How to Acclimate to a New Partner

So your inquiry was successful. The pregnant pauses between texts were just busy-ness or naps; your desired partner wasn’t blowing you off. You’ve landed yourself a new boo. It’s time to figure out what the heck happens next.  

I’ve played with 14 women in 32 AVP tournaments. I have to say – each person was completely different, each experience something wholly new and relatively unpredictable. Acclimating to a new partner is fun! But there are also some growing pains and many questions that will arise. 

Here are a few to address upfront, or at least be aware of, before you embark into the blissful honeymoon phase with your newly acquired partner. 

  1. Are you a texter or caller? 
  2. Do you take forever to respond? Are you a 10-minute or less texter? Somewhere in between? 
  3. Who will be the one to set up practices with other teams? 
  4. On court:
    1. Are you a big talker? Suffer-in-silence person? 
    2. Do you call your set? Do you want me to call mine? 
    3. Between points: are we high-fiving, hugging, neither? Does it depend on if we won the point or not? Are you a celebrator? Are you a yeller? Are you known for being a yeller? 
    4. If you’re down, do you want me to encourage you? If I’m down, are you going to encourage me? Is your encouragement gentle or a kick in the pants? 
    5. Do you call the ball in or out or expect me to have the court awareness to know? Are you gonna switch our defensive scheme in the middle of the play? Are you good at calling where I hit/shoot the ball? 
  1. Whose coach will you be using? How many times a week will you go with them? Will they travel with us? Will you break film down together? 
  2. What kind of set do you like? High and tight? Low and off a little? Back sets? Will you come to me or kick out to the antenna? Or do you prefer to pass middle and move to the pass for a medium height set, harkening back to your glory days of being a middle blocker? (Just me?)
  3. What time do you arrive to practice? Some people are a 30-minute before type of player, with all the equipment and bands for warmups. Others roll out of their car with one minute to spare and are ready to throw. A few others are perpetually late, blaming traffic, the dog, street sweeping (which never changes, people), or a variety of other reasons.
  4. How do you warm up? Note: There are endless ways to warm up and many schools of thought. Thinking this may be my next How-To article.
  1. There’s typically one partner who is more travel savvy than the other. The one that leads the flight selection, hotel reservations, and maybe even plans a few fun restaurants to try. 
  2. What time do you arrive at the airport? Do you need to be at the departure zone two hours before takeoff? Are you Pre-Check certified and basically walking from security straight onto the jetbridge? Somewhere in between? 
  3. Do you have airline status? Or a preferred airline? How committed to said airline are you? Side note: if you haven’t signed up for an account with each airline to make sure you earn miles/status every time you fly, do it now! It’s free and gets you comped flights over time. I regretfully missed out on thousands of miles in college by not signing up.
  4. Do you like to practice right when you land? Or get settled in the hotel? Or grab a bite? Do you need to practice before the tournament, or would you rather rest? 
  5. Do you sleep with a fan (yes, please)? TV on (bleh)? Earbuds? 
  6. Are you clean or messy? Do you keep your suitcase tidy and/or zipped, or are all your clothes, dirty and clean, scattered about the room? Do you unpack your suitcase? The correct answer: two or fewer days, keep it packed. Four or more, unpack it. Three – dealer’s choice.  
  7. Are you early to bed early to rise? Or a night owl? Will you be loud while you’re awake, or have you adapted to cohabitating with a hotel mate?  
  8. Do you wake up right when your alarm goes off? Are you a snooze button pusher? Or the worst kind – do you not wake up at all, and I have to go over to your bedside table and turn the alarm off? I’ve done that with at least two of my 14 partners; won’t say who. 
  9. Do you eat breakfast? Is a hotel breakfast adequate?
  10. Are you a healthy eater? Do our eating habits align? Will we like the same restaurants? Are you an adventurous, when-in-Rome eater? Will you make me eat street meat? Will you hold my hair back if we get food poisoning? 
  11. Are you a snacker? Do we need to find a grocery store to buy snacks? Do you share snacks? Are you going to be asking for my snacks all weekend? 
  12. Are you an adventurer? Do you like to sightsee a little or stay totally focused on the tournament? 
  13. Are you a coffee drinker? Is hotel coffee adequate? Are you a coffee snob (no judgment; I am, too)? How many cups/liters a day? 
  14. Did you pre-plan where we will eat, grab coffee, or stuff to see/do?
  15. Are you comfortable with public transit? Are you an Uber or Lyft person? Are you a car renter? If the venue is more than a 15-minute walk, will you want to drive? Are you the kind of person who opens their Uber app and pretends like they’re going to call it but is really waiting out the other person to see who is more impatient and ready to leave and will hit the button first and therefore be responsible for the fare?  
  16. Are you a pay for everything yourself person? Or a split down the middle? Or an “I got this one, you get the next one, it’ll all come out in the wash” person? Are you frugal? Are you cheap? Are you gonna want to go to pricey restaurants for the experience? Are you only gonna want inexpensive fast food because you’re barely making ends meet? Are you going to buy groceries and only eat those all weekend instead of restaurant food? 
  17. Do you stay at the AVP venue when we’re done for the day to hang out, or do you head straight to the hotel? 
  18. Do you go out once we lose? Do you go out before we lose? If we lose prematurely, do you head home right away or stay in the city until Sunday night/Monday morning? 
  1. Are you a different person during a match than you are in practice/life? Will you yell in our opponents’ faces? Will you yell in my face? 
  2. Do you go for the middle ball or me? Or does it depend on other variables like the wind, opponents, and strategy? 
  3. How do you warm up for a match? How long? Same as practice or something different? Does it differ between AVP, FIVB, and CBVA?
  4. Are you captain? Am I the captain? Am I calling heads or tails? 
  5. Do you argue with referees? Do you like to talk to them at all? Will you make me argue with them if I’m captain? 
  6. Are you going to register us for the tournament? Will I? Will you promptly Venmo me the entry fee? 
  1. Are you friends with other players on Tour? Do you want to hang out with them? 
  2. Are you dating anyone on Tour? Were you dating anyone on Tour? Are you trying to date someone on Tour? Currently texting with, sporadically hooking up with, or want to be with anyone on Tour? Anyone we should avoid for similar reasons? Is it a secret? Ooh, I like secrets.
  3. Do you have any enemies on Tour? Do you have a vendetta against your former partner? 
  4. Are we going to be friends? Do you want to hang out outside of volleyball? Do you like me? 

Most importantly, and similarly to communication in a healthy relationship, keep an open mind. Just because you may communicate, practice, or travel differently doesn’t mean you aren’t meant for each other. Success comes from understanding and accepting how your partner operates. And then figuring out how to compromise on major differences. 

I’m thinking of two of the most successful AVP partnerships of all time – Phil Dalhausser/Todd Rogers and Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh-Jennings. All extremely unique personalities that didn’t always see eye to eye. But they worked together better than all the rest despite their differences. Talk about #relationshipgoals.