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The Pot Of Gold At The End

For anyone who plays beach volleyball, you know that the month of July is the time of the year that you train the entire year for. All the bids you worked so hard to earn are cashed in during July and in the deep sand of Hermosa Beach or Manhattan beach, or perhaps up in Santa Monica or down in Huntington Beach, careers either made or come to an end. Leading up to the month of July, training starts to intensify and the sole focus becomes what you can do during that month.

In April of 2019 things were starting to heat up for us. Once spring break ends, everyone starts to buckle down to finish school. All of the standardized tests are given that month and I start to finalize plans for the school year and really start to push those kids that need a little extra push to finish the year. My mind races a mile a minute trying to figure out what pieces each of my students need to be successful, what pieces each of my athletes need to be successful, and how I am going to find enough hours in a day to try to make sure that they are all as successful as they can possibly be. Did we get to that one skill with that one girl that she will need to show that one coach that asked her to work on that one skill to be able to be recruited? Did we focus hard enough on the mental piece? Have we gotten through enough situations that kids can problem solve for themselves on the court? Is there still enough time to get that one kid dialed in with her partner so that they can show out for the colleges? Did I get the sports cards ordered in time for Ryan's birthday? Did I eat today?

Thursday, April 11th of 2019 hit and I was in the middle of it. My lists are a mile long on my computer. I woke up that morning excited. It was my birthday and my dad had come to town to go with my brother and I to Laughlin to celebrate. we had been taking that trip quite a bit off and on for about 20 years. It was a Thursday and i just needed one more day to get to the weekend. The day went by pretty fast and before I knew it 2:17 had hit on Friday and i escaped the gates of the school to get to my truck to head home.

I flew up the stairs to my third story condo and threw open the door. Inside waiting for me, standing in the living room were my dad and brother. I was so excited to get my stuff all packed and into the car that I didn't really notice the look on their faces. Then I heard my dad say, "Do you want to tell him?" I looked up to see that both of their faces were white as ghosts and my brother was crying. Neither of them could get the words out so I knew something terrible had happened. I just melted onto the couch. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity before my dad said, "your sister lost her baby". The tears began to stream down my face. We immediately jumped in the car and instead of our trip to Laughlin, we headed to Flagstaff to be with my sister and her family.

June came and as my family and I continued to grieve, I found that my mind could escape the sadness for the few hours a day that i was in the sand with the kids. Graduation had come and gone and since it is over 100 degrees in Phoenix during the summer months, there are a lot of hours of the day when you just don't want to be outside. Practices are early in the morning to avoid the hot hours of the day, and the rest of the day is spent mostly indoors. I went to a lot of movies to try to keep my mind occupied. As we build through June to hit our July stretch, things start to get exciting. We have trained for 9 months together. We have gone through ups and downs and the kids have grinded 2, 3, 4 days a week to be sure they are prepared for the grueling national championship schedule in which many players will play almost every single day in July trying to win a national championship, but also to try to get themselves recruited for college.

July is finally here and everyone is excited. The RPM coaching staff begins our caravan trip to what will be our home for the next month. First stop? A little bit of golf in Palm Springs. As we were making the drive out, one of the coaches and I were riding together. I was driving and I would look over and he was falling asleep. I'm used to it. People fall asleep all the time in car rides out. I thought nothing of it. We got to Palm Springs and played a round of golf in the heat. It was a lot of fun to just get out and do something together. Ryan, as usual, beat us badly like he does in pretty much every sport there is. We didn't care, though, it was the kickoff to summer and we were going to go try to win another national title for our kids.

Our first destination was Huntington Beach for a big recruiting event through Volley OC. We got a hotel for the few nights that we would be there. Ryan and Marc coached at that event while I would get up in the mornings and drive to Santa Monica for the p1440 National Championships. As usual, we had kids spread out all up and down the coast and wanted to be sure that we coached as many as we could to help give them the shot at getting seen and being able to talk to the colleges that were there to answer questions about them. The kids work so hard all year long so being there for them is incredibly important to us as coaches.

Day 1 of p1440 went off without a hitch. Though I was the only coach from RPM there, it didn't matter because the number of teams we had there was the perfect amount for me to be able to get to each court to work with them. I got to talk to a couple of colleges about players that day and was excited to head back and chat with the other coaches about how the day had gone and see what had gone on in Huntington. We sat at the hotel and talked for hours about it before finally going to sleep.

Day 2 arrived and I woke up early knowing that traffic past the airport at LAX trying to get to Santa Monica is pretty brutal 100% of the time in the mornings. I made my way up the 5 toward I-10 listening to music and super excited for the day. Just as I got onto I-10, i felt it. Intense pain in my side. It felt like a gunshot. There I am driving on the packed freeway and I am in an incredible amount of pain.

"Hey Siri, find emergency rooms near me!" i said as calmly and as well pronounced as I could.

"Calling emergency services." she says.

"Ugh! Hey Siri, find... emergency... rooms... near... me..."...

"Calling emergency services."


"Finding hospice near your location"

I had about thrown my phone out the window at this point. I finally ended up having to type in "hospitals" on my maps app. I found UCLA Medical Center wasn't too far away so I drove there as quickly as possible. It was 6:45 in the morning still so there weren't a lot of people there. I had never been there before so I drove around and had no idea where to park. I was in so much pain that I finally just parked in a 2 hour meter and got out. I got into the waiting room in the ER and I was the only person in there. I was so relieved. As the lady checked me in, another man came in. He was in a wheel chair and screaming at the top of his lungs. When they came to take me back, I told the nurse to go ahead and take that man back instead. While I was in absolutely INTENSE pain, that guy seemed to somehow be worse off than me in that moment so I just told them to go ahead and take him back.

