On January 21, 2021, Kim Hildreth turned 30. It’s a significant milestone for some, and in a funny sort of way, it was for Hildreth, too. She remembers what being 30 meant to her 18-year-old self, the one with the indefatigable energy that would allow her to practice on her own, then her club team, then lift, then do it again and again and again, as many days as she could find people to play with.

To that 18-year-old kid, being 30 meant that Hildreth was now “one of the ladies.”

“I had that moment when I turned 30 and I remembered that I was totally that 18-year-old kid who was playing with the ladies,” Hildreth said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I even remember when this lady would wear these little jean shorts and I’d be like ‘She’s 30 and she’s wearing these little jean shorts. That’s so scandalous!’ Now that I’m here I’m like wow, just wow. We’ve had that moment because there’s a couple good girls at FSU who are killing it this year, and now we’re the older ladies and they’re practicing with us and we’re like ‘Oh, we’re practicing with the kids.’”

And here’s the funny little bit that 18-year-old Kim could never have imagined: Being 30 is kind of awesome. Being 30 doesn’t mean you’re rocking jean shorts and hiring babysitters just to get a few games in with the girls. Being 30 doesn’t mean you’re over the hill, finished, simply hanging on before that next generation comes out of Florida State and kicks your ass.

Being 30 means finally, for the first time in your life, having both feet on the ground. It means having a house — your own house! — being married to perhaps the only man on the planet whose enthusiasm for beach volleyball eclipses yours, doing something you love, every day.

It means still playing beach volleyball five, six days a week. It means not being well past your prime, but steadily approaching it.

“It’s the first time in my life I feel like I have both feet on the ground,” said Hildreth, who set for four years at Eastern Michigan before finishing her collegiate career on the beach at North Florida. “That’s my takeaway from 2020: I finally have two feet in whatever I’m in.”

Kim Hildreth-Brooke Bauer
Kim Hildreth and Brook Bauer after winning a tournament in Pompano Beach in 2017

The world was split largely in two when the COVID lockdowns were enforced: Wait it out, or grow and learn. Hildreth is firmly in the latter camp. For as long as she can really recall, she strove to start her own business. She wanted to get into health coaching, manage her own clients, her own schedule, live a life revolving around only her most ardent passions. COVID provided the time — which at first seemed quite unwelcome, given the financial strain it put on Hildreth and most of the rest of the country — to do just that.

On April 6, after a year of studying, Hildreth passed the National Board Certification Exam to become a National Board of Health and Wellness Coach. She had been doing health and nutrition coaching prior, but getting the certification was no small hurdle to take the next step in her career.

“It was a year of growth,” Hildreth said. “2020 sucked for like two months. Financially, we were really scared for quite a bit of time. But it’s really encouraging in the first year of marriage to be hit with the hardest time you’ve ever been through and to come out saying 2020 was the best time of our lives, for both of us.

“It was not easy. It was can I actually practice what I preach? Can I tell my clients to be resilient and put yourself out there? Don’t let fear stop you from the goal you want and my goal was to have my own business and have my own clients and help them as I see fit. It was face the music, can I do this myself? It was cool. I gained some confidence in myself.”

Kim Hildreth-Sarah Schermerhorn
Sarah Schermerhorn and Kim Hildreth celebrated their best-ever year in 2019/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Though she has not yet had any AVP or FIVB events to prove it, that confidence, and the accountability to which she must now hold herself as a coach, is making an impact on her game, and life as a whole. She cannot, for example, encourage people to meditate without feeling a pang of guilt if she, herself, is not meditating.

All of these realizations come from the maturity and time that comes with certain ages. Like 30. Almost daily, Hildreth is doing things that 18-year-old Kim could never have imagined would become reality. When Brooke Sweat and Kerri Walsh Jennings needed a training group over the pre-season, it was Hildreth and Sarah Schermerhorn who routinely got the call.

“I was training with Kerri and Brooke, and you get to a point where you’re like, 18-year-old me would be totally melting, I’m practicing with my favorite beach volleyball player and THE GOAT!” Hildreth said. “What is my life? It was pretty cool, and it was fun to be like ‘We’re very competitive with them. Not only are we here, but we’re making it work.’ It’s pretty cool to come to that moment in life.”

That moment in life where being one of the ladies isn’t so bad after all.

And 30? It’s actually kind of awesome.

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