J.A. Adande hits the beach

Pretty funny column in the Times about Adande trying to survive a private workout with Holly McPeak's athletic trainer, then stand in against McPeak and friends on the beach volleyball court without getting his nose broken or his ego smashed.

There are five fit, tan, bikini-clad women expecting my arrival at the beach, and I'm not looking forward to this at all....

Holly McPeak, the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and the winningest woman in the history of the AVP tour, invited me to practice with her as she prepares for this weekend's AVP event in Manhattan Beach. But first she insisted I go through a session with her trainer, to get a better sense for what really goes into becoming an elite athlete in this sport.

I couldn't join McPeak for her training session at Hermosa Beach's VERT gym Wednesday morning with Meredith Miller (I was busy doing journalistic things such as, um, eating an ice cream cone on a TV show.) But I have my own private session with the woman whose clients call her "Meredeath."

"I love Holly," Miller tells me. "And I love to yell at Holly."

[skip]

"The sand is hot today," McPeak cautions.

One of the occupational hazards of the job I never thought about. But it's something to consider when you're playing barefoot. McPeak also tells me that, unlike most sports, it's actually advantageous to be facing the wind, because it allows you to serve harder without worrying about the ball taking off on you.

I haven't played volleyball regularly since high school, when I took beach volleyball for PE. (Best class ever. We hopped a bus down to the courts by the Santa Monica Pier, played some volleyball, grabbed a cherry lemonade at Hot Dog on a Stick, headed back to school and got credit for this)....

I've never had a pitcher throw a 99-mile-an-hour fastball, a heavyweight fighter swing at my head or a hockey player wind up for a slapshot while I'm in goal, but at the moment none of that seems more intimidating. It's never easy to have a professional launch anything at you. Fortunately none of the women bounces a ball off my grill this day. But I do wind up with several facefulls of sand while diving.

At first I struggle just to get to the ball. I always feel a second behind. Moving in sand is like one of those dreams when you try to run but it's in slow motion.

When I do manage to get to the ball and hit it in the air, the women all shout encouragement. I feel like the scrawny Little League kid who gets cheered whenever he manages to hit the ball in play, even if it's just a weak grounder to the pitcher.

Adande has written before that the school he attended in Santa Monica was Crossroads.

August 10, 2006 5:43 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor
 

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