As the 10th anniversary of RPM Sand came and went this summer, a lot of people have been asking me lately to post something about the last ten years of the program. I wasn’t too sure what to say. After all, how do you sum up an entire decade with hundreds of amazing kids? It wasn’t until I saw this photo that I really had any idea what to say. Then, there it was.
Front and center is in this photo is Hailey Harward. As an alumni of our program, Hailey is a collegiate All-American, a 2x NCAA D1 National Champion, an AVP Champion, and has multiple top 10 finishes in international events representing the USA. She was a part of one of our first few graduating classes and in this photo she had come back to work with Ryan and I in Hermosa Beach just after the 2023 Hermosa Beach Open. We had just finished up practice with our club when her training with us was about to start so some of the girls wanted to take photos with her.
As I take a deeper look at this photo, in the background is Keira Heckle. Keira was at one of her last practices as a juniors player with us after spending 6 years in our program. It’s symbolic that she is holding up the peace sign as she moves on to her next chapter of playing D1 beach volleyball in college.
The older of the two players with Hailey is Ava Kretschman who has been working with us for a few years now as she chases her own dreams in the sport. Pictured with her is her younger sister, Harper, who just competed in her very first beach volleyball tournament in Hermosa beach over the summer and whose fire has just been lit with the sport. It’s the entire cycle of our program captured in a moment in time. I’m not sure we could have even staged a more perfect picture to represent what 10 years of RPM has been like.
When we set out on this adventure in 2013, we could not have imagined where we would be today. Ryan and I coached indoor together in Flagstaff, Az for the club he owned there called High Altitude Thunder. Though we Cory coached indoor for nearly a decade as well, it just never suited us as our passion has always been on the sand. When we began coaching in the sand, we were just giving private lessons to a few players including Sarah Sponcil, Lydia Rush, Dana Parker, Madalyn Roh, and Jenna Tunnel. We weren’t a club quite yet, but Jenna’s dad, Frank Tunnel, changed all that quickly.
When you set out to do anything, you always hope that it can be something that turns out to be great, something you can be proud of, but no one ever truly knows. Fast forward 10 years and 62 RPM athletes have had a top 10 finish in the Gold bracket of a national championship tournament! We have won 7 national championships now including one in the Club vs Club format. 87 players from RPM Sand have committed to play Division 1 college beach volleyball and we have had 94 players commit to playing in college total. We have multiple alumni who hold all time wins records at their schools in college including 3 players who have over 100 collegiate wins. 4 players have gone on to earn All-American honors in college and 22 RPM players have gotten the opportunity to make the D1 NCAA tournament. 3 Players have been crowned NCAA D1 National Champions. 1 player has won the D2 National Championship, and 2 players have won the D3 National Championship as well. We currently have 2 former players who are assistant coaches at D1 Universities and multiple coaches who got their start on our staff were able to use it as a launching point to D1 college coaching careers. We have had 3 former players qualify to play on the AVP professional tour and 2 of them have been crowned AVP Champions. We have also had 3 players go on to represent the USA internationally and 1 qualify to play in the Olympics.
As you read through all of the things our players have accomplished in the last decade it’s a bit overwhelming. Heck, I had to read through it multiple times and I’m still not sure I included all of the most pertinent stats. If you were to compare the success of all of our players to that of players at all of the other clubs in Arizona combined, it wouldn’t event be close. We are so incredibly proud of the work that our players have put in over the years and the work that they continue to put in now in order to not just get to be on the team when they get to college, but to get to play and WIN for their teams. We are proud of their accomplishments, but all of that pails in comparison to how proud we are of who they are as young people.
We are proud of the girls who have taken the time to mentor other players in our program while they are at practice. We are proud of the players who come back to practice to work on their skills after they graduate, but even more proud of the ones who come back to give back to the kids who are years behind them. We are proud of the ones that take the time to reach out to younger kids on social media to support them and let them know they are proud of them. We are proud of the girls who have sent video messages throughout the years to try to inspire kids who are still in our program. We are proud of the kids who have found careers and are making a difference in the world. We are proud of the players who have become mothers and are doing a great job navigating the challenges of motherhood. We are proud of the players who have been brave enough to speak up about their own experiences with mental health issues so that others don’t feel alone. We are proud of the players who have gone to other parts of the world to help out underserved communities. So many players spend so much time in the sand with us throughout their young lives and we are so proud to get to be a part of what shapes them as young women. Though we may be their coaches, they are family to us and when they help others, it makes us more proud than anything they could ever do on a volleyball court. For the parents who have taken the time to take a step back. Those who have been able to see past the wins and losses. Those that have been able to wipe the tears and help their kids to understand what sports are TRULY about, we hope that you are proud too. What has made ME so proud to be a part of this program throughout the years has very little to do with volleyball. I’m the grand scheme of life, for 99% of kids, volleyball will just be a blip on the radar in life, but hopefully the experiences it brings have helped, and will continue to help kids to define what’s inside. For those of you who have come and gone, we are so proud of you. For those we continue to work with now, thank you for continuing to bring out the best in us. We are honored to have the opportunity to work with you. For those that are out there wondering where their beach volleyball journey will take them, we hope it brings you our way! This is truly something incredibly special!