I’ve surmised before that I believe Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena’s 2020 domination is in part due to their extended time at home. Phil further encouraged my hypothesis with his precious Instagram post thanking his wife Jen for her part in his 100 wins. After that, I decided to go straight to the source for confirmation. I called Jen Dalhausser after the Wilson Cup Final and got the scoop on life with Phil, both pre and post-Covid.
Jen and Phil were actually introduced by Nick Lucena and his wife Brooke Niles. Brooke and Jen were friends, and when Phil was single and ready to mingle, Brooke suggested one of her cute waitress friends – Jen. “After our first kiss, I was like, ‘Dang. I want to kiss him for a loooong time.’ I just knew.” Luckily Phil knew, too. He proposed nine months after they met and they married a year later.
For Jen, Phil has always just been Phil, not Gold Medalist volleyball superstar Phil Dalhausser. “I didn’t realize so many people knew who he was,” she admits. Early on, one of Phil’s friends, AVP athlete Adam Roberts, tried to impress Jen with Phil’s Gold Medal. “And I was like, ‘I mean that’s cool, but what is that gonna do for me? Congratulations to you, but that ain’t gonna do nothin’ for me!'” she laughs. “Phil still gives me crap for it.”
Jen was uninterested in the prestige around her superstar man, even though she plays beach. “I watch women’s volleyball,” she says. “At the time, Misty and Kerri were who was important to me in the volleyball world.” Jen was unprepared for sycophants trying to get in with her to get to Phil, and for all the questions she’d get from people asking what it was like to be with him. “That part weirded me out.”
Eventually, she got used to the strangeness of people knowing who she was before she met them and creeps trying to befriend her to get closer to her husband. “I don’t really care,” she says. “I understand. For some people, it’s the one chance they get to get closer to someone they idolize. It doesn’t upset me.” For Jen, their relationship has always been about Phil the man – her best friend, confidante, and partner. “Life has been great; he’s my Prince Charming. He’s just an incredible human being in general.”
Though Phil and Jen met, married, and started their relationship in California, the Dalhaussers now live in Orlando, FL. When their kids were small, and they were looking for a house, Jen couldn’t get Florida out of her mind. Phil’s family was there, Nick lived in Tallahassee, and Jen was ready to put down roots somewhere that made sense for their family. “I was like, ‘Why don’t we just move to Orlando?'” Jen says. “And he was like, ‘WHAT?!? Are you serious?'” They flew out, drove around with some of Phil’s friends, picked a neighborhood, and bought a home.
The decision was good for both the Dalhaussers and Nick and Brooke’s family. Nick had been living in California for months at a time while Brooke and their kids were at home in Tallahassee coaching at FSU. Now that both men are in Florida, their training regimen provides much more time at home, something that’s proven to be very good for Phil and Nick. We can all see it – Covid Phil and Nick are unstoppable.
In Jen’s words, quarantine “was a dream come true.” Though she’s laughing, she’s not kidding. “We happen to like each other a lot.” The couple has enjoyed reconnecting, and Phil values his time with his kids so highly that being quarantined with them for months has been a joy. He’s also gotten a (much needed) break from the volleyball rollercoaster he’s been on for the last 18 years. “Phil put it perfectly a couple of months ago. It’s almost like a candle wick. His wick is shorter, as far as getting burnt out quicker. Nick’s is really long; Nick can play volleyball and not get burnt out. So I think this was a huge blessing in disguise for Phil to get that time off to refuel him in the way he needed mentally.
“I think coaching, too.” she continues. “We opened a club right before the quarantine… perfect timing. But since we’ve been allowed to practice, he’s been doing most of the coaching. And I think that makes you an even better player. Even though he wasn’t practicing five days a week with Nick, he was still out there getting those touches of swinging at the kids, teaching them how to pass. That just made him even better.”
Quarantine has been a glimpse into the future, the kind of life they’ll have once Phil retires (whenever that may be; even the Dalhaussers don’t know). “It’s so nice to have him home,” Jen says. “This summer has pretty much been the first summer we’ve had him home this much. It’s so nice having my partner around.” It’s also opened their eyes to the potential of their club. Phil is a phenomenal coach and is being fulfilled by the experience. Phil Dalhausser Beach Volleyball Academy is providing an opportunity for boys and girls in Orlando to play beach volleyball. “It’s so cool to watch. I really think we’re going to make Orlando the next place for beach volleyball.”
I’m stoked to hear that even after Phil is done playing, he’ll still impart his volleyball wisdom on the next generation. He and Jen, along with a few other well-trained coaches, plan to grow the game from the East Coast. “Coaching has revitalized him, just given him new life in the sport,” Jen says. “It’s sad to say, but after a point, it becomes less passionate and more of a job. I mean he’s been doing it for 18 years. But I definitely think coaching is helping the passion come back. Especially when you deal with kids. If kids don’t speak to your soul, then I don’t know how much of a soul you have. I mean the joy they have! They’re so excited, and it’s hard not to feed off that energy.”
So I was partially right – Phil is playing some of his best volleyball because his soul is rejuvenated. He has coaching to thank for part of that, but Jen and the kids to thank for most of it.