SANDCAST: After tremendous career, Patty Dodd thrives as beach coach

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Patty Dodd-SANDCAST-Travis Mewhirter-Tri Bourne

Patricia Orozco knew Mike Dodd was serious the day he picked her up at UCLA in 1985.

She knew he was serious because, after taking her to Marine Street for a crash course in beach volleyball, he took her to The Kettle for lunch in Manhattan Beach.

“And it was like ‘Whoa!’ If you get taken to The Kettle for lunch then this he’s serious,” she said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.

Serious enough that, a year later, they wed, and Patty took Dodd’s last name, and 33 years later they remain not only happily married, but business partners at MB Sand Volleyball Club, two of the most respected coaches in the game.

Well, Patty is, at least.

Mike is technically, and hilariously, the equipment manager at MB Sand, and he takes his job seriously enough that when Patty couldn’t make it one day, one of the 12-year-olds commented that MB Sand must be running terribly low on coaches because the equipment guy had to fill in.

She had no idea the equipment guy was a five-time Manhattan Beach Open champion and Olympic silver medalist.

“The mom just could not wait to call me, because she knows Mike’s background,” Patty said, laughing. “That’s what 12-year-olds can say. The janitor is going to run practice.”

Some janitor. And some janitor’s wife, too.

Let’s, for a moment, put their prolific playing careers aside –- and indeed they were prolific –- and examine only their coaching backgrounds.

When Patty graduated from UCLA, she took up an assistant opening with the Bruins indoor team. They won a national championship in the very first year.

“I knew early on that I wanted to do this,” she said. “I just fell into being a graduate assistant in my fifth year and we won NCAA and it’s like ‘Oh, yeah, alright, I like this. I really like this.’ I was so young at the time, but the fact that what you said had an effect on the player or the play or the outcome, I was hooked.

“It just took me a while to get to the coaching part because I was doing my playing part.”

And she did her playing part well.

A native of Bogota, Colombia, Dodd graduated from high school in 1980 and moved to Santa Fe Springs, where she could learn English and play volleyball for a local club team.

Within those six months she had offers to play for UCLA, Hawai’i, USC and Oregon.

“I remember when I first saw her at a Christmas tournament,” then-UCLA women’s volleyball Coach Andy Banachowski, who has led his teams to four national championships, told the Los Angeles Times. “I was looking down in the Sports Arena and I saw this girl move incredibly well. What really caught my attention is that I didn’t know who she was because I know all the kids in the area with talent.”

“When Andy came up to me,” Orozco told the Times, “I couldn’t even understand him. I was even named all-tournament and didn’t even know what that meant.”

She started setting UCLA indoor records and had yet to step foot on a beach.

She finished her grad year at UCLA and competed for a year in Italy, where she initially met Dodd. Who better to teach her the beach game, then, but the man she met in Italy who was in the midst of winning four consecutive Manhattan Beach Opens?

Yes, the janitor can coach, too.

She proved a quick learner, too. By 1989, just four years after Mike took her to Marine Street and provided the Beach Volleyball 101 crash course, Patty partnered with Jackie Silva and won 11 of 13 tournaments.

Four times that year, Patty and Mike won tournaments on the same weekend, becoming the first married couple to do so.

By the time they finished competing, with six total Manhattan Beach Opens to the family name, the Dodds combined for 89 wins and nearly $2 million in prize money.

Now they’re teaching others.

Aside from serving as the most over-qualified equipment manager in beach-volleyball history, both Mike and Patty help with USA Volleyball national-team practices. She says she loves the quiet tenacity of April Ross, the genial intensity of Kelly Reeves, the efficiency of Taylor Crabb and Billy Allen.

More than that, above all, as it almost always has been, she loves to coach. Loves to teach. Loves to pass on the gifts that to this day she’s still developing herself.

“I’m really enjoying MB Sand,” she said. “It really gives me immense joy to see the kids develop their game and to see them make friendships and different partners. It’s such a healthy environment to build beach volleyball.

“I love that about beach volleyball, that the kids need to be great at all of the skills. It just brings me a lot of joy to do it.”

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