Welcome back, Internet, to another fabulous segment of “Tuesdays with Avatar”. And sorry if you got left hanging last Tuesday; I was trying to battle the “Great Firewall of China” while playing in Shanghai and I couldn’t communicate effectively with people back home. I’m really excited to be writing this third post, especially after all of the great feedback I’ve gotten from the first two entries. There is nothing quite like a nice “Oh jeez, not this guy again.” or “Why can’t we have someone ranked in the top 10 doing the interviews?” to liberate the creative juices. (I’m kidding, I haven’t gotten any feedback at all on these articles and have no idea if people actually read them)
Our third team on the “Hot Seat” is Stafford Slick and Adrian Carambula.
(Have you guys figured out that I’m not good at putting pictures on here yet? I always have to resize them and then they get all blurry. Thank God I am good with words and writing and stuff)
I’m looking forward to chatting with this team, as I’ve gotten to know and like each of these guys a lot more over the past season. Stafford played on the indoor club team at the University of Minnesota before bringing his athleticism to California to pursue beach volleyball. Adrian resides in Florida, where he can practice his skyball and ridiculous cutty in perpetual gail force winds. As a team that only played 5 AVP events together last year, they have four “Top 5” finishes, including a semi-finals appearance at the Santa Barbara Open. They are also one of the more exciting and entertaining teams to watch on the AVP Tour.
Avatar: Gentlemen, thanks for talking with me. Adrian, let’s start with you. Your nickname is “Ace”. Are you a big gambler, or is that a reference to the chain of hardware stores?
Adrian Carambula: It’s definitely a reference to the store (35% discount if you use my promo code) and loving to bet/compete in just about everything outside of casinos, of course.
Avatar: Stafford, you got married this off-season. Coincidentally, the AVP’s female fan-base dropped 60% the following day. Is there anything you plan to do this year on tour to make up for all those broken hearts?
Stafford Slick: I did get married! Just over 2 weeks ago, to be exact. Tied the knot with my high school sweet heart, my best friend, and greatest inspiration. She even consented to postponing our honeymoon so I could start off the 2014 season with 3 weeks away competing in NORCECA and FIVB events. I get the sense that I am already way behind on “good husband” points. Regarding the female fan-base; I figured your Tinder account would have seen a 60% increase in interest, has this not happened?
Avatar: I’ve been banned from Tinder for being too creepy, which is kinda impressive, considering how creepy that app is as a whole. Also, during the wedding, which of these hairstyles did your sponsor, Paul Mitchell, hook you up with? http://dailyoftheday.com/guys-fancy-lady-hair/
SS: These are unreal, and definitely worth exploring, but I went for the do-it-yourself updo. A ‘man bun’ as I call it, pretty similar to what I wear on the court. To be honest, I was actually surprised at how many people asked, with very real concern, what I was going to do with my hair. For me, it was never really much of an issue. Julie did mandate that it was ‘up’ however.
Avatar: Ace, you are well-known for having the best skyball in the game. (As well as being one of the premier personalities and entertainers while you play) What made you develop that as your serve of choice?
AC: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s my serve of choice but I for sure test it out early in the match and get feedback from the game itself. If it’s windy, I feel like I can really get it going and get players uncomfortable. (Anyone who denies their level of “ uncomfortability “ is lying J ) The crowd also loves to watch tall people dance.
Avatar: Well, I’m great at passing skyballs, so I wouldn’t even bother giving me any if we play this year. (Please don’t give me any if we play this year) Stafford, aside from volleyball, you work at the Fusion Academy in Hermosa Beach. What made you want to work in education?
SS: I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in Psych and a MA in Educational Psychology, with an emphasis in counseling and student personnel psychology. I had a wonderful guidance counselor in junior high school who was a true mentor and support system for me. The desire to one day “return what I was given” has driven me to pursue a career in education. I’ve worked at Fusion Academy-South Bay for 3 years. I’ve met some incredible kids, and in this environment I get to pay it forward, by serving as their mentor and support system. It’s pretty special!
Avatar: I feel bad for those kids. I mean, one-to-one student/teacher ratios? Who are you supposed to pass notes to, the janitor? Adrian, your bio says that you are born in “Uruguay”. Is that a real place, or is that like saying you are from Middle Earth or Pandora?
AC: LOL – Yes, I am from Uruguay. We are a small little country with roughly 3 million in population. Everyone should go down there and have fun with the locals, even though they will ask for your shoes or camera if you bring one so just be careful. I am also an Italian citizen.
Avatar: Italian, huh? Thank you for inventing the ice cream cone. Living in Florida, how would you compare the east coast and west coast volleyball scenes?
