I’m so stoked to be writing this article for AVP and for the opportunity to share a little bit more about myself. I hope you enjoy learning more about my life outside of volleyball.
1. I’m in Law School.
I’m in my second semester of law school, and let’s just say… it’s really freaking hard. But I also love it! I graduated from UCLA in December 2021 and knew I wanted to continue my education, but I wasn’t sure where or what that would look like. I came across LMU’s Evening Law Program and thought it would be a great fit. I took the LSAT on pretty short notice and applied on a whim. I figured I wouldn’t get in this time but would try the following year and learn from the process. And then I got in. I was shocked. Honestly, my first reaction was, “Damn… now I have to go.”
But I’m really glad I decided to go. I only have class twice a week at night, making it manageable to balance with volleyball. Volleyball is my priority and will be for the foreseeable future, but it’s great to have something else to focus on. It helps to take my mind off of volleyball and challenge my brain differently. I also know I can’t play volleyball forever (unless you’re John Hyden, haha). Law is a super versatile degree that can take me in tons of different directions. I’m not sure what life after volleyball will look like, and that’s a long way away, but working in the world of law sounds really exciting.
2. I never really played indoor volleyball.
I took a very non-traditional route to play beach volleyball. No one in my family played volleyball, so I grew up swimming and playing basketball in the San Fernando Valley. In 2012, I watched beach volleyball for the first time at the London Olympics and fell in love. Shortly after, I went to a Sinjin Smith Beach Volleyball Camp in Santa Monica, and it was all beach volleyball from there. Eventually, I joined a beach club where I practiced with only girls. At 13, I played in my first junior CBVA tournament and started working my way up.
It wasn’t until high school that I even considered playing indoor. I only played three seasons of high school indoor and never played club. As a result, I didn’t play college ball and instead worked as a practice player and manager for the UCLA women’s beach program.
There are a lot of positives and negatives to the route I took. There is something to be said about the speed of the indoor game and the power those guys have developed in their swing. But I have had an insane amount of beach reps by 22, far more than almost anyone my age. I also saved my body from years of pounding on the hard court. Hopefully, that means I can play this sport for a long time to come.
3. I’m a complete nerd.
I have no shame in admitting this, but I’m a complete nerd in all aspects of life. Whether it’s trivia, politics, Harry Potter, or even school, I geek out. In middle and high school, I competed in Academic Decathlon and had an absolute blast doing it. There is something so fun about pushing my brain and seeing how much I can learn.
I also have a weird fascination with politics. I have my opinions, of course, but I’m more obsessed with the behind-the-scenes stuff. Election nights are my absolute favorite. On multiple occasions, I have stayed up until 1 or 2 am crunching numbers, checking the polls, and all sorts of other crazy stuff. I could see myself working in politics once my volleyball career comes to an end; it’s just so interesting.
I am also a huge fan of Jeopardy. I almost religiously watch it when I’m home. My trivia skills aren’t great, but I love seeing how many questions I can get right. And then there is my love of those “nerdy” movies and books: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Ranger’s Apprentice, and anything Marvel. I would binge those movies and books all day if I could.
4. I’m obsessed with dogs.
I absolutely love dogs! I’m that guy who asks to pet every dog that walks by. I can’t get enough of them. I have a four-year-old pitbull/German shepherd/golden retriever mix at home named Pandi, and she is the best. She is obsessed with balls and chews on toys all day. She’s a crazy ball of energy, but I’m so thankful to have her.
5. I have traveled to more countries than I have states.
I didn’t realize this until somebody pointed it out recently, but I thought this was a crazy stat. Currently, I have been to 31 countries and 23 states. I was very lucky to be introduced to travel at a young age by my parents. We went on some pretty epic trips when I was younger. My favorite was probably the medical mission trip we took to Ecuador with Faces of Tomorrow. (If you haven’t heard of this organization, I urge you to take a look!) From there, we continued to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu in Peru. It was an unforgettable trip.
But most places I have visited have been due to this awesome sport. I made my first USAV Beach junior travel team when I was 18, and I got absolutely hooked on playing World Tour events. Since then, I’ve been so lucky to have had the opportunity to play all over the world and experience incredible cultures.
6. I love to bake and cook.
I got really into cooking when I was about 12 years old from watching the Food Network. I went through a phase where I thought I would be a chef. I even spent a night working for a Food Network chef in his restaurant. But like most phases at that age, it wore off over time. It wasn’t until Covid that I got back into baking and cooking. My favorite things to make are Pad Thai, Arroz Chaufa, flourless chocolate cake, and brown butter chocolate chip cookies.
Something else I’ve found that is super fun is experimenting with gluten-free baking. Since I’m gluten-free, my baked goods consumption is often limited. So I love whipping things up that (in my opinion) taste just as good as a regular baked good.
I think the biggest reason I love to cook is that I find it relaxing and a way to get my mind off the craziness of everyday life. In the kitchen, I feel like I can unwind and take a deep breath.
7. I love reality TV.
I have a straight obsession with reality TV, and that’s probably not a good thing. But I love binge-watching all types of reality TV; it’s my vice. I’ll watch any type of reality TV: Too Hot to Handle, The Mole, Indian Matchmaking, Big Brother…sign me up!
Survivor and Amazing Race are my all-time favorite reality shows. During Covid, I binge-watched ten seasons of Survivor. I would love to be on either show one day, but there is no way in hell I could endure Survivor. I like eating too much, and there is no way you are getting me to sleep outside on the ground for a month. I love the show, but I also know myself. I’m too much of a wimp.
8. I competed in the 2018 Youth Olympics.
In 2014, a year after I started playing beach volleyball for real, the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, were held. My friend, and fellow AVP player, Zana Muno, competed in the 2014 games. Zana and I went to the same high school, and I thought she was the coolest person ever. From then on, I made it my goal to qualify for the 2018 games.
The Youth Olympics is a sporting event held by the IOC every four years for athletes aged 14 to 18. In 2018, the games were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My good friend John Schwengel and I qualified to represent the USA. It goes down as one of my proudest achievements.
We spent almost three weeks living in the Athletes’ Village with 4,000 other athletes from around the world across 32 sports. I made lifelong friends I still speak to frequently and get to see on the World Tour. From playing cards with my German friends, to breakdance battles in the courtyards, to meeting athletes from North Korea, it was a truly life-changing event that showed me just how cool sports are. No matter what country you are from or what tensions exist between countries, sports are a powerful tool to bring the world together. And I think that is pretty freaking cool.
9. I’m an only child.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no. He’s an only child.” We tend to get a bad rap, and many stereotypes accompany it. I’ll be the first to admit that I fall into some of those stereotypes at times. But I like to think only children aren’t all that bad.
Most people don’t like being an only child. I get it. Many times, I’ve said to myself, “Wow, I’d love to have a sibling right about now.” But all in all, I have loved being an only child.
Most importantly, being an only child has allowed me to get very close to my parents since it has only been the three of us my whole life. Of course, we fight and get on each other’s nerves, but I’m so blessed to have spent so much time with them. They are my rock and my biggest supporters. They never doubted me and did everything in their power to help me reach my goals. We have been through a lot together, and I have learned an incredible amount from their examples. For that, I am forever grateful.