Updated: Apr 6, 2020
In 2009 I was 31 years old. I still played as much volleyball as a I could, but seeing the end of the road coming athletically, i decided to go back to school to finish my degree. I enrolled in classes at Northern Arizona University and, since I am bilingual and I always loved working with kids, I decided to get my degree in teaching. I wanted to teach high school Spanish.
Backtracking a bit... I had started college right out of high school. I had gotten some credits in some random classes, but trying to live on my own and working as a busboy at a restaurant making $3.25/hour weren't paying the bills. I would enroll and end up only being able to make the time in my work schedule for one class. I would pass that class with flying colors but ended up failing a lot of classes because I couldn't attend them. My GPA slipped badly, and I realized that I was wasting a lot of money on classes that I couldn't show up for. I dropped down to taking one or two classes at a time, but got discouraged as I was barely making enough money to live AND my GPA was so bad that I thought there was no point. Finally I decided to stop going all together.
Ok, fast forward again... I had graduated high school in 1996. When I re-enrolled at NAU, my GPA was a .67. No, not a 1.67, not a 2.67... A .67... I needed a 2.5 MINIMUM to get into the education program so every class REALLY mattered. One of the classes I needed to take was math. I hadn't had to take a math class since my sophomore year in high school. (If you are doing the math in your head, yes, it had been 15 years) I got into a simple algebra class to start, thinking that would be a good place for me. It was terrible! I felt so out of place. All of the kids in my class were coming from their high school classes and knew all of the formulas, and basic things that i had long since forgotten. I was lost. I worked at it every day. I took notes, asked questions, and even had a girl tutor me. I made it through, but that class was crazy hard. To this day, I still tell people that one of the hardest things I ever did was to take that math class. Now, I know that after you read through the beginning of this post, you were probably thinking, "yeah, he's right, I bet going back to school really IS harder than it looks." You would be right, but that's not why I titled this post that way.
In 2012 I was getting to the end of my degree. I had gotten my GPA to where it needed to be in order to be admitted to the education program and was on my way. I knew that the next steps in life for me weren't to be trying to travel all over the place to play volleyball. Still, I had this crazy passion for the game. I got a call from a guy by the name of Brian Post. Brian had always been a good defender here in Arizona, and I was a blocker. He said that he needed a partner for an event in Phoenix in June. I figured since school was out, I would go play with him. The event was part of a series that he was the points leader for and he needed a good showing to stay ahead.
It was a hot day with temperatures over 100. Brian and I steamrolled out way through a double elimination bracket to win the tournament. I was feeling really good about my game at that point. Well, in 2012 the AVP was re-orging following bankruptcy. The Jose Cuervo Beach Tour had kind of emerged as the place for all of those displaced pro's to go and play. Brian and I decided to go play in the qualifier for it in Manhattan Beach.
After playing only a couple of events together, there we were in Manhattan Beach. We stepped out onto the beach in the qualifier not really knowing the other team. I hadn't been able to find much film on them, so we just went out, warmed up, and got at it. IT WAS HARDER THAN IT LOOKED! While the scores were close, going from playing beach volleyball in ARIZONA to playing in Manhattan Beach was a totally different game. I had played in plenty of tournament on plenty of beaches, but for anyone who has set foot in the Hermosa/Manhattan sand, you know that it is just a different game. Much of my game relied on my 40" vertical. At 6'4" I am kind of undersized as a blocker so I had to always rely on my vertical to be able to contend. Well, the deep Manhattan sand sucked it right out of me. I felt like I had never played before. It was such a crazy feeling, and a great lesson!
"The enemy of success is lack of preparation"
I was definitely unprepared for that beach against that high level of competition. As the ball hit the sand and we lost the second set 19-21, I kind of had a realization moment. With school almost over (I would graduate in December) and a career in teaching right around the corner, preparation to get to where I needed to be to close out games at that level just wasn't realistic anymore. Yep, you guessed it. THIS is why I titled this post this way. After so many years of playing, I decided to step away from chasing my dream to compete at that level. It is ABSOLUTELY harder than it looks. That moment you realize that something you love so much just isn't within your reach anymore is difficult. As any athlete knows, there is nothing quite like competition. Nothing quite like going out and testing the limits of what your body and your mind can do in a sport. Nothing. And in that moment, for me, it was done.
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