It is perhaps the greatest myth of fall in California, when everyone involved in the sport of beach volleyball posts about this so-called “off-season.”
There is no such thing. I’ve tried to convince myself a few times that there is, indeed, an off-season. I did so just this past weekend, after San Jose.
“Can’t wait to take a few weeks off my legs,” I told at least 100 people after Paul Araiza and I were knocked out by Troy Field and Chase Frishman, who has, I should note, knocked me out of every single main draw I’ve ever made.
And then I got home on Sunday, set up a lift for Monday, practice for Tuesday, two for Wednesday, another for Thursday and Friday, a lift for Saturday and a tournament for Sunday.
However, while there may be no real “off-season,” there is a gap between what I’ll label “major tournaments” and less important ones, the difference between an AVP or p1440 or FIVB and a CBVA or cash tournaments.
I’m currently in a maybe two-month or so gap between minor and major tournaments. Throughout the season, I’ve loved what Geena Urango and Jeremy Casebeer have done in the post-mortem following tournaments, posting three major takeaways and learning moments from each.
Here is the first in a series of three blogs of my three major takeaways from my first “real” season as a beach volleyball player as I head into my off-season that’s not really an off-season because there is no such thing as an off-season in California.
- Discover who you are as a competitor
I’ve tried on so many hats and masks as a competitor that I’ve lost count, though I can narrow it down to three distinct types.
There’s the Angry Competitor, that guy or girl who just needs to be pissed off and angry at the world or his or her opponent to feel they can play their best. For some – Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Trevor Crabb, Draymond Green – this works. They find a kernel of animosity and use that for motivation. I’ve tried it. Doesn’t work. I adopted this persona in Huntington Beach, and I felt so uncomfortable trying to play angry that I just played shitty and acted like an asshole, and then I was all that more disappointed in myself not only because I played shitty but also because I acted like an asshole, which just isn’t me. It was dumb. So I dropped trying to be Angry Competitor, adopting instead the Stoic Competitor.
These are the Kawhi Leonards and Klay Thompsons of the world, the Billy Allens and John Mayers. They show little emotion, whether they just won AVP Seattle or lost a heartbreaker in the Hermosa finals. They bottle it up and what they do with it I don’t really know, but we never see it on the court or the field. I still lean here a little bit, though when I’ve gone too far in that direction – in New York, Seattle, San Francisco – I felt too detached from my emotions to really engage in what was happening before me. Which led me to the one in which I’ve found I thrive: Happy Competitor.
The closest approximation I can make to this is Steph Curry. He’s a ruthless competitor, driven, accomplished, hungry. Yet there he is, shimmying after making a 3, laughing after airballing a 3, talking friendly trash to a big man after dropping in a floater, hugging that same big man after a loss. Some have accused Curry of not caring enough sometimes, that he should take the game more serious.
Curry, despite his size and relative lack of explosive ability in a sport that values exactly that, is currently one of the best players in the NBA, and one of the best shooters ever. And he does so with a shimmy and a smile. I’ve found that I play my best when I carry myself similar to how Curry does. I celebrate with my partner when we do something awesome. I laugh when I spatch a ball 100 yards long. When I blew two match points to qualify in San Jose, and we went to a third set, I looked over at my partner, Paul Araiza, and said “Hey, we’re a new team, I figured we could use the extra reps.” He laughed, said he loved my attitude, then we went and qualified.
That’s just how I operate, and since I’ve discovered that, I’ve played the best volleyball of my life, qualifying in Hermosa and San Jose, making a Saturday, winning consecutive CBVAs.
My girlfriend, Delaney Knudsen, who plays with a not-so-coincidentally similar demeanor, summed it up best (she sums up most things best) by comparing it to Monsters Inc., how at the end of the movie they discover that children’s laughter is far more powerful than the screams.
We just thrive on happiness.
Discovering that was the best thing to happen to my game this season.
Next in the Takeaways Series: Do What Works For You