Last month I started Reach the Beach — a series highlighting AVP athletes that have left their non-beach homes and moved to Southern California in pursuit of their professional beach volleyball dreams. I then reached out to Betsi Flint, a five-time AVP Champion, LMU Assistant Coach, and Arizona native, for her story. Betsi found success early and often in her career. At only 27 years old, we can expect to see plenty more miles out of Betsi. But where did it all start?
BF – I grew up in a small town in South Dakota and moved to Arizona when I was in sixth grade going from a class size of 15 to 300 — it was a major adjustment! I grew up a tomboy, playing all sports and wanting to be just like my older brother. I always chose his hand-me-downs over my sister’s. Just picture middle-school Betsi in basketball shorts and baggy t-shirts every day.
My first year of beach volleyball was in eighth grade through leagues in the Arizona Region. My partner and I were TERRIBLE!! But my dedicated mom still drove me to tournaments all around Arizona to watch me struggle. Going into high school, I started playing with my best friend Anna Gott, who now coaches indoor at NAU. We had such a good time, and I was slowly getting better, figuring out the game. The Arizona Region definitely provided a solid platform for us to compete on the sand.
As a freshman, I fell out of love with basketball and head over heels for volleyball. High school volleyball was intense at my school – in the summer we’d push tires in the sand, sprint the football field, or run timed long-distance “thunder-runs.” We also Olympic lifted and competed at open gyms. We worked hard, and it paid off for me — I made Varsity my freshman year, which is not easy. And all that work prepared me well for college.
Throughout high school, I really loved playing beach volleyball, and I knew I wanted to be at a school in California where I could play in tournaments all summer. Compared to others, I was recruited late. I got offered to go to a few schools during my sophomore year, but I was 15 years old, and I didn’t know what I wanted—not to mention I’m an indecisive person. I took my time and was fortunate enough that a scholarship position opened up at LMU. I had heard great things about the new coaches they just brought in — specifically Tom Black who was an assistant with the USA National Team and recently the head coach for Team Canada’s National team and the University of Georgia. I also couldn’t resist living two miles from the beach. I chose LMU, and am so glad I did.
The summer after my freshman year, I couch-surfed and played in any CBVA tournament with any partner I could. And not just locally — I played in Santa Barbara and down in San Diego, too. I packed my entire dorm into my car, so anytime I needed clothes or socks, I would just go to the car to find them. Always be prepared! It was wild summer full of volleyball, but so much fun and I got much better.
My sophomore year of college, beach volleyball became an emerging sport through the AVCA, and thankfully LMU joined. It was a dream come true to play both indoor and beach in college. I grew so much as a player in those three college seasons I played, and it definitely prepared me mentally to play at the professional level. I learned a ton at LMU, especially the importance of proper fundamentals and mental skills through our sports psychologists. Prioritizing the mental game prepared me more than I ever thought to play at the professional level from year one. LMU is also where I met my current coach, John Mayer.
Being coached by John is awesome. He seems like a quiet guy before you know him, but he’s clear, decisive, and direct as a coach. He’s an expert at giving feedback, but he’d never say that because he is so humble. I’m also currently his assistant coach at LMU. I’m grateful to have him on my side, giving me tons of feedback in practice and through film sessions as well as life and volleyball advice. He really is the best beach coach I know; if you ever have an opportunity to learn from him—do it!
So if you couldn’t tell, I LOVE LMU! Volleyball is a huge reason, but the main reason is that I met my husband Chase there. He played basketball, and we were good friends for a while before we started dating, which built a strong foundation as a couple. Two years later, he proposed at a lifeguard station in Playa del Rey, and we got married after our senior year, before starting our fifth years of eligibility in grad school.
If you know Chase, you know he is incredibly funny, selfless, and one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet. He’s always helping practices run smoothly by shagging balls, keeping score, or stepping in if someone cancels. He is the first one I talk to after practices, matches, and is the only person I can face after a loss — he has played basketball at a high level and is just as competitive as I am, so he knows my pain and what to say. He is my rock, and I am so thankful each and every day that I have him in my life.
He also was 100% supportive of me staying in California to pursue beach volleyball. Going into my fifth year at LMU, I played in two AVP tournaments and qualified for both — one with Kelley Larsen, who was my opponent on the Pepperdine beach team, but my partner for a U23 World Champ event in 2014. Immediately after I graduated LMU, I called Kelley to see if she wanted to play in AVP New Orleans two weeks from then. We signed up, played in the qualifier and LOST the final round to get in. We were heartbroken, ate some beignets, then won the “stay and play” event the next day, earning us a few more AVP points.
We committed to playing the rest of the AVPs, and with each tournament, we got better finishes. We started the season not even qualifying, and after a 9th, a 7th, a 5th, we WON the AVP Cincinnati, making us the youngest team at the time to win an AVP! It was a miracle; we’d faced some crazy weather that tournament and beat a couple of tough teams to get where we were.
Going into AVP Cincinnati final, I was prepared. I remember getting advice from players in the tent to just “enjoy the moment.” We had John Mayer warm us up, and honestly, it felt like I had been there before. I had put in the mental work to be there. Looking back now, it’s incredible how much I didn’t know and was still able to find success. It’s so fun to look back and enjoy the work I put in to get where I am today, and reminds me that I always have room to grow and learn.
Kelley and I had NO family or friends in Cincinnati, and we had to change our flights because we didn’t think we would make it that far. I remember going to warm up on stadium and security stopped us from going in, saying, “you can’t be here.” So funny. After our match, we had a huge line to sign autographs. So surreal. Then we rushed off to our flight and accidentally stole the trophy! This was before the AVP gave the winners their own trophy; instead they engraved names of winners on one big one. So we took it with us before the men’s final, and Donald Sun had to run after us to ask for it back for the men’s final. So bummed!
We didn’t really know what winning meant, but looking back — that was so special. We were just two young girls trying to play as much as we could. It wasn’t until that point that I realized I could do this professionally. And I’m so glad I stuck with it.
Fast forward almost five years, and I’m happily partnered with my great friend, Emily Day. Playing with Emily is so much fun! We have our Lion connection as LMU alumni, and before I knew her, I looked up to her knowing she was a stud athlete and AVP pro who came from my school. I reached out and asked for advice, which she lovingly gave. Emily helped me put together sponsorship packages, sent me a nutrition plan, and tried to help whenever I would ask.
When we had the opportunity to play together, I was beyond stoked. Through all of our success, we’ve had a ton of fun and grown close. Emily is so fun to travel with. We make an effort to do one adventurous thing before (or after) a tournament. In typical Emily fashion, she organizes options and gives me a “presentation” to decide which one we are going to do. She’s easy to get along with, and we have a good time when we are off the court which gives us that on-court chemistry we need to succeed. I’ve learned that Emily is super competitive, loves learning and getting better, is the most caring person I know, and is a great friend to so many people.
Reaching the beach is due to so many positive influences that have helped me succeed in this sport. I wouldn’t be where I am today without ALL of these people in my life — Chase, John, Emily, Kelley, my mom, my siblings, etc. I am so grateful to have an amazing support system in my life.