The Saga of Beach Volleyball Partnerships

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Angie Akers with her 2008 partner

Player A partners with B, C partners with D. A is not happy, so A starts talking to D, but B is also talking to D. C thinks everything is fine until B sprains an ankle and A snags up D. Now C is alone and looking at F. F is flirting back, but also talking to G. Follow?

Welcome to the world of team partnerships in professional beach volleyball.

Finding the right partner is not as easy as one would think. It is more complicated than just pairing two good players.

Other factors such as chemistry, style of play, size, geographic location, work ethic, and personality must be considered.

It is actually similar to finding a mate. You date around by practicing with potential partners. Then, you throw out a request for commitment and see if it is mutual. If it is, then a partnership begins. However, the honeymoon period does not last long. After a few tournaments, players decide if they want to go steady or if it is just a high school crush.

During the dating-around phase, players are trying to find the best partner possible while keeping all of their options open. It is a game within the game. It is easy to get your feelings hurt if you take this process personally. I like to refer to it as the I only have eyes for you syndrome.

All too many times players get burned when they have a feeling of comfort with their partner (or potential partner) and dont have a back-up plan. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, your partner informs you that he or she is playing with someone else and leaves you, the dumped partner, in shock. Unfortunately, the only way to prevent feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under you is to start to play the game yourself.

Unless you are a team such as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh and win nearly every tournament you play in, then you may be one of the players who is constantly searching for that partnership that will get you to the top of the rankings.

That search is not always done with the current partner’s knowledge. We are competing for a limited amount of prize money, an we travel so much that it is important to make enough money to at least break even. In order to do so, one has to consistently finish in the top 10, which is tough when the level of competition increases each year.

One must develop a thick skin and learn not to take things too personally. There are no contractual obligations between partners, aside from a verbal commitment, which carries no ramifications if broken, leaving players always feeling unstable.

It sounds brutal and it is. Welcome to beach volleyball.

This is what most players deal with year in and year out. It even happens during the season. You are never safe, unless you have found a soulmate or one true love, which is a rare event.

Basically, beach volleyball isnt known for partner monogamy, but we can try, cant we?

When this article was first published in 1997, former Notre Dame indoor star Angie Akers was in her seventh professional season on the AVP Crocs Tour. She now coaches for the Dutch national beach volleyball teams.

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