So I started playing some beach volleyball on May 5th ; on a road to my next Olympics. I jumped right into an intense two week try out against some of the top beach volleyball players in England. I had to adjust to the change in climate, and also the switch from indoor to beach. I had to get some “sand legs” as they put it. Moving quickly within the sand was no easy task, and I needed to adjust to 'the elements' - jumping less high and having factors like weather affect me. The six weeks of training were nothing compared to the years of experience our opponents would have, so we had to get up to a competitive level by speeding up the learning process and taking accountability for our own progress. CEV's continental Cup, hosted by England, was fast approaching so our coach, Kirk Pittman, attempted to cram in a training schedule with the necessary skills to be successful.
I was very impressed with how the Bournemouth Leaf Academy prepared the venue for the tournament. Various people joined together to build the sand courts we played on, and which the school would use for future development of young beach volleyball players. Engineering students worked to build the outside foundations of the court, and then athletes, coaches, and administrators used barrels and spades to even out the gravel and sand. It was a legacy in itself to see so many people working together to better the future of beach volleyball in England, a place where volleyball is still a rising sport. After building the venue the same people worked extremely hard over the weekend to make sure the CEV Continental Cup ran smoothly. Students were liaisons and ball boys, helping all the athletes with anything and everything. I have never seen so many members of a community come together to back up a lesser-known and lesser-supported sport, and I thus felt proud to be representing this avid community in the tournament.
In the last week of practice, our partners were selected, and I had the great honor of playing with beach volleyball Olympian, Zara Dampney. With her experience and guidance, I quickly learned how to take advantage of my mental and athletic strengths. We improved with each game, learning one another's skills and abilities. We were a little unseasoned at first because I hadn’t played in any competitive beach games before, and Zara had been in retirement for about a year. But after a hesitant start we quickly learned that we actually had a lot more potential than most people were expecting. We won all of our games on the opening day to secure a spot in the finals of the tournament, against a top European team. The next day after a good nights rest we played the top teams in the tournament. After winning the first one we found ourselves playing a golden match against the opposition's top team. In a nail-biting 3 setter we lost 18 to 16 after gaining match point multiple times. Our energy was high and we had family and friends cheering vibrantly throughout the stands. Our performance exceeded our expectations and I gained comfortability and confidence playing different shots and blocking in a variety of ways. Our game plan seemed to be working, but at the end of the day we made a few too many errors and didn’t pull through.
Although this wasn’t the end of the tournament I felt that it was our last one because I still can’t stop thinking about it. I am not good at handling losses, especially when I know we could have won and snatched up first place in our first tournament together. It was sorely disappointing, and what made it so different from an indoor loss was that my mistakes weighed more heavily on the game. I missed way too many serves, and I believe that cost us the game. However, there is strength in knowledge. With knowledge, there are no excuses, I can’t hide from the obvious and blatant fact that I need to do better. I may have played my best game yet, but I know I can do better. What excites me is that so many people have told me that they were so impressed with how we played, but I felt that we had more in us, and especially in my own game. I can do more, I have so much room for growth, and I am eager to show everyone how great I can be.
“you cannot afford to live in potential for the rest of your
life; at some point, you have to unleash the potential, and
make your move” – Eric Thomas