Inside The Players’ Tent


We’re all missing the AVP season. 

Sans COVID-19, we’d have just finished the final event in Waikiki. My TimeHop is incredibly depressing right now, daily reminding me of cataloged memories in the last stops of the AVP Pro Tour. 

To assuage my grief, I’ve decided to lean into reminiscing on better times. The mental souvenirs on my mind at the moment are the hours spent in the Players’ Tent. As suggested by the name, “The Tent” is the temporary structure erected in every city to house the athletes between matches during the Main Draw tournaments. It’s a good time in there, except for the awkward moments eating breakfast next to your upcoming opponents or bumping into a former partner. 

Via Instagram @AprilRossBeach

Via Instagram @AprilRossBeach

The Tent is a necessary respite during grueling tourney days. I once played four matches in a day during an MBO Saturday; the Tent housed my recovery, hasty meals, dazed laughs, group texts, and abbreviated naps for 12 hours. 

Every Players’ Tent generally looks the same. There are 8-12 circular tables surrounded by plastic chairs. There’s a vast buffet, normally an L-shape covering two walls displaying an assortment of rotating hot foods, snacks, and beverages. In the last couple of years, Corner Bakery has replenished throughout the day with breakfast burritos, salads, sandwiches, and mouthwatering pastries. Often there are towers of Power Crunch, piles of Barnana, and other sponsored goodies scattered about. There’s coffee and iced tea and water, coolers full of Gatorade (some featuring April Ross’ face!), iced coffee, and protein shakes.

We always have a few clusters of comfy couches and chairs arranged around a TV streaming the Amazon Prime feed. Though we’re enveloped in volleyball, there’s often a small audience watching. The feed is also prime (pun intended) entertainment while getting treatment in the Med Tent – our adjacent oasis of miracle workers and free sunscreen. 

The Tent is always constructed next to the Med Tent. The incomparable Karena Wu oversees the Medical staff in each city, normally a compilation of local chiros, massage therapists, and physical therapists. The Med Tent structure grows and shrinks with the number of athletes in the Main Draw; at the MBO it’s an expansive operation with 20 beds. In a 16-team Draw, the space is more intimate as there are half the amount of competing athletes. I’m sure there’s a formula for how many beds and Med staff there are per athlete, but all I know is I’ve never had to wait more than five minutes. I even continued seeing a massage therapist named David, whom I met at the MBO because he CHANGED MY LIFE with his Flush. 

Oh… the “Flush.” We all visit the Med Tent, sign in, and get treatment for nagging injuries or occasionally more serious ones (knock on wood). But in the absence of something really painful, every AVP athlete knows about the Flush.

A Flush is basically a special code for a certain leg massage – a deep, elbow-grinding-into-your-hammies massage.  If you have no specific injury but feel like a sack of potatoes after your match, go with the Flush. In between matches, a Flush saves your life; those magicians work out all the lactic acid and restore your leaden limbs into something resembling legs. They can be the difference-maker. I dream of those Flushes. 

When you’re done shoveling food into your mouth and seeing the wizards next door, it’s time to relax before your match. Many people lay towels or sarongs in the sand and lie down or elevate their legs in a chair. Some chill and catch up with friends over cups of drip coffee. Others take mini-naps on the cozy couches. 

My preferred zoning out/mind recovery technique is people-watching. And the Tent offers plenty of diverting enjoyment. More times than not, this is what I’m seeing. 

  • Ed Ratledge engaging someone, anyone, in a serious conversation. 
  • Nicolette Arnitz drawing on extra Wilsons. 
  • Casey Patterson and Troy Field having a heated debate on which are the best Christmas movies. I can’t remember their answers but mine are 1. It’s a Wonderful Life 2. Home Alone 3. The Holiday/Love Actually (I can never decide between those two). 
  • Kelly Reeves documenting something with choice commentary. 
  • Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena’s families. Technically, the Tent is only for athletes and coaches, but phenoms like Nick and Phil, who make it to Sunday every tournament, often bring their wives and cute kids in for a snack, and no one cares. 
  • Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes watching film with coach Scott Davenport. 
  • Someone checking bvbinfo.com to see how much money they just made by winning their last match. 
  • Small groups of people watching the Prime feed and talking trash. 
  • This last one makes me sad. You could always count on Eric Zaun to be pouring the free snacks into his backpack. He was always trying to save a buck. The first time I met Zaun was in the living room of a mutual friend. He opened his bag, and about 30 Kind bars spilled out. I asked him if he was sponsored by Kind, and he was like, “Oh no, man. I just grabbed all these from a tournament. They’re the only things I’ve eaten in the last few days.” #legend 

There are endless stories I’ve remembered and forgotten, but there’s something almost sacred about the Tent that’s holding me back from divulging more. There’s a camaraderie, a promise that we’re safe within those temporary canvas walls. It’s the only place we have to ourselves on-site, and as such, it’s our home. 


Category: Athlete Stories

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