dog, until he turned the financial corner in beach.
- Building his team and system, beginning with Brad Keenan in 2007
- Why he and Sean Scott were so dominant
- Coaching up a young Tri – or Tree – Bourne, on volleyball and far more
- Launching his new facility in Nashville
- The final act of his playing career, and how much juice the young man has left in him
This episode is, as always, brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off the best balls in the game! SHOOTS!
Sep 16 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Canadians Grant O'Gorman and Ben Saxton, who are the second-ranked Canadian team in the race for Tokyo 2021.
More than pushing for Tokyo, however, they -- and especially O'Gorman -- are pushing for men's health awareness, as O'Gorman was diagnosed with, and beat, testicular cancer.
On this episode, we cover:
- O'Gorman discovering his testicular cancer, beginning in Hamburg, Germany, at the World Champs
- How the coronavirus may have actually saved his life
- How O'Gorman and Saxton became partners, and O'Gorman's brief stint living in a van
- Saxton's new mindset of not focusing on the Olympics, but simply trying to be the best he can be, every year
- The upcoming King of the Court event, the first time either has competed in the format
- The rise of Canadian volleyball, particularly the women's side
This episode, of course, is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball, the best balls in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off!
Sep 09 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, is with Livingstone "LT" Treumann, who has established one of the best unofficial beach volleyball training centers in the United States.
On this episode, we cover:
- Treumann's days growing up in Brazil, and how a white lie turned into a career in volleyball
- Training with the best in the world, including Ricardo Santos and Emanuel Rego, as a teenager in Brazil
- His decision to pursue a career in the garbage business over moving to Santa Monica
- Getting back into coaching beach volleyball
- How he helped Bill Kolinske and Eric Beranek to a career-high third place finish at the 2019 Manhattan Beach Open
- How he established third street in Hermosa Beach as the training grounds for some of the best players in the country
- What he's currently doing in Florida with Beranek and Andy Benesh for the next three months
This episode, per usual, is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball, who makes the best balls in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20 to get 20 percent off all purchases!
Sep 02 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter features Adrian Carambula. Nicknamed Mr. Skyball for his towering, spinning serve, Carambula is one of the best players in Italy and in the race to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with Enrico Rossi.
On this episode, we cover:
- Carambula's move from Uruguay to the United States, and how he discovered volleyball on the shores of South Beach, Miami.
- His rise up the ranks in beach volleyball in the U.S., and how he began utilizing a creative, never-before-seen playing style
- His tryout with the Italian Federation
- The long list of adversity he had to overcome to convince the Italian Federation to give him a shot at playing with Alex Ranghieri
- His breakthrough tournament in Porec, Croatia, where he and Ranghieri would take bronze, putting to rest all of the doubts the Federation had about him
- Finding his new partner, Enrico Rossi, and where his career is headed from here.
Thanks as always for listening to SANDCAST! This episode is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball ! Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off all Wilson products.
Tri and I would love it if you guys ordered a copy of our book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, which is filled with lessons from the pros on this podcast.
Aug 26 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Traci Callahan, who has been competing on the AVP Tour since 2010, with a brief break in the 2015-2017 seasons.
We talk a lot about that break, as well as:
- A journey down the Camino de Santiago, and how it inspired her to get back into beach volleyball
- Her time as a coach, yoga instructor, bee farmer, organic farmer, and others in between her stints as a professional beach volleyball player
- Why she got back into beach volleyball
- The struggles of returning to the sport, which included switching positions, not being able to find a partner, and, you know, Covid
- Her newfound dedication to the sport, and what it has taken to get back to the top level
As always, this episode is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off!
We would LOVE it, if you checked out our book, Volleyball for Milkshakes! If you like the show, we know you'd love the book, which is packed with some of the best lessons from our guests on the show.
Thanks as always for listening.
Aug 19 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, is with Wilco Nijland, the CEO of SportWorx, based in Utretcht, Netherlands, and the creator of the wildly popular King of the Court Series.
On this episode of the podcast, we discuss:
- How Wilco was able, despite all the Covid precautions, to hold a King of the Court
- Innovative ideas in the sport of beach volleyball, such as having the first serve of the Dutch Tour in 2020 coincide with the sunrise -- at 5:24 a.m. on July 1, the first day professional sport was allowed
- The high-speed format for King of the Court, and how it has attracted a much-sought after demographic: The 18-34 year olds.
- The relationships Nijland has been able to build with the FIVB and AVP, working alongside both in the past three years
- The idea for Skyboxes -- skyboxes! -- in beach volleyball
As always, this episode is brought to you by our good friends at Wilson Volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off all Wilson products!
And, of course, make sure to check out our new book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, which you can get on Amazon!
Aug 12 2020
On this episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, we bring on host Tri Bourne, who just won his first AVP tournament in five years!
Since launching this podcast, Bourne has battled -- is still battling -- an autoimmune disease, enrolled in acting classes, hosting classes, improv classes, begun reading books regularly, authored a book of his own, and is back in the winners circle on the AVP Tour.
