27.06.2019 - Hamburg, Germany
If you didn’t follow beach volleyball very closely in the last six months and decided to catch up for the FIVB World Championships Hamburg 2019 presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord, you probably spotted a familiar but somewhat unexpected name while scanning the women’s entry list – Becchara Palmer.
The Australian established herself as a popular face in the international scene between 2007 and 2012, when she competed at the London Olympics with Louise Bawden and finished 19th, but after that season she limited her appearances to national and continental tournaments for the next five years.
In 2018, she didn’t compete at all. After playing in nearly 70 international tournaments, two World Championships and the Olympics and becoming an Under-19 world champion, Becchara just felt like beach volleyball was no longer her thing.
“I wasn’t happy getting out of bed and going to training every day,” she explains. “And because of that I wasn’t playing my best or being the best version of myself. I felt uninspired and like I wasn’t able to change my situation, which felt awful. So I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, which was to step away. I never retired, but I took an indefinite break to do other things and to see if the love for the game would come back. And it did.”
It was in November 2018 and the responsible for bringing the 31-year-old defender back to the courts was her current partner and Rio 2016 Olympian Nicole Laird. After splitting with Brittany Kendall, she needed someone to play defense behind her and Becchara was the first name to cross her mind.
The pitch was probably easier than both of them could have imagined and shortly after it Becchara was in the sand preparing for a comeback in 2019.
“I hadn’t even considered the option of coming back to the sport at this level, until she asked me and then it was like there was no way I was going to say no, it just felt right, perfect even,” she recalled. “It feels so good to be back. I feel like I’m exactly where I want and need to be and that our best volleyball is just around the corner.”
The Australians started their partnership in January and have had ups and downs since then. The highest point was without question when they went all the way from the qualifiers to win gold at the three-star event in their home sand of Sydney in March.
More recently, they failed to make it out of the qualifier in three consecutive three or four-star events. But regardless, they were granted the continental spot earned by Australia and are headed to Hamburg for Becchara’s third appearance at the World Championships.
“I knew that we could be a really amazing team together, but knowing the level of the World Tour and how many talented teams are playing, I thought it would be a longer path to the podium,” Becchara acknowledged. “I honestly didn’t think we would be playing at the World Champs this year, so to be representing Australia again at this level is incredible.”
More impressive than the Australian’s fast rise, though, is probably the fact that she made it while splitting her time between beach volleyball and a full-time job she got when she was out of the sport.
As the content specialist with the marketing team of a technology startup back in Sydney, the Olympian has the ability to work while on the road and even if managing the time could be complicated at times, she actually believes she benefits from her double duties.
“It’s tricky at times, but my boss has been amazing to let work flexible hours and remotely when I’m on Tour or even when I’m in Sydney,” she explained. “I couldn’t do it without this kind of flexibility. There is so much down time when I’m overseas and over the years I have found that having something outside of volleyball to focus on and spend time doing has always helped me on the court.”
Working in marketing, however, hasn’t been the only thing Becchara has done while she was away from the sand. The player also tried a career in another sport, Australian football, and was signed by the professional club Adelaide Crows in 2017 and spent an entire season with them to compete in the Australian Football League.
“That was one of the craziest experiences and looking back it was exactly what I needed,” she reflected. “I came into the team as a rookie and I absolutely loved the feeling of learning a sport from the basics. Australian football is almost the exact opposite to beach volleyball, it’s full contact with high amounts of running per training and an oval shaped ball, which is super unpredictable. I loved the big team dynamic with a squad of 30 girls there were so many more people to talk to and get to know.”