Sometimes the universe speaks to you in a very clear way. In John Hyden’s case, the communication was crystal clear, coming by way of a Facebook message.
Hyden, the 47-year-old beach volleyball player and his family were about to purchase a home in Henderson, Tennessee, 88 miles northeast of Memphis. It would be quite a change from Southern California. But the move was contingent upon selling their condo in Sherman Oaks.
A month went by. The condo wasn’t selling. And in Tennessee, the sellers couldn’t wait any longer, and cancelled the escrow.
Most might have been frustrated. But Hyden?
“My wife (Robyn) and I thought, ‘OK, that just means something else will come along.’ ”
The 1996 and 2000 USA men’s indoors Olympian, who grew up in San Diego and went to San Diego State, was right.
Sure enough, Hyden received a Facebook message the following day from a woman living in Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin is a suburb of Nashville, one of the trendiest cities in America today, and it’s more than 100 miles from Henderson.
“I always say (Franklin) is like the exact same place as Rancho Margarita, but with trees,” Hyden said. “You can’t see everything when the trees are there, but it’s there.”
Anyway, back to the Facebook message, where the woman in Franklin said she wished someone like Hyden lived there to coach beach volleyball so her kids didn’t have to go to California for training. And she said her husband wanted to start a beach club.
Hyden got back to them, it led to a phone call, and he said to his wife, “Robyn, we’re moving to Franklin.”
His wife was thrilled, because the Nashville area was actually her first choice. And before they knew it, the Hydens — which includes 13-year-old Samantha and 6-year-old Jackson — moved into their 3000-plus square-foot, five-bedroom home. And talk about reverse sticker shock, it went for just more than $100,000 than that two-bedroom condo in Sherman Oaks.
“It’s too much house for me, that’s what it is,” Hyden said. “We have two guest bedrooms, which is nice. A lot of people come visit, so that’s really cool.
“We thought we wanted a big yard, and we were looking at all these big houses, and I said, ‘You know what? I don’t want to take care of all this grass. I’ve never had a lawn in my life that I’ve had to mow. I still don’t, so my wife does it.”
But that’s how the Hyden Volleyball Academy came to be. What’s more, Hyden, who had 27 AVP victories and one on the FIVB tour, is happy to report that the facility is about an 18-minute drive from their home, about a third of what it took to get from Sherman Oaks to the beach in L.A.
Hyden Beach opened last October, and is still under construction, it will have six outdoor and two indoor courts. Hyden is currently coaching 6-10 junior girls daily to get things going, while Robyn is working on their website and social media and will handle much of the operational duties.
“We’re starting off with juniors and adult leagues, and want to expand into tournaments: AVPNext, AVPAmericas, USA volleyball, p1440,” Hyden said. “We want to do it all, whatever’s out there, we want to run things.
“We’ll have six nice outdoor courts with the really nice white masonry sand, and two indoor courts where we can host adult leagues during the winter. It’ll be a really nice facility and we want to run things really well.”
Hyden hopes the combination of his expertise and the new facility will both help volleyball grow in the area and keep elite players home.
But the most important thing for Hyden was that his family would be happy in Tennessee, especially Samantha and Jackson. That worked out better than expected.
“My daughter was going to go into seventh grade when we moved, and we had a two year plan, so we had her prepared,” Hyden said. “She didn’t want to move, but after a month, she said, ‘We should have moved here earlier!’ So that’s huge.”
Jackson’s approval came even sooner, he recalled.
“After a week, my son said, ‘We don’t have to go back to California, do we?’ We all love it, it’s great for us.”
Hyden thought about pursuing a college coaching job. But, he realized, “It’s not what I want to do all day long. You have to recruit, you have to travel, it’s way too much time away from home. (Robyn) has always said that I have the endless summer, because I always play.”
And he likes being with Robyn.
“We’re best friends, and I spend every day with her, all the time,” Hyden said. “If I had a job like that, I’m gone all day long. I don’t want to do that.
“She was talking about going to school and getting her nursing degree this year. I said, ‘Do you realize, we won’t see each other? Ever.’ For 25 years, we see each other every day, get to hang out and since we’re best friends, it’s like, ‘I don’t want you working like that.’
“So this is great, that we’re working together.”
What’s more, as he approaches 50, Hyden’s pro beach career is hardly over. Last season, he played in six AVP and six FIVB events. He began 2019 with Ryan Doherty, but finished with Theo Brunner. They came out of the qualifier at the season-ending AVP Hawai’i before falling in the final to Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, 17-15 in the third. Also last year, he and Doherty took bronze at the FIVB three-star in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
But the 2020 season, as it is for the entire beach volleyball world, is a big question mark for Hyden. It is especially challenging for Hyden, who is the oldest to win both an AVP event (Hermosa Beach in 2018 at age 45) and an FIVB event (Berlin in 2014 with then 25-year-old Tri Bourne).
He plans to compete with Bill Kolinske this year, and he’s able to maintain continuity and train with long-time trainer Mykel Jenkins remotely.
“We talk on the phone, he helps design the workouts, and I have plenty of workout cards from what we’ve done before,” Hyden said. “If I have any questions he can either send a video or we’ll talk it through. I’ve worked with him so long that it’s easy to do. The hard part is doing it alone, not having him there, especially getting older, it gets harder to get in there.”
And that’s when the weather’s good. Nashville can have a harsh winter, especially compared to Southern California.
“The off-season is the hardest time to get in the gym,” Hyden admitted. “It’s freezing out, so you don’t feel as good, feeling old, and knowing, ‘I have to go, if I’m going to get this done if I want to be able to compete.’ That’s the hardest part.
“Although, in Nashville, when it’s freezing, the sand part sucks. It freezes my feet all the way up to my knees, and you can’t get warm. So, yeah, the winter training’s pretty tough. But the sand part is the easy part, the gym part is the hard part, because you have to do it to compete.”