He speaks a lot on leveling up on this show. He certainly has himself.
On this episode, we discuss:
- The AVP Champions Cup Series, from week one to week three, culminating in his win
- Trevor Crabb hilariously guaranteeing a win at the Porsche Cup, for no explicable reason
- Reminiscing to when Bourne was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, when he had to have the conversation if he was ever going to play again
- Bouncing back from a brutal first set loss to Chaim Schalk and Chase Budinger
- What the next few weeks will look like for Bourne and Crabb
Thanks, as always, for listening to the show. Be sure to give a shout to our sponsor, Wilson Volleyball, for making the show happen! Use our discount code, Sandcast-20 to get 20 PERCENT OFF!
Also, we published a book! It's called Volleyball for Milkshakes, and we'd love it if you bought a copy, or dropped a review. Every little bit helps your favorite podcast :)
Aug 05 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, takes a little turn off the beach and onto the grass. Two weekends ago, the legendary and annual Waupaca Boatride, known as the U.S. Open of grass volleyball, was held, and two brothers by the name of Joe and Gage Worsley took over, becoming the Cinderellas of the Boatride. Joe, who now sets in Germany, was one of the best setters in the United States while he competed for Hawai'i. Gage still has one more season at Hawai'i as a libero, and he proved that, yes, liberos can play offense too. On this episode of SANDCAST, we discuss- Joe and Gage's absurd, undefeated run through the best grass volleyball tournament in the world- Grabbing a drunk sub to finish their semifinals and finals after their middle, Dalton Solbrig, went down with an ankle injury- Joe and Gage's relationship, and how when they're fighting, it's actually a good thing- Joe's decision to commit to Hawai'i, before the program had returned to national prominence, over UCLA, Ohio State, and Pepperdine- Joe's difficult path to becoming one of the best setters in the country- How much fun grass volleyball is, and the creativity required
As always, this episode is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. To get 20 percent off Wilson products, use our discount code, Sandcast-20
Jul 29 2020
On this episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, the hosts discuss the first of the AVP Champions Cup Series, the Monster Hydro Cup.
Bourne and his partner, Trevor Crabb, finished third in the event, which was won by Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena on the men's side, and April Ross and Alix Klineman on the women's.
In this episode, Bourne and Mewhirter discuss:
- How it felt to be competing again for Bourne, who hasn't played many AVPs in the past few years.
- How the site setup in Long Beach was, and playing without fans.
- What players performed the best over the weekend, including: Skylar del Sol, Sara Hughes and Brandie Wilkerson, Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes, Dalhausser and Lucena, Traci Callahan and Crissy Jones.
- The improvement Bourne and Crabb have had on defense.
- What the rest of this three-week sprint will look like.
Thanks, as always, for listening to the show! This show is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. To get a 20-percent discount on the best volleyball in the sport, head over to Wilson and use the code, Sandcast-20 for 20-percent off!
Jul 22 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features AVP professional beach volleyball players Rafu Rodriguez and Piotr Marciniak, former partners in 2017 who have agreed to compete together again during the AVP Champions Cup.
On this episode, we discuss:
- Rafu's recent cross-country move from Southern California to Florida.
- Piotr's move from Poland to Florida, and the life he has been able to build there in the eight years since.
- How much the two have been able to train and play in Florida, despite Covid-19
- Why they chose to partner up again in 2020
- Piotr and his wife, Kaya, and the success they had on the NVL from 2013-2016
- Piotr's transition into becoming a dad, and the blessings that have come from it
- Piotr playing with so many different partners in the last two years, and the lessons he has learned
Big thanks, as always, to listening to the show. And a big thanks, as always, to our sponsor, Wilson Volleyball, who makes the BEST ball in the game. To get a discount of 20 PERCENT OFF, use our code, Sandcast-20.
Jul 15 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Casey Patterson, one of the biggest personalities and talents on the AVP Tour since Donald Sun brought it out of bankruptcy in 2012.
In the past nine seasons, Patterson has won 14 AVPs, qualified for the Rio Olympics with Jake Gibb, and was named the AVP Team of the Year three times. He has since partnered with Stafford Slick, Theo Brunner, Chase Budinger and, once again, Theo Brunner.
On this episode of SANDCAST, we discuss
- Patterson's insane nine-day stretch in 2009 in which he won the Swedish Tour, flew back to California for the birth of his first child, flew to New York to win his first AVP with Ty Loomis.
- His journey into volleyball, including riding the bench at BYU, and living on a floor in Hawai'i with $42 and a skateboard to his name.
- The early grind of being a professional beach volleyball player, living, as he calls it, a "gypsy life," finding anyone who would play with him and doing it, no matter where in the world it would take him.
- How the Covid-19 shortened season is different from the multiple bankruptcies Patterson has experienced in the sport.
- His 2012-2016 run with Jake Gibb, and how his big personality was not only ok with Gibb, but encouraged
- The development of Casey's "hype-man" personality, otherwise known to Patterson as going "full-Hulk mode."