AC: For me, Florida feels like home. Maybe that’s because I live here, but also because of the people. The volleyball community is super tight, we all get along and we do a ton of things for each other…feels like family. California feels different for me. Everyone seems to be a little too cool and I just can’t stand when they use the word “GNARLY” or “RAD” in every other sentence. But, I do have a group of rad people on the west coast that I really like and consider friends, so in reality there is a little bit of everything everywhere you go.
Avatar: Well, if you, Phil, Nick, and I form a 4’s team, I think we’d be pretty gnarly. Stafford, same question: How would you compare the volleyball on the west coast and your home state of Minneso…BAHAHAHA. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t keep a straight face. But really, how did you find your way out of the Mall of America and onto a beach volleyball court?
SS: Easy Jersey Shore… You know just as well as I do that there are great players all over the ‘Merica. Minnesota is no exception! There is a tight knit community of volley fanatics (indoor and beach alike) in the Twin Cities. I started playing beach after college, during summers at the Lake Calhoun courts in Minneapolis. From there, I’d play in the local SAVA events, and eventually found myself, on a whim, road-tripping with my father to a USA Beach High Performance tryout in Muskegon, Michigan in 2009. I landed a spot on the High Performance training team that summer. Traveled to Hermosa for a 2 week camp in June, and I was hooked. I booked my one-way ticket to LAX in October of that year.
Avatar: If you keep making Jersey Shore jokes, we might have ourselves a Situation. (See what I did there?) Stafford, what is something people don’t know about Adrian?
SS: : Last year in St. Pete, Adrian gave me a swift kick on the butt after earning a big point in a match. He woke up Sunday morning and told me that we might have to forfeit our match against Nick and Theo, because he could barely walk. Specific diagnosis is still pending, but AVP med staff were pretty sure it was a bone bruise.
Avatar: Glad to hear your trainers at The Yard have gotten good use of their old “Buns of Steel” program. Adrian, you are renting Stafford out to Will Montgomery to compete in various international events. What kind of rate do you charge? Does Will have to pay you per event, or do you just offer Stafford for one flat-fee a year?
AC: Yes, that is correct. Typical beach volleyball relationship, we share the goodies. It is great that he gets to travel the world with a nice guy like Will, competing and getting some gnarly experience…I believe that’s what he needs. I have Stafford send me 3 selfies a week in order overcome the long time away.
SS: : I’ll take this one…Listen, I know you’re just trying to make a name for yourself as an ‘investigatory journalist’, but let’s leave the hard-hitting questions to the people that actually get paychecks for doing this kind of thing.
Avatar: Wait, people get paid to write stuff? THEN WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING THIS FOR? (Flips laptop over, storms out of room) Stafford, what is one goal you have for yourself for the 2014 AVP season?
SS: : I love setting goals as a measure of progression. I am a firm believer that if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse! Last year I set a goal to finish at or above my initial starting seed in every event. Adrian and I managed to do that in each event we played, culminating with a tie at the ‘smart AVP Championships’ finishing in 5th as the No. 5 seed. This year, one of my goals is to improve my blocking. It was a rude awakening when the season ending stats came out and I was approaching the bottom of the list. I’ve been working hard this off-season on fine-tuning that skill set, plus it was sort of a deal breaker with my wife (she was a middle blocker in college).
Avatar: Adrian, what is one reason you and Stafford have played so well in your limited amount of time together?
AC: I attract a pretty decent amount of female fans/viewers to the games which increases Stafford’s vertical by 12% (I’m not kidding). I also believe that our chemistry and ability to balance each other’s strengths/weaknesses is a key factor in our game.
Avatar: Hence the reason I have been wanting to play with Adrian for years. Both guys, what is your favorite thing about volleyball fans?
SS: : I think my favorite aspect of beach volleyball is how accessible we are to fans and vice versa. I love the fact that I can step off the court after a match and walk through a gauntlet of handshakes, high-fives, photo opps, and autograph requests. Our sport is entirely unique in that sense. It’s what makes beach volleyball so special, and it gets at the heart of why we do what we do. We’re all there for the love of the game, and we get to experience it together!
AC: I personally love the drunk wannabe “gnarly” hecklers.
Avatar: That seems like plenty. Thank you to both of these guys for taking time out of their busy days to talk with me, and I’m sorry that I didn’t include more regional slang for you two. (Dale! You betcha!) If any fans want to learn more about these hacks, they should check out Stafford’s Facebook fan page (which he actually updates, unlike every other beach volleyball player) https://www.facebook.com/StaffordSlickProBeachVolleyball or you can read Ace’s bio on the AVP website. (I’m calling B.S. on the 15 pull-ups) https://avp.com/player/adrian-carambula/ I hope all of you enjoyed this peak into the psyche of a couple of world-class volleyball players. But if you didn’t, I don’t really care, because I still made myself laugh thinking about Stafford having fancy lady hair. Check back next Tuesday, but until then you can read my own blog, www.ryan-doherty.com.