HERMOSA BEACH, California — Trevor Crabb doesn’t do guarantees anymore. Retired from that game after a not-very-well-thought-out, spur-of-the-moment, emotionally fueled guarantee to win the 2022 Atlanta Gold Series, on the heels of a victory in Fort Lauderdale in which he and Tri Bourne didn’t drop a set, fell flat.

He and Bourne did not win Atlanta.

Not even close. They finished ninth, their worst result on the AVP in five years as a team.

To some, maybe this appeared to be a crack in the armor of Crabb’s inimitable confidence. That maybe some self-doubt was kicking in. That maybe he didn’t truly believe in himself enough to proclaim to the world any longer that he would, indeed, win whatever tournament he said he’d win.

And as has been the case for the entirety of Crabb’s career, anyone who doubted him, and had the temerity to suggest as much on social media or otherwise, was proven wrong — to the tune of $500.

Eric Nguyen was the first.

In the wake of this year’s AVP Atlanta, in which Crabb and Theo Brunner finished third and lost to Andy Benesh and Miles Partain, Nguyen commented on Instagram that “Andy and Miles will be in Hamburg [Elite16] and won’t be playing in the [Manhattan Beach Open]. You actually might have a chance.”

Bear. Poked.

“Next time we play them,” Crabb responded, “I’ll bet you $500.”

Others jumped on. Brad Timmer wanted in. So did Brett Watson. Jon Justice, a solid player in Florida who was the longtime volunteer assistant at Florida State, asked if he could take the bet as well — even offering Crabb odds on the match.

“Deal,” Crabb replied to Justice. “Let me know the odds. And start putting in overtime at the drive through.”

Trevor Crabb
Trevor Crabb making bets on himself on social media/Trevor Crabb Instagram

When, four weeks later, Crabb and Brunner skated through the winner’s bracket unscathed to the finals, and so did Partain and Benesh, the most anticipated match of the AVP season was on. Prior to the finals, Crabb confirmed with all those foolish enough to bet against him that the bets were on. While he didn’t guarantee the victory, he did what he has always done, leaning on what his good friends can only shake their heads at and label the absurd confidence of Trevor Crabb: He bet on himself.

And he won. Again.

A 21-18, 21-19 victory over Partain and Benesh, something that shocked many in the American volleyball world, solidified the second AVP win of the season for Crabb and Brunner and their first over the top seeds.

“We were 0-2 against Miles and Andy and after that Atlanta loss, that’s when those guys made those comments,” Crabb said. “Next time, there’s no way I’m losing to these guys again.”

Into the direct messages and comments he went, collecting on his bets. Most tried to squirm their way out of it. Justice paid up.

“Shout out to Jon,” Crabb said.

Bourne could only laugh.

“He’s always taking receipts,” said Bourne, who knows better than anyone, having grown up with Crabb and partnered with him for nearly five years.

At this point, it begs the question: Why, oh why, do people continue doubting Trevor Crabb?

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Trevor Crabb, left, and Theo Brunner celebrate their Chicago win/Mark Rigney photo

When his AVP career began in earnest, partnering with his brother, Taylor, in 2015, they became something of a delightful storyline: A pair of brothers from Hawaii, playing a pure, ball control-oriented style of volleyball. They were young, fun, easy to watch, a team who could perhaps give Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal — and later Nick Lucena — or Casey Patterson and Jake Gibb a decent run. But as the collective beach world fawned over the otherworldly gifts of Taylor, with his generational arm and ability to make plays that belonged on SportsCenter, Trevor’s simple, somewhat boring style of play went mostly ignored. As they lost in one final after the next — eight straight for Trevor — and Trevor’s mouth only grew larger, both in person and on social media, a hashtag began circulating: #NeverTrevor.

But even as his wins began piling up, beginning with a stunning victory at the 2019 Manhattan Beach Open with Reid Priddy, the respect didn’t follow. Despite back-to-back Manhattan wins with Bourne in 2021 and 2022, despite being the 2022 AVP Team of the Year, Bourne dumped him at the end of that season to partner with Chaim Schalk. Crabb, a bit of a positional tweener who has played left side and right, defended and blocked, was left scrambling for a running mate for the Paris Olympics.

Here was a player who had more wins than anyone on the AVP Tour since 2019, and “almost nobody told me to play Trevor,” said Brunner, who was also a free agent after being dumped by Schalk. But as Brunner, a longtime rival of Crabb, began doing his due diligence on his future partner, he slowly became a believer.

“I watched a ton of his video more in depth than I have in the past and I was super impressed,” Brunner said this past December, after he and Crabb solidified their partnership. “I think our personalities are going to be a really good fit because we get along, and I kind of need someone bringing the energy and he brings the energy and instigates with the other team and I love it. I think it’s going to be a really good fit. We’ll see.”

He was, it seems, one of the few who thought so.

In a poll at the beginning of the season, fans were asked which two American teams would qualify for the Paris Olympic Games. Crabb and Brunner received just nine percent of the votes, trailing Bourne and Schalk by 32 percent, Benesh and Partain by 17 percent, and Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander 14 percent.

Currently, Crabb and Brunner are second in points per event among USA men in the race, trailing only Partain and Benesh. They are one of three men’s teams to make a podium this season, winning gold at the Espinho Challenge.

And yet…many still had the stones to bet against him. And many were proven wrong.


It might bother some, this constant stream of doubt.

Crabb — and now Brunner — thrives on it.

“I get to have the sweeter moment at the end after winning or something like that and rubbing it in their face,” he said. “Kinda like Chicago when people bet against me.”

He’ll continue taking, and collecting, on those receipts. He’s done it his whole life.

Why would he stop betting on himself now?


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