AVP Seattle Reflections

AVP Seattle Reflections: The Best Parts of Beach Volleyball Have Nothing to do With Beach Volleyball

Travis Mewhirter-Evan Cory

I was overlooking a peak called Rattlesnake Ledge, thousands of feet overtop a lake, sitting next to my buddy Evan Cory, when my own words caught me by surprise.

This, I told him, is my favorite part about beach volleyball.

In that moment, we were dozens of miles from the closest beach volleyball court. Neither of us had touched a ball in more than a day nor did either of us plan on doing so for another few.

How, then, could this be my favorite part about the sport? Beach volleyball had nothing to do with that moment, and yet had everything to do with that moment.

Without beach volleyball, I’d have never been overlooking a peak called Rattlesnake Ledge. I wouldn’t have seen its 50 shades of stunning greens. I wouldn’t have had the chance to reconnect with an old friend I hadn’t been able to spend time with in the three-plus – almost four – years I’ve been living in California.

When we were in Italy, romping around Venice during our snow volleyball trip, Eric Zaun – and I don’t mean to bring him up just because, but I learned a great deal from that guy, and his words and lessons will be mentioned often in my reflections because they mean a tremendous amount to me — made a funny observation: If you can’t enjoy the space between matches and tournaments, you’re going to be miserable in this sport.

Those words had never rung truer sitting atop that hike in Seattle.

On our way up the mountain, Evan told me about a conversation he had, after Thursday’s qualifier, with a fellow volleyball player, who said that beach volleyball was almost all misery, dotted, ever so slightly, with moments of relief – qualifying, winning, whatever it may be.

I couldn’t have disagreed more. I hope anybody reading this story can do the same.

I don’t ever mean to diminish the sting of losing, or preach that winning doesn’t matter. Losing sucks. It hurts. I love winning more than I love coffee, which, to anyone who has seen me in the morning, is a great deal.

But we play eight AVP events per year. Just eight weekends out of 52, and that’s only if we can get off work for all eight. If we only allow true, genuine happiness to be possible during eight – at most — of them, and then whittle that down to only on the weekends we get the results we wanted, then hot damn, what in the world are we doing?

That’s a bona fide recipe for misery.

The sting of losing and the high of winning are ephemeral. The initial sensation is different – one is piercing then throbbing, the other with an almost hallucinogenic effect, making you believe you’re much better than you really are, that winning a Manhattan Beach Open is right around the corner! – but, after that rush fades, the end is the same: It leaves you wanting more.

You lose and you want nothing more than to fix it and win. You win and you want to win again.

Either way, the sting, the rush, the throbs, the highs – they fade. And fast.  

Ed Ratledge once told me that expectations are the thief of joy. How, then, can we reverse engineer that? If expectations steal our joy, what can create it?

For me, it’s lightness, becoming like a feather and simply allowing this sport to take me where it will. Sometimes it’s to a bridge in Venice, overlooking a sunset with seven other people I grew, in just 10 days, to love. Sometimes it’s to a donut truck in Austin, my partner and I eating away our loss in the form of a decadent peanut butter-chocolate-banana sugar bomb. Sometimes it’s to a restaurant in La Paz, Mexico, sharing dinner with two incredible families – the Brennans and Newberrys – and a great friend in Kyle Friend.

Sometimes it’s to a peak called Rattlesnake Ledge, remaining awestruck at just how many shades of green there are in this world.

Every morning, it’s to a beach.

If the only thing you can find between the space of wins is the #grind, as everyone loves to spout on social media, then I’m truly sorry about that. If beach volleyball is beginning to lose its luster, its zeal, its fountain of youth for you, then my suggestion would be to simply lighten up, let it take you somewhere else, somewhere green, somewhere far away from a volleyball court, somewhere with a good friend, a phone without service.

Somewhere where there’s no scoreboard by which to measure your happiness.