27.06.2019 - Hamburg
It’s 5pm and I’m doing my best not to fall asleep. My partner, Stafford Slick, is on the hotel room floor rolling out his hips after the long plane ride to Hamburg, Germany. A trip made even longer because of an emergency medical landing in Toronto which caused us to miss our connection in Warsaw, bumping up our total travel time to an even 30 hours. Our coach John Mayer is on the bed, watching video of our first-round opponents. We can’t sleep yet. We have to make it to at least 9pm to adjust to the time change. Okay, maybe 8:30 will do.
We’re here for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships presented by comdirect and ALDI Nord, the biggest tournament of the year. The 10-day event hosts 48 men’s teams from across the globe. Tight hips and the desire to nap are not our biggest challenges.
This is my second time in Hamburg. My first was in 2016 as a 35-year-old rookie on the FIVB. Not only was that my first international tournament, but it was also my first time in Europe. We American players get started late. I’ve played in 19 FIVB events since that first one in Hamburg, but I wouldn’t say I feel like any less of a newcomer.
Leading up to World Championships, we’ve been playing as many tournaments as possible, flying back and forth between FIVBs in Europe and AVP tournaments in the United States with the occasional stop to see our families. Last weekend at the Seattle AVP tournament, I was asked if I was using that event as prep for the World Championships. The truth is, one week out, I wasn’t even thinking about World Championships. I was focusing on the AVP tournament and how I was going to play well and win our next match. World Championships may be the biggest tournament of the year, but it wasn’t the one in front of me at that moment.
We had a discussion with our team a few weeks before about how to approach World Championships. Because of the Olympic qualifying points and the tight race among U.S. teams, it’s easy to throw added weight on a good finish here. To put even more pressure on ourselves than what comes each time we step on the court to compete. As a team, we play better when we’re loose and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what we’re striving for here. The World Championships is a great opportunity for us, and we want to relish that opportunity. It’s easy to get ahead of myself and worry about Olympic points or our first round match against Brazil’s Alison and Álvaro, but it’s better to take it one step at a time, focusing on whatever my current job is.
Right now that job is to stretch and stay awake until 8:30. Okay, maybe 8:00.