It’s funny, sometimes, the path the universe can choose to take you. One minute, you’re lying on a training table, torn shoulder being worked on, pondering if this is it, the last tear. Perhaps it’s time to move back to Florida. Have kids. Raise a family. Move on.
The next, you’re on a call with Kerri Walsh Jennings, the greatest to ever play the game, one of the most dominant athletes not only in the sport of beach volleyball but of all time. She’s looking for a partner, someone to make a run at the Tokyo Olympics. You’ve been to the Olympics before. You fell short, going 0-3. The sting is still there. You want more.
So you take the offer. Your career isn’t over. In fact, this may just be the beginning.
This could be the exact moment everything – the knee surgeries and shoulder tears, moving across the country to a state you never wanted to live, making a career out of a game that you didn’t pick up until after college – has circuitously led to. Maybe this is the reason for all of that.
Such is the story of Brooke Youngquist Sweat, one filled with tremendous adversity but magnificent toughness, both of the mental and physical sort.
She never meant for beach volleyball to be a career. Her boyfriend at Florida Gulf Coast, Nick Sweat, played. Every now and then she’d hop in. She gave it a go for a bit but didn’t like it much. Wasn’t for her.
“I would try to play and I was terrible,” she said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
Then she tried again. Suddenly, the gal from Estero, Fla., the one who would work on her dad’s rock quarry over the summers, was begging Nick to teach her how to hit a cut shot. Suddenly she was playing with Kendra Van Zwieten. Suddenly Sweat was moving to California.
Suddenly she was winning.
Suddenly Brooke Sweat had become the very personification of all things Southern California, the one chasing a pipe dream on a beach, dropping everything to do so, traveling with the rolling circus of grinders and hopefuls that is the AVP Tour.
Only it was working.
It was in 2012 that Sweat moved to California. Not coincidentally, a year later, partnered with Jen Fopma at Huntington Beach, she won her first tournament. When she wasn’t winning, she was contending, as Sweat, in 2014 with Fendrick, made five straight finals, meeting the same foil every time: Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross.
“I just wanted to be on the court against her, she’s always going to make me better,” Sweat said. “I never thought I would be playing with Kerri. Like, no. So it’s kind of cool to be in this position, especially after not knowing if I was going to be playing ever again.”
So now here she is. Her knee is healthy. Her shoulder, as is Walsh’s notoriously troublesome shoulder, is rebuilt. On the road with them will be physical therapist extraordinaire Chad Beauchamp.
The next two years will be the final push for both Sweat and Walsh Jennings. And then Sweat will return to Florida, where her heart has always been. It will have been a long and winding journey, though what else would you expect from this wonky universe of ours?
What fun would the straight path have been, anyway?
“I just want to have fun and enjoy the places we get to go to, enjoy every tournament,” Sweat said. “I think I’m realizing that I’m not going to get to do this forever. I’m not going to get to travel the world and see these awesome places so I’m going to take it all in. I’m going to take it all in every single time we get to go somewhere. I’m still having so much fun playing and I’m not ready to stop. So I’m just going to soak it up.”