It was only about ten more minutes until the nurse came to get me to take me back but it felt like an eternity. They took me in and i got into a gown. The nurse started an I.V. and I laid there on the bed writhing in pain. It was beginning to intensify and I knew exactly what was happening. I had a kidney stone. A man came back to get all of my information and insurance stuff. I could barely answer the questions through the pain. It was intense. The nurse came back in and asked me if there was someone there with me or if there was someone that I could call to come get me. I told her that the closest anyone was was down in Huntington Beach not thinking that I had just texted all of the parents at the tournament that I was supposed to be at to let them know I was in the ER. Clearly I was not thinking straight. She said that she couldn't give me anything for the pain more than Tylenol if I couldn't have someone come and get me. She gave me the Tylenol, I got a CT scan to be sure that the stone wasn't too big, the doc wrote me some prescriptions and sent me on my way. I think they knew that I was going to need to get to a pharmacy soon to get something a little stronger for the pain. While they were checking me out, I booked the hotel across the street and found a pharmacy close by. With this pain I wasn't sure it was really safe to be driving anywhere anyway, narcotics or not.

I was at wits end at this point. I was in so much pain that tears were streaming down my cheeks. I went into the CVS and handed the lady my prescriptions along with my insurance card. Mind you, I am a teacher. Everyone knows that teachers teach because we get great benefits right? WRONG! The lady behind the counter told me that unfortunately United Healthcare does not contract through CVS. Wait, so you're telling me that one of the largest health insurance companies in the country and one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country can't get it together enough to make sure that people are covered when they need prescriptions? I didn't tell the lady that. It isn't her fault. But I was floored. The sad reality of it is that i'm betting the average person has absolutely no idea what their insurance ACTUALLY covers until they need it and it doesn't cover it. I charged my $782 worth of prescriptions that i needed to help me pass the stones that I had to my credit card. I grabbed a few things to eat, a bunch of water, and Gatorade, and I made my way to my hotel.

For ten days I was in extreme pain that was only semi managed through ibuprofen and narcotics. I would sleep for about an hour at a time. The only way I could get my body to relax enough to get sleep was to take a shower in water as hot as I could stand it. I would literally sit on the floor of the shower and cry as this tiny stone wreaked absolute havoc on my body. Ten days. Ten days in a hotel room. Ten days of intense pain and no sleep while the kids that had worked so hard for me for 9 months were out there trying their best to compete without me. Part way through those ten days I was reunited with Ryan and the other coaches and we were all staying together again so they were able to take care of me. One of the moms of one of my players even made homemade chicken soup for me that was absolutely amazing. It felt like an absolute eternity in there away from helping all the kids. I felt terrible.

One day in the middle of it all I was determined to get back out on the beach. Since I hadn't been sleeping much anyway, I just got out of bed in the morning, grabbed some clothes, took a shower, and got ready to go to the beach. The other coaches in the hotel room asked me if I was feeling better. I lied and said yes. I got out of the shower and packed up my backpack and sat on the bed waiting for everyone else to get ready. I was in a ton of pain but I was going to try to tough it out and get back out there. I wanted to make sure the kids knew I hadn't just abandoned them. It was time to go so i got up and started making my way toward the hotel door. My body told me no. I turned around, pushed one of the coaches out of my way, and ran to the bathroom and threw up. The pain was just too much. They heard me, asked if I was ok, and then headed out to the beach without me. It was terrible! As much pain as I was in, i think it felt worse to let down my players than anything else. We had gone through blood, sweat, and tears for 9 months together. I had promised them that I would be with them to fight every step of the way and I just couldn't. The coaching staff was now short handed because of me and I knew it.

The pain finally subsided just before the USA Beach Tour National Championships. I was determined to be out there all day every day for the rest of the summer. I was determined to help my teams to be the best I could help them to be. I wanted to be sure that I helped all of the coaches that had been covering for me. I did my best. I made sure that when I scheduled courts for coaches, that if there was a big walk between courts, I did it. Those guys had been working hard in my absence and it was time to pull my weight.

At the USA tournament, I ended up coaching Lexi Sweeney and Alina Randall. We worked our way through the tournament and ended up in the title game against a girl who had just won another one of the national championship tournaments days before. This was it. This was my chance to help like I had promised I would. We sat down before the game and came up with a great game plan. We talked about our strengths and the things that we could take care of on our side of the net to be successful. I told them that if they went in focused on those things, truly focused on those things, that today would be their day. I was so proud of them! They executed our game plan to perfection. By the time the other team called their timeout, the game was already ours. We had pulled out every single tool we had worked on for 9 months. every play on defense and offense looked different than the play before. I knew that going into the timeout there was nothing that their coach could say as far our tendencies. I knew that if werw could keep our focus and intensity, the title would be ours. We did just that. the communication picked up out of the timeout. The celebrations got louder. It was ours. 9 months of training. One of the girls had finished 64th as her highest finish the summer before and now she was a national champion.

As I watched the girls walk across the medal stand, I felt a lot of emotions. It had been a really rough year leading up to that moment. I had had some setbacks for sure! Watching the girls take pride in what they accomplished and thinking about all of the hours of work it took to get them there was awesome.

The photo below is pretty special to all of us coaches as each of us was facing our own unique challenges leading up to this moment.

This week in one of our Zoom sessions one of the girls asked one of our alumni how she deals with pressure. The player said something to the affect of, "I kind of just accept that by the time the match starts, I can't get any better than I already am. It's not just the hours of practice in college that prepare you for that moment. It is the thousands of hours in juniors that get you there too. You're as ready as you are going to be based on your whole career, not just practice that week." I found that very insightful for a college athlete to recognize that. I think we could all take a piece of that into what we do. Learn something new every day. When you have challenges and setbacks, just pick up right where you left off. That's all any of us really CAN do.

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