- His breakup with Chase Budinger, and how he handled it with more class and respect than he would have previously, because he's simply in a different phase of competing.
- His thoughts on the AVP Champions Cup, and all of the crazy partner switches currently happening.
This episode, as always, is brought to you by Wilson Volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off on the best equipment in beach volleyball.
Watch the full episode on our YouTube channel!
In case you haven't heard, Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter wrote a book! It's called Volleyball for Milkshakes, and we'd love it if you picked up a copy and let us know how it is! You can buy on Amazon.com!
Jul 08 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features a fun announcement from the hosts: They have co-written and published a book!
Their book, Volleyball for Milkshakes, is out today! The easiest place you can find it is on Amazon, and the audio version will be out in a week or so!
This episode covers, first and foremost, the book: how it came about, what it’s about, and how the podcast influenced the narrative. At the bottom of the show notes, we’ll provide the synopsis.
We also answer a number of fan questions, so thank you to all who submitted them!
Thanks as always for listening, and supporting the show. As always, this show is brought to you by our guys at Wilson Volleyball, the No. 1 source of equipment for all things beach volleyball. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20 for 20 percent off!
SYNOPSIS OF VOLLEYBALL FOR MILKSHAKES
Tri had anxiously been waiting for this day throughout the entire school year: The beginning of summer, when his days would be filled with beach volleyball, surfing, and more beach volleyball. But when he signs up for summer beach volleyball at Outrigger Beach with his best friend and partner, Trevor, he discovers the devastating news that Trevor had teamed up with his arch rival, Ricardo.
Now Tri, with the help of his tough love Auntie, must befriend a misfit named Travis, building a new team, a new partnership, and a deep friendship that changes his view on beach volleyball, and life.
In this first-of-its kind novel, SANDCAST podcast hosts and professional beach volleyball players Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter take you through a fictional tale that will inspire, humor, and teach lessons that will last a lifetime.
Jul 01 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features Falyn Fonoimoana.
Times have, obviously, been a bit fraught lately. Between Covid-19, George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing riots, tension has been high. Fonoimoana, one of only a few black athletes on the AVP Tour, has been outspoken on social media on the racial issues throughout the United States. This conversaion on SANDCAST covered much more than the standard beach volleyball chatter typically featured on the show.
On this episode, we discuss:
This episode, like all episodes, is brought to you by our guys at Wilson Volleyball. The beaches are opening up again, so it's about that time to get some new OPTX volleyballs, using our discount code, Sandcast-20, for 20 percent off!
You can watch the full episode on our YouTube channel!
Jun 24 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features University of Hawai'i assistant coach Evan Silberstein.
Silberstein is a New York native turned full-blown Hawai'ian. He has been the assistant at Hawai'i for six years now, helping the Bows become one of the perennial powers in NCAA volleyball.
In this episode, we cover:
- How Silberstein came to Hawai'i from, of all places, New York City.
- How he left his own law practice on the Island to take a volunteer position at the University of San Francisco
- Taking his dream job at the University of Hawai'i, and how different that dream is from his initial dream of practicing law for a living.
- The art and importance of developing rapport with his athletes. Indeed, it was Silberstein who drove a van nicknamed the "Vegan Vaagen" at Hawai'i, ensuring all of the more dietary conscious athletes got their needs fulfilled.
- Why AVP Hawai'i is generally devoid of fans despite such a rich beach volleyball culture.
- What the NCAA beach volleyball scene will look like following Covid-19.
I hope you enjoy this episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. As always give some love to our sponsor, Wilson Volleyball, and for a 20 PERCENT discount on all Wilson products, use our discount code, Sandcast-20
You can find the full video on our YouTube channel: SANDCAST Podcast
The write-up is available at VolleyballMag.com!
Jun 17 2020
This episode of SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, features longtime beach volleyball coaches and advocates Megan Burgdorf and Michelle Meyer.
The two have been involved in the sport in virtually every capacity. Both were players at the college level -- Burgdorf at Cleveland State, Meyer played club at UC Santa Barbara before an overseas career in Denmark -- and have coached at all levels of the game.
With the advent of the college game, however, the sport has exploded in numbers, and Meyer and Burgdorf saw a number of opportunities for a business to bridge many of the gaps being created. Thus, they launched Beach Volleyball Consulting.
It's a wide-ranging business, and in the episode, we discuss every corner of the game the two are covering, from grassroots to men's college beach to the AVP and FIVB.
On this episode, we cover:
- How Beach Volleyball Consulting was launched, and whom it serves
- The advent of men's collegiate beach volleyball, and how Burgdorf and Meyer are spearheading an effort to make it happen
- The importance of athletes building their own personal brands and adding value to their community
- College athletes getting paid
- The Pro Athlete Mentorship Program launched by Beach Volleyball Consulting that is connecting the top players in the country to juniors all over the United States
Thanks, as always, for listening to the show.
This episode, as all are, is sponsored by Wilson Volleyball, who makes the best ball in the game. Use our discount code, Sandcast-20, to get 20 percent off!
Jun 10 2020