We are looking forward to the 2014 Junior Beach season! Teaming up with AAU again this year gives our athletes the opportunity to qualify to the West Coast Junior Olympic Games in Hermosa Beach, California (the mecca of beach volleyball!) and to be seen by college recruiters from across the nation. Last year Texas Volleyball Tour’s Junior Beach qualified 60 athletes to compete in the Junior Olympics and we asked just a few of them to share their experiences as we prepare for the upcoming season. Here is what Kendall, Kenzie and Sami had to say…
While we were in California we also went to California Adventure, Disneyland, the Santa Monica pier, the Hollywood sign, lunch at The Ivy, shopping at the Grove, Rodeo Drive, Malibu and many other fun places in L.A. We also spent a lot of time with our new friends from Texas, the Maui girls Kiana and Kekela. My favorite part of going to California was seeing how teams from all over the country played. It was an amazing experience that I will keep with me forever. Over all my partner and I ended up 22 out of 54 in the 14U division. I am so glad I had the chance to play at JOs in Hermosa. I know it’s an experience I will never forget! Kendall 14U My experience at JOs in Hermosa was challenging but amazing! We played so many great teams, and even though many of those teams beat us I know that made me a better sand player. Some things about California made beach volleyball better, but some things made it harder. The weather was so cool and it was really fun to jump in the ocean at the end of the day, but the sand was SO deep! The deep sand made it hard to get to the ball sometimes. The level of competition was much different from the competition in Texas too. Almost all the teams that we played had at least one player that was 5’ 10” or taller and the shorter girl was usually pretty tall also. Most of the teams knew where to place the ball when hitting, serving, and even sending a free ball. I think Jenna and I played the best that we could have even though we did not win as many games as we had wanted to. A lot of the teams usually play at a beach so they are used to the deep sand while we were used to playing in much shallower sand and not having a problem running to get a ball. I think Coach Tim trained us very well for the tournament. But my partner and I had other indoor volleyball camps the week before the tournament so we didn’t get a chance to practice in the sand. I think we could have done better if we had practiced in the sand that week. I learned that even though we were not the best team out there I still LOVE playing sand volleyball! I also think that I learned how to dig better after playing against the teams with 6 ft. hitters who could really drill the ball down at me! If I qualify this year for JOs I think I will practice with my partner more in the weeks leading up to the tournament, and I will run more to help my leg strength so I can move better in the deep California sand.
Kenzie 14U Playing in the West Coast Junior Olympic Games last summer was really fun and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I felt very prepared to play in Hermosa and I actually don’t think I could have been any more prepared. I was practicing between 2 and 6 hours a day before I went. The sand on the beach was amazing! It was a completely different story from the Texas sand. It was hard to jump and run at first because it was so deep. It took me a while to adjust, but I got used to it. Right after I got used to the sand the wind picked up! (The wind is a whole other chapter in this story!) By the last game we had adjusted to the sand and wind and I thought we played really good! We were like Misty May and Kerri Walsh! Sadly it was single elimination on the second day and we didn’t make it very far. We came in 17th place overall in our age group. I was very happy with how I played, but think we could have played better as a team. I learned that I have to remember that I am only half of the team.
My favorite part of the experience was getting to know some other really good players. I got a lot of phone numbers and hope to spend some time out in California this summer. I also got to see some famous players in Long Beach, I met Jennifer Kessy, April Ross, Phil Dalhausser and I saw Kerri Walsh. Overall it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and it will definitely stay with me! I know what it will be like this year and I am ready!
Sami 16U California was an amazing experience! It was slightly harder playing in Hermosa because of the deep sand I wasn’t used to! Motion in this sand was a lot different, I was moving much slower on the court. We competed against some very good teams from all different areas in the United States. It was perfect tournament weather of about 70 and sunny with a cool breeze. Texas prepared me for more extreme weather, so the nice California weather was awesome! I didn’t know what to expect coming into the tournament (competition level) but I do believe we trained well. I would like to start working harder on increasing my vertical to help me in the thick sand. Taylor and I didn’t play to our potential but it was definitely a great learning experience for the future!