There is a moment before every practice that is so innocuous, so easy to forget that it’s not all that uncommon for teams to go about practicing without remembering it at all: putting up the antennas.
And yet it is that moment that Kelly Reeves loves — or, in her vernacular, “gets jazzed about” — as much as she loves anything, and allow us to inform you early in this story that Kelly Reeves loves a great many things.
But before she can discuss how much she loves playing volleyball, how jazzed she gets about this game, how she loves the long rallies, getting a scoop on a hard-driven, or the feeling of her lungs searing at the end of a long, three-set match, she wants you to know how much she loves putting up those antennas each morning.
“That’s my moment before practice, setting up the antennas,” Reeves said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It’s like ‘This is where I’m supposed to be.’ People overlook that. I always set the antennas up, but that’s something I just enjoy. I just look around at the bay and it’s like ‘Wow, life’s pretty good.’ It’s just what I do and I’m like ‘I love being here.’”
It’s possible that Reeves, who won a national championship indoors at UCLA before starting her professional career on the beach, loves more aspects of volleyball, and life, than anyone you’ve met. Workouts that leave her heaving, worn out, walking gingerly out of the gym? Loves them. Rallies – even the ones she loses – that leave her caked in sand, sweaty, out of breath? Loves them. Heck, the 27-year-old even loved, in a weird sort of way, getting roofed by Alix Klineman on match point in the quarterfinals of the Manhattan Beach Open.
“It was just so surreal playing against the top teams in the world like ‘What? This is awesome!’ What a fun experience,” said Reeves, who finished a career-high third in Manhattan with Terese Cannon, losing only to April Ross and Klineman and Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan. “And, obviously, we lost to both of those teams, and I give Alix a little (crap) because I got absolutely roofed on match point. I was like ‘Either way I’m going in to crank it and see what happens’ and there’s a photo of Alix just reaching her hand, dink, and I’m like ‘C’mon! You couldn’t give me just one?’ But I respect both of those teams and it’s elite volleyball, it’s high-level volleyball, and that’s what you want, that’s how you get better.”
Reeves understands the process more than most. That it takes highs and lows to move forward. It’s why she allows herself to stop and enjoy the peaks like in Manhattan. Where many, after achieving a career-high, seek the next high, Reeves is consciously aware to stop, as she did in Manhattan, and pause for a second to drink in the bliss.
“I just looked around and smiled, like ‘I’m here. This is the biggest stage probably anywhere’ and I had to just soak up the moment,” she said. “It was so awesome.”
And she loves the lows, too, in that strange sort of way that mature athletes do in retrospect, understanding that there are moments of growth within those lows. She looks at Chicago, where she and Cannon, coming off that career-high in Manhattan, lost both matches and finished 17th.
“You gotta go through the trenches a little bit to see the good and it’s been such a fun journey to be a part of and that’s why longevity for me, you can go forever in beach volleyball,” Reeves said. “There’s just so much you can learn every single day you step foot in the sand.”
At the moment, Reeves is learning as much as she can in the gym. She’s in there, three hours a day, Monday through Friday. She’s playing the long game now, prepping her body for a career that she wants to last as long as possible. John Hyden’s still doing it at 47, Jake Gibb at 43, Kerri Walsh Jennings at 41. She has as much self-doubt as anyone, Reeves. But when those moments of doubt arise, and the numbers in her bank account are dieting again, she journals, does a little introspection: Where’s my bliss?
And then it all comes rushing back, all the love she has for this sport and everything and everyone in it. In an hour-long interview, Reeves used the word “love” no less than 30 times. So it really doesn’t matter what her bank account looks like, because no amount of money in the world can buy that kind of bliss, the self-assurance that, yes, she’s exactly where she needs to be, doing exactly what she needs to be doing, with the people she needs to be with.
“I just love the sport of volleyball,” she said. “I think it brings me joy, it’s made me the person I am, I just love stepping out on the court and sharing the game with anyone and everyone. I just love volleyball. I love playing. I love competing. I love the people. I love all the athletes in the sport. There are some amazing people in this sport. It’s nice to be a part of the family and we’re all out here trying to make a living and when you’re out on the court sharing the ball and the net, wow, it’s a pretty cool experience.”