The first thing you must know about Eric Zaun is that you cannot call him Eric Zaun. Don’t laugh. He’s serious. Maybe. Sort of. Well, you never can know with Zaun.
“I’ve actually been going by Danny Fahrenheit lately,” Zaun said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “You introduced me as Zaun but I like Danny Fahrenheit. I just don’t like the name Eric.”
If you know Zaun, nothing about this is surprising. If you do not know Zaun, the 37 words above are an apt summation of what it’s like to be around Eric Zaun, or Fahrenheit, or whatever it is you’d like to call him. He’ll take anything but Eric at this point.
“[Piotr Marciniak] actually calls me Cookie,” Zaun said. “I used to go by Cookie Robinson exclusively on the NVL. Everybody called me that. A lot of my good friends still call me that.”
So his current partner calls him Cookie, he occasionally moonlights as Danny Fahrenheit, though he’s also immensely proud of once tricking a reporter into believing his name was Lamb Rivermore. When the paper ran the next morning, and Zaun was quoted under that alias, he finished the weekend known as Rivermore, Lamb Rivermore.
“They wrote that in the newspaper!” he said, laughing.
Just Zaun being Zaun … or Fahrenheit or Cookie or Reebok Hernandez or Lamb Rivermore or whatever other name he’ll come up with that weekend.
But don’t let him fool you, either. There’s more to Zaun than he lets on.
One does not simply earn the AVP Rookie of the Year by chance. Nor does one make a Sunday in his first season on Tour, and in the next, win Waupaca, Seaside and six-man — the biggest non-AVP domestic stops of the year — without putting in the work to do so.
Zaun puts in his work. Plenty of it. This is a season that began with a two-month trek through New Zealand and Australia, in which he and Adam Roberts won a handful of tournaments in New Zealand before claiming fifth in an FIVB in Shepparton, his second career international tournament.
“That takes a lot out of your off-season training,” Zaun said. So he just kept going. To Iran, Aguascalientes, China, Austin, Wisconsin, Oregon, Dallas, Chicago, New York — wherever there was volleyball, he was there.
“Just getting used to the grind,” he said. “I got a lot more FIVB points, compared to zero at this time last year.”
The points are nice, yes, but Zaun isn’t much for material things, even if it concerns his career. Ed Ratledge still has his Rookie of the Year plaque. He once took off an FIVB jersey and handed it to a ball girl. An oversized check from Seaside? Gave it to a random kid, just because. The only prize he’s ever kept from volleyball is the money he’s made, which really just funds the next one, and the next one, piling up experience after experience.
That’s what he’s after, anyway. Experiences. Stories. Perspective.
“It’s really unfortunate that we can go to all these places but we don’t really have any time for fun,” he said. “It’s almost brutal, mentally, these new places I’ve never been before, I have to fly right back for an AVP. But it’s cool because even though you’re going to China or Iran or the middle of nowhere Mexico, it’s not like a total loss because a lot of people never get to see that and see how they live.
“You really take for granted how great your life is in America. Even if you didn’t get to do anything in Iran, you still got to see another place in the world. You’re not even allowed to go to Iran! America’s pretty great. You realize that once you travel.”
Though the volleyball season will be over after this weekend, Zaun’s travels have just begun. As soon as the final ball hits the sand in Chicago, he’s off to South America, on what promises to be nothing shy of a winding, epic, story-filled “road trip with the boys.”
He’s the first to admit that his second season on tour was “a bit of a sophomore slump.” But he’s learned. He’s dabbling on the right side, expanding his skill set. He’s recognized that his defense is still lacking, that his weight can’t fluctuate as much as it has over the course of his career.
“I don’t think I’m that great of a defender,” he said. “Just kind of overall everything — digging hard driven balls, staying balanced. I don’t have a volleyball background. I started playing beach volleyball late so it’s not like I have all those fundamentals drilled into me. I just don’t think I have that many touches or reps or coaching.”
So he’s going to get into film. He’s going to get more touches.
But first, he’s taking a road trip with the boys.
For Danny Fahrenheit to play to the best of his abilities, morale needs to be high.
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