We’ve all seen April Ross dig deep on the court. Whether she’s putting up a new defensive record or finding a level of energy you didn’t know was possible in the third set of a barnburner, this two-time Olympic Medalist is full of surprises and depth. And now, she’s treating us to deeper layers of who she is off the court. Let’s get to know April Ross better with these 9 things you probably didn’t know, and maybe a few you’d never expect.
1. I used to hate playing beach volleyball.
Hate is a strong word, but I grew up strongly disliking playing beach volleyball (even though I loved watching it). For one, I didn’t like being bad at things, especially things I was good at on a hardwood floor. Secondly, I despised getting sweaty and sandy. Add in some sticky sunscreen and yuck. Our high school coach would take us to the beach once a week in the off-season to play and condition. It was so hard; I despised those days. When I got to college, we didn’t live far from the beach. My teammates would often go down to play for fun on the weekends. I never joined. Not once. No, thank you. I played in a few tournaments in junior high, but then not again until I made the switch to beach after falling out of love with indoor when I was twenty-five. What was different about it then? I’m not sure – it just felt like the right thing for me at that time. I was right; I’ve only fallen more in love with beach volleyball since.
2. I’m a health nut.
I’m obsessed with health for a few reasons – none of them being of the aesthetic variety. First because, well… duh. Health and nutrition are essential to achieving success in this sport. But also because I’ve had family members pass away far too young due to different diseases. I firmly believe prevention is the best medicine. I’m constantly experimenting with different health ideas, paying close attention to how they affect me positively or negatively. I’ve tried intermittent fasting, eating vegan, vegetarian, paleo, no-carb, slow-carb, counting macros, cutting out coffee, cutting out alcohol, using different supplements, yoga, sauna. I even used iodine for a while due to some obscure study I found on the internet (I still believe in it but need more scientific studies done, so I do not recommend). There are some things I just straight up refuse to try because they’re too extreme, in my opinion, like keto, full-on fasting, and the whole cold shower thing. I prefer the healing powers of warmth over cold, thank you. I also believe taking care of your brain is just as important as eating healthy and exercising, and that one without the other is not half as effective. Reading – not solely for the learning component but also to train your mind to stay focused on the task at hand and avoid distraction – is a critical mental health tool. I believe meditation is necessary to cultivate a healthy mind and learn how to practice radical self-acceptance. I use fitness and wellness tracking devices like the Oura Ring to get as much useful info as possible regarding the results of all these experiments. And I’m increasingly obsessed with how all of this affects hormones. How hormones come into play for our general health and for our quality of mind might be the biggest factor of all.
3. I feel most at home in the mountains.
I’m at the beach almost every day: rain or shine, withstanding in freeze-your-toes-off sand or gale-force winds. I am so grateful that I can call it my office, but without a doubt, I’m a mountain girl at heart. I grew up skiing, staying in cabins on vacation and over Christmas break. My family played board games into the night after being on the slopes all day, hot chocolate in hand, staying warm next to a roaring fire in the hearth. Just thinking of those times brings me so much happiness. Out Cold is one of my favorite movies; when I was younger, I often fantasized about running away to a ski resort and working on a mountain all winter. I still make it to the mountains about once a year to snowboard (when I’m not trying to qualify for the Olympics), and I hope to one day make it a more permanent part of my life.
4. In college, I wanted to become a photojournalist.
I consider myself a creative. I love photography and writing; I used to be a major scrapbooker and was on the yearbook committee in junior high. I also wanted to see the world and was interested in current events, so I believed a photojournalism career path would combine all of my loves. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t get into the journalism school at USC. So I did global marketing instead, intending to work for Gatorade to stay in the sports space. In a way, I am doing exactly that! Gatorade is one of my beloved sponsors.
5. I manage my own stock portfolio.
I always found investing in stocks to be really intimidating. I took several Econ classes in college, and one high school course taught by my volleyball coach who attempted to teach us how to trade by pseudo-investing in stocks and following their performance all semester. I was still scared. Because of this trepidation, I hesitated to make the leap of purchasing any investments on my own. That is until about a year and a half ago when I finally mustered enough courage to take the plunge. I haven’t looked back. I now love managing my stock portfolio, keeping up with the various markets and trends, and listening to CNBC on my morning drives to practice. Reading books and listening to money podcasts is my continual attempt to gain a greater knowledge of investing. I know Coach Glenn would be proud. I often get asked the question- what advice would you give your younger self? I usually keep my answer related to volleyball, but what I would REALLY tell my younger self is to start investing, NOW!
6. I collect coffee mugs.
The collection is one of my most prized possessions; it brings me so much joy. I have one from each international city and many of the domestic cities I’ve visited. Each one evokes happy memories of that specific trip that I daily get to relive over my morning coffee. My shelves can hardly support the collection, a problem I’m very grateful for. I’m currently remodeling my kitchen and putting in some open shelving specifically to display my favorite mugs! It’s a motley collection, but I don’t care! My favorite one, if you’re wondering, is a very ornate mug from Vienna, Austria. I got it after winning the Silver Medal at World Championships with Lauren Fendrick. A close second is a cup from Russia featuring a mock Vladimir Putin in aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket. I could go on, but I’m sure I’d be the only one to ever read the words.
7. I was rejected by my first-choice college.
When I was in high school, I got recruiting letters from many schools offering me scholarships. I was flattered and led to believe I had my pick of the litter. My grades were pretty good in high school, good enough to get into (almost) any college as a scholarship athlete. This may sound boastful, but trust me – this next part is not. My first college choice was Stanford. I wore a red Stanford sweatshirt to school just about every day, confident that I’d be going there the following year. I worked hard on my application and felt confident, so I was shocked and devastated when they replied, saying my app was not up to their standards. Shortly after, I fell in love with the prospect of going to USC (who thankfully accepted my application). I had a great experience, met a ton of amazing people, and got a top-notch education. In my junior year, my team made it to the NCAA finals. Lo and behold, who did we play for the title but STANFORD?! Needless to say, I was fired up (as was the rest of my team for their own reasons). We took them down in four sets to earn our first National Championship; the next year, we became Back-to-Back National Champions after an undefeated season. Everything happens for a reason – use it. And Fight On, always!
8. I was a pretty good high jumper, good enough to get a few scholarship offers.
I played lots of sports growing up. Volleyball was my favorite, but a close second was track and field. I competed in the long jump, triple jump, and high jump. Basically, I did whatever I could to get out of any training that involved running. I mostly succeeded, which is another reason I loved it so much. I even shocked myself by making the State Championships in my freshman year of high school. It was the best I’d done in any sport up until that point. Some of my favorite memories from high school involve lounging on the high jump mat hanging out with the other track athletes. After practice, of course.
9. I have too many ideas about what I want to do when I’m done with volleyball.
I want to coach – at the pro level, but also at the college and junior college levels, maybe even a developmental national team. I want to go back to school for psychology and become a sports psych. I’d also love to get a degree in nutrition and a certification in personal training to become a health coach. I’ve thought about pursuing high school counseling to work directly with the next generation in an impactful way. I play with the idea of becoming a pilot – I obviously love to travel, I’m fascinated by planes, and it’s an industry lacking in women. I want to run for office at the local, state, or national level to serve my community and affect systemic change. And my adult life’s dream has been to open a coffee shop with my sister in some remote mountain town. Obviously, I cannot do all of these things, but I really wish that I could. I know I’ll have to make some hard decisions in the next couple of years. But to be clear, I have no intention of retiring from beach volleyball anytime soon!