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Sand in my Suit: Who Needs A Prince?

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My friend, we’ll call her Chloe, just went through a break-up two Saturdays ago. Everyone liked and respected the two of them as individuals but together they just weren’t right for one another. I have to hand it to them for trying really hard to make their relationship work — paying for private coaching sessions, practicing with other pairs — yet at the end of the day it just wouldn’t click. Newly single and ready to mingle, both have officially re-entered the dating pool.

By the way, Chloe didn’t break up with a guy, she broke up with a girl. The girl she had been dating steadily for a couple months. Her beach volleyball partner. Did I just say dating? Yes, I did, because that is exactly what we volleyball players are doing.

Just like conventional dating off the beach, we too are looking for that one person who can complement our strengths and weaknesses.

We are searching for someone we can communicate effectively with. And don’t think for a second that we don’t experience some of the same dating clichés: I know which chicks are “outta my league” and have had my fair share of “it’s not you, it’s me” moments. I’ve also been on countless first dates where you play with someone you’ve never played with before, even been on a couple of blind dates where I show up at a tournament with nothing but the name of the girl who’s supposed to be my partner.

In the beginning of this year I got asked to play in the ProAm Tournament being held in March, which is a charity event in which one amateur player is paired up with one professional player, a professional defined as anyone who has qualified for the AVP main draw since 2006.

I gladly accepted, then had to wait over two months for the actual date to commence. Naturally, she and I put forth more effort to be in the same playing group week after week so that we could gel. Word must’ve got out that we were pairing up for the tournament because, while shagging the same ball, another player asked me if we were playing the entire season together. I was astonished by her forwardness. “I don’t have a ring on my finger,” was about all I could muster.

The heart and soul of the sport depends on finding that one special person who is the ying to our yang, and I have to admit that that can feel like a real burden sometimes. We don’t have agents or match.com to help carry some of that pressure. It’s why going from single to being in a relationship is accompanied with such a sense of relief because you don’t have to constantly be on the lookout for partners. As a new season approaches, the pressure to commit only grows greater, for great success can only be achieved by playing consistently with one person.

So how do we do it? How do we find our true love on the volleyball court?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that because I’m just starting to figure it out for myself. I do believe that hitting it off with someone boils down to three major components: skill, scheduling, and chemistry. First, you and your partner need to have a comparable skill level so that it makes it more difficult for other teams to strategize against you. Second, both people need to have similar schedules (and budgets) that allow you to train, play, and travel to tournaments on the weekends if desired. Which brings us to our third and most challenging component: chemistry. Finding someone who makes playing together seem effortless and fun is something that cannot be taught, only felt.

With the first love of my live, Joanna, we had the kind of epic chemistry together that lasted well beyond the confines of a volleyball court. We were both too shy to make the first move, so we had a mutual friend scope out one another’s interest. “Does she like me?” translated to “does she want to play with me?” The feelings were mutual, and we dated up until the end of last summer when she decided to leave California and return home to North Carolina.

But for every breakup story there is always a good makeup story, right? News on the beach is that Kerri and Misty are back together! The highest profile relationship in beach volleyball has been rekindled! We can all look forward to watching them as they aspire back to greatness and represent our country in the 2012 Olympic Games.

I guess they just can’t imagine going for gold with anybody but each other in the sand next to them. I can only hope that one day I will be so lucky to find that person who drives me, excites me, and supports me like Kerri and Misty do. But for now, let my singledom and slutty behavior continue. I’m not scared of commitment, I’m just in no rush to get into something just for the sake of getting into something. For now, I’m much more interested in setting up a play date with a girl than going on a date with a guy who pays for my dinner (or doesn’t pay, in which case he’ll never be hearing from me again).

Katrina Zawojski lives in Hermosa Beach and is chasing her dream of a career in professional beach volleyball.  ER


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