It’s a wonder how they’re not brothers, John Mayer and Billy Allen. Similar demeanors – calm, collected, neither too high nor too low. Similar styles of play – crafty, ball-control-oriented, hyper-efficient. Similar hobbies – reading, coaching, dadding.

Mayer thinks Allen has always been the better of the two. Allen thinks the same about Mayer. Any pandering to the crowd is done mostly in jest, Allen flexing after a float serve ace or a poke kill, though that’s more than Mayer will generally do. He might offer the slightest of smiles.

One of their chief similarities one might notice – and will inevitably notice if you listen to their podcast, Coach Your Brains Out – is the importance they place on mindset, emphasizing the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

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“One thing I’ve learned is that we all have fixed mindsets and we don’t even realize we have fixed mindsets,” Mayer says on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It’s really hard and the shift is never ending.”

And neither, it’s become evident, is their improvement.

Mayer, after making just three career AVP finals in his first 11 years on Tour – it should be noted that he also made a pair of Corona Wide Open finals in 2011 – made four in 2015 alone, winning in New Orleans with Ryan Doherty. It culminated in him being named AVP MVP.

Allen has seen a similar ascent. From 2004-2015, he failed to make a single AVP final, which set up a breakout pair of seasons in 2016 and ’17, winning his first career AVP in Seattle in 2016 with Theo Brunner and following it up the next year with Stafford Slick. His win with Slick was sandwiched between a pair of finals appearances, the first in New York, where he fell to Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, and then San Francisco, where an injury limited Slick.

I love talking with everyone on SANDCAST — really, I still find it a bit unreal that I get to call that a job — but I particularly enjoy conversations, both recorded and not, with Allen and Mayer. With many athletes I interview, it can get kind of awkward when you turn off the recorder, left standing there to talk about what, exactly? The weather, usually. It’s always there, a perpetual topic of awkward conversation. But with Mayer and Allen, I’ve never really felt that kind of awkwardness. We like the same books. We seek to adopt similar traits. We’re curious about most of the same topics.

I bug them with questions and advice and they don’t seem to ever mind.

It’s why I’m such a fan of their podcast, focused on improving yourself, on keeping the process, not the results, at the center. It’s likely why Allen and Mayer are so muted in their celebrations. Like Nick Saban has become so famous for, they find value in the process, in the day to day grind, in working on the nuances few notice, every single day. It’s fun to watch Mayer nit-pick at his float serve, and his passing footwork — minor footwork, unnoticeable footwork — and every other minor element of the game that you’d never notice unless you were listening to the conversation.


When they win, which they do quite a lot, I’m sure they’re ecstatic. As Phil Dalhausser told us a few weeks ago, “Winning never gets old.” But for them, it seems less about that grand moment than it is all those tiny, infinitesimal ones that precede it, where the real work is done, where champions, as any Instagram or Pinterest quote-board will tell you, are made.

Only they’re not just some cliche social media post.

They live it. Every day.

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