AVP Hermosa Beach

AVP Hermosa: “You Don’t Rise to The Level of Your Expectations. You Sink to The Level of Your Training.”

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Photo: Pete Kotzbach

It caught me by surprise, how quickly it came to me, the realization of why this year’s AVP Hermosa Beach event felt so different from the last, despite me getting the exact same result (13th) as the year before.

It’s funny, too, because it came not in the moments after the tournament ended, in an annual marathon match with the McKibbins, but the day before, in the wake of a fun match but close loss to Casey Patterson and Chase Budinger.

Myles Muagututia, my phenomenal partner and good friend, looked over and half-smiled. Now, for those of you who don’t know Myles, this is a big event for him after a loss. He oscillates somewhere between pissed as hell and despondent after losing. The half-smile came not because he was happy we lost, but because neither of us were simply happy to be there, sharing the court with two of the best players in the country.

“We’re upset,” he said, and he loved it.

Last year, I wouldn’t have been upset. I’d have been stoked to simply be playing with Patterson and Budinger. I’d have soaked up the crowd, the environment, the fact that we were in main draw and that, hey! we tried our best and Casey said some nice things to me.

This year isn’t last year.

This year, we knew we could hang with Patterson and Budinger. We knew we belonged on that stage, whereas a year before, I felt like an imposter. I didn’t belong. Not at that level. Not with those guys.

My older brother, Tyler, was in town for the event. He knew I was straight into main draw for the first time of my career and bought a flight as soon as he could. Love that guy. He asked what it’s like, playing against an Olympian and a guy like Budinger, a former NBA player and maybe the most accomplished athlete I regularly come into contact with.

I shrugged, and when I said it’s no different than playing anybody else on this tour, I meant it.

And in that instant, I knew how far I had come, both mentally and physically, in this sport.

When Hagen Smith and I upset Maddison and Riley McKibbin in the first round of last year’s tournament, I felt like I had stolen something, as if I somehow cheated the universe, tricked it, scammed it into letting me beat two players who were – and they were, no question – far better than me.

When Myles and I stepped onto the court against those same brothers this year, I expected to beat them.

It took me aback, to be honest. It’s a fairly radical shift to have in just a year. Some of you reading this may wonder where that shift has come from, given that, if you only peruse the results on BVB, this season has been worse, on paper, than the last.

Hermosa was my first main draw this year, whereas it was my second in 2018. Myles and I had suffered close losses in Huntington Beach, Austin and Seattle. All by two points. All of them to teams who would qualify. Two of them in the third set, one of which we beat to the freeze.

It sucked. No doubt about it. But I knew, and I didn’t care if it was only I who did know, that Travis of 2018 wouldn’t have been within two points of winning those matches. Two of them would not have gone to three. I wouldn’t have beaten anybody to the freeze.

The teams we lost to — Lev Priima and Kacey Losik; Paul Lotman and Gabe Ospina; Priima and Jake Landel — gave us their best matches, and Myles and I were – are – good enough to push them to their limits, to force them to play their best matches. We were knocking on the door. At some point, that door would either open up or we’d kick the damn thing down.

And then, as it sometimes go, things began coming together.

Kyle Friend and I went to La Paz, Mexico, and barnstormed our way to a silver.

I came back and Myles and I won two smaller tournaments in an AVP Next series to qualify for Hermosa. Only one set between the two was even close, which came in the finals of the first tournament, against Christian Honer and Brian Miller.

Weeks later, three days after Myles and I sealed the Hermosa main draw with our second win, Kyle and I won another NORCECA qualifier, for two events after the AVP’s season finishes.

A few days after that, Raffe Paulis and I headed to Chicago, played nine matches in two days, and won a tournament in which we had to beat five excellent teams in a row – DR Vander Meer-Cody Caldwell, Mark Jones-Matt Baleiko, Chris Luers-Logan Webber, Andy Benesh-Adam Roberts, Kris Johnson-Chris Austin.

Sure, some of this is luck. I acknowledge that.

A far bigger portion is the obscene amount of repetitions I’ve put in from the end of the 2018 season until today.

Repetitions are where I find the confidence to go into a match against Patterson and Budinger and know I have a legitimate chance to beat them as opposed to just a wing and a prayer. Repetitions are where I find the confidence to go into a match against the McKibbins and feel not like an imposter, as I did in 2018, but the favorite to win, as I did on Saturday morning.

When Myles and I were in the box during timeouts or before matches, I said the same thing to him, over and over and over again: “You don’t rise to the level of your expectations. You sink to the level of your training.”

We put in the training, and we knew it.

It’s why I feel justified in being upset that we didn’t take Budinger and Patterson to three, and why I was disappointed we didn’t beat the McKibbins.  

This 13th is the same, on paper, as it was in 2018, and yet it’s so much different. There is still much, much work for me to do between now and Manhattan, now and Chicago, now and Hawai’i, now and Hermosa of 2020, and 2021, and 2022.

On and on it’ll go. And the level that I sink to will continue to go higher and higher.

“You get better,” Tri Bourne told me when we texted afterwards, “but the bar keeps rising. Love it.”

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