VBM co-publisher Ed Chan conducted a Q&A with Alix Klineman, who the beach-volleyball learned last week will be April Ross’s partner in 2018. Ross, who gave up a successful indoor career to try to make it on the beach, is thrilled:
I’m still in a bit of disbelief. I also have started to tell myself that I earned this opportunity. I wanted it really badly, I worked really hard for it, but at the same time I know that the hardest work is still ahead of us, so in no way can I relax and say, “Oh, I got a great partner.” Now I really have to work on getting better and really have to make improvements if I want to be successful.
Now we know that Alix Klineman, who gave up a lucrative indoor career to try her hand at the beach in 2017, is going to be April Ross’s beach-volleyball partner in 2018.
Klineman was as a four-time All-American at Stanford and the 2010 Volleyball magazine national player of the year in 2010. She played professionally for five years including in Italy from 2011 to 2015 for Pesaro, Villa Cortese, and Novara and then two years with Praia in Brazil.
International indoor volleyball stars can earn six-figure incomes, but she left that behind in order to focus full time on beach volleyball last season. Last year she partnered with Jace Pardon, Branagan Fuller, and fellow Mira Costa High School alum Lane Carico and they finished second in AVP San Francisco and third in AVP Hermosa Beach. As a result, the 6-foot-5 Klineman was named VolleyballMag.com’s All-Pro Rookie of the Year.
Her progress was duly noted by Ross, the USA’s top defender, who earned a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics with Jennifer Kessy and a bronze in Rio in 2016 with Kerri Walsh Jennings. Now Ross hopes that Klineman is the right partner to try to get to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Ross broke the news last week on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter as part of their two-part interview.
Suddenly the beach rookie, who turns 28 on December 30, was thrust into the limelight:
Klineman: I was approached by April really early in the summer when she and Kerri broke up. She mentioned to me, “I’m looking for a partner for 2020,” and I got kind of excited. And then she said “Well, you need to get some experience,” and I thought, “Yeah, she’s right.”
So it was a good goal and I knew it was possible, if I really worked hard. So I went to work all summer, thinking, “If I keep getting better, I have a chance to score a really great partner.” I went through the summer with my share of partners, and she went through the summer with her partners, and then after the season ended I knew I had a chance. But I also knew that she was looking at other players because she’s probably the most desirable partner out there.
I did a lot of training on my own after the season ended, working on trying to get as good as I could before I stepped on the sand with her. We actually only trained together for three days on the sand. I know she had been training a bunch with some other people and one day she texted me and said, “OK, can we meet, I want to talk about what it would look like for us to play together for the next three years.”
VBM: So how do you feel about it, knowing that she’s arguably the most potent left-sider in the world?
Klineman: I’m still in a bit of disbelief. I also have started to tell myself that I earned this opportunity. I wanted it really badly, I worked really hard for it, but at the same time I know that the hardest work is still ahead of us, so in no way can I relax and say, “Oh, I got a great partner.” Now I really have to work on getting better and really have to make improvements if I want to be successful.
VBM: In your first full year on the tour, a year where most qualifiers gather enough points just so they have a decent year the following year, you made two AVP semifinal appearances. How did the 2017 season measure compared to your expectations?
Klineman: Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of expectations this year. It’s my first full year playing on the beach and I tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted to go into it doing as well as I could, working as hard as I could. I was lucky to play with a few good people that I think helped me elevate my game and work faster.
Lane was one of those for sure where I felt lucky to learn from. We played a little bit in high school, she’s pretty seasoned, works really hard and I think we’re really compatible in our work ethic. I think I was able to grow faster than if I was playing with someone of my own experience level. Looking back, I feel really grateful that I had that chance to play with her.
VBM: Why did you decide to give up an indoor career with a salary for an unproven shot at beach?
Klineman: There are a few factors. My body wasn’t feeling that great and I’ve always imagined that I would give beach a shot. I think the ultimate thing is that I want to go to the Olympics. I felt like I wasn’t getting those opportunities on the indoor side, I looked at the beach game, and evaluated how I would fit in, how my skills would fit the beach game, and thought that it would be a pretty good match. I was at that point in my career when I was ready not to be abroad eight months of the year. I was ready for a fresh start and just to be challenged again in a different way. It just felt like the right time for everything.
So far I’m making significantly less than what I made last year, but the reason that I moved was not motivated by money at all, I knew that it would be a sacrifice, but hopefully down the road if I get successful enough it will be something profitable for me. I talked to my parents before I made the switch,and they thought it was crazy: “What are you doing? You’re making good money, you got invited to go back to the national team, you enjoy playing overseas.”
But there was something in me that I couldn’t really ignore. I just felt like I was really being drawn to the beach and I just wanted to go with it. I wanted to see what I could make of a career on the beach.
VBM: Now that you have a partner for 2018, what does your training schedule look like?
Klineman: I would say that our training schedule is pretty full. We’re in the sand about five times a week, we are lifting three times a week and we’re in the training room every day for sure getting worked on and trying to stay as healthy as we can.
Right now we’re practicing down south, part time in Corona Del Mar and part time in Huntington (Beach), so we’re commuting as well. The plan is to be practicing part time up here (in Manhattan Beach) as well. We’re still getting all of that worked out.
VBM: What does your competition schedule look like? Do you have any competitions scheduled before the Fort Lauderdale five-star?
Klineman: We’re registered for the Hague (a FIVB four-star, January 3-7 in The Netherlands), but I’m pretty sure that we’ll have to play in the country quota. It’s obviously not guaranteed that we’ll get into the main draw and it’s a tough road to get there, but we are planning to compete in that.
VBM: And finally, as a Stanford alum, have you had a chance to watch Stanford this year?
Klineman: I haven’t watched as much as I would like, but I can tell that they have a great team, and they can make a run for the title if they play well.