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Beach Volleyball»Australian Volleyball Tour»Never Ending Summer
Australian Volleyball Tour - Never Ending Summer Minimize

Volleyball is more than just a competitive sport for me. It has enabled me to travel to parts of the world that I might have otherwise never seen.

In 2004, I traveled to Sydney, Australia. I ended up in Manly Beach, the most beautiful beach in Sydney, with an opportunity of a life time. Kerri Pottharst, Australian Olympic Gold Medalist, invited me to play two Australian National Tour Events with her.

After a 14-hour flight from LA, I arrived on a Wednesday morning. The first tournament Kerri and I were playing in started Friday so there was no time for jetlag. We squeezed in two practices before Friday and then got to know one another on the court during the tournament.

We were unbeatable. We breezed through the first day of competition and by the time we won our semi-final match, we were acquainted and playing very well together. We won the gold medal match in two games for my first ever tournament victory!

After our win, we were invited to play in an invitational tournament in Noumea, New Caledonia. Up until the time we left for Noumea, Kerri trained and taught me all she could in a short period of time. The Noumea tournament proved to be our biggest challenge.

We were staying at a beautiful hotel on the beach and everything seemed incredible until we saw the volleyball court. All the trees were sideways because the wind was so strong and constantly blowing. Water was basically surrounding all sides of the court except for one.

The purpose of the tournament was to introduce the locals to beach volleyball. It was fun, but it definitely was not good volleyball. Kerri, with 12 years of beach experience, had never played in such severe wind. Serving was challenging and Kerri even had trouble finding the court with an underhand serve! We finished second place in the tournament, but were not too disappointed. In the end, we had a good laugh because you can't take yourself too seriously in those conditions.

Upon our return, we had a week to prepare for our last event in Melbourne. Unfortunately, Kerri was struggling with knee problems, so she spent most of the time training/coaching me.

When we arrived in Melbourne for the last event, the weather was very strange. We played our first match in long sleeves and tights because it was so cold. Then, only 2 hours later, it was nearly 100 degrees. Finally, it started to rain. However, that didn't stop us! We went 6-0 in (St. Kilda) and I won my second beach title.

It was incredible to play with a beach volleyball legend and win two titles! I learned a lot in a month and made some good friends in the process. I decided to return to Australia the following year.

In 2005, Nicole Branagh, my AVP partner at the time, joined me. Once Nicole arrived we began an intensive training program with Kerri. She taught us skills and tactics, worked with us mentally on how to overcome fears and doubts, and planned goal setting sessions and stressed the importance of positive thought and action. We even walked over 3 feet of glass!

Unfortunately, I struggled with one injury after another. The first was a neck injury. I was forced to take some time off. Then, the first day back, I injured my back. It didn't seem like anything serious, but it continued to worsen. I took several days off and during the days I was able to train, I would only last for about an hour before having to stop. It was frustrating being away from home and not being able to do what I had come to do, which was train. Thankfully, I was surrounded by supportive friends.

Even though the experience was different than I had hoped, it was still valuable and productive for me. I learned what it takes to become a champion. We had fun both on and off the court, and I learned how to play with an injury. Learning how to deal with an injury emotionally as well as physically was invaluable. At least I was able to turn it into a learning experience while in Australia, under the guidance of a champion gold medalist who has had 5 knee surgeries and knows a few things about injuries. If I didn't appreciate good health before, I most certainly appreciate it even more now.

Copyright 2010 by Angie Akers