I thought it would be easy to write an article about Mark Schuermann. Turns out, it was about as easy as spelling his last name—it takes a lot of letters to write what’s pronounced “Sherman,” and Mark needs a lot of words to encompass who he is.
Full disclosure: Mark and I have been dating for a year and a half, and were best friends for a year before that. He’s my favorite person on the planet, so my feelings about him are deeply biased.
But, that doesn’t mean he’s not supremely fascinating. Mark is one of the smartest people I know. He was Valedictorian in high school, is stellar with both numbers and words, and has a brain that works astoundingly fast. Just try to watch Wheel of Fortune with him—Mark solves puzzles in half the time it takes the contestants (or me). He’s also a Jeopardy savant; not only does he record and watch every single episode, but he answers many and often obscure clues correctly.
Mark’s life is thrilling. He flies an average of 120,000 miles a year for both work and play, and he enjoys every second of it. It’s not uncommon to look over at Mark’s phone and see him checking his Marriott or Delta apps (which I ruthlessly tease him about). When he’s not working and home in Hermosa, his schedule is wide open. This leaves plenty of time for him to play golf (which he does as much as any retired executive), organize game days with his guys, or take weekend trips with his cool girlfriend (yay, that’s me!).
I remember the first time I was truly impressed with Mark—it was watching him work at the AVP New York in 2017. He instinctively knew when to interject and when to let the game play itself out. More than once, I’ve seen him both announcing in the stadium and also commentating on Amazon. Can you imagine that? Pumping up thousands of people live while also intelligently analyzing the game for tens of thousands more online. Could you be quick enough to respond to what’s going on in the match, educate the crowd about unknown rules, and make people laugh? For ten hours a day, three days in a row? Nope. I couldn’t.
Mark and I chatted this past Sunday morning over coffee in my living room. Even though I knew most of his story, he included anecdotes I’d never heard and kept it entertaining. That’s just the way Mark is; always a good time, always captivating. I had to split his interview into two articles because he offered so much rich content (check back in the coming months for a piece on his Olympic involvement in Rio and Tokyo with DJ Roueche and longtime AVP Producer Kelly Reed).
But for now, let’s just get to know a little more about the Voice of the AVP, Mark Schuermann.
You grew up in Las Vegas. How did volleyball find you there?
I started playing indoor volleyball as a freshman in high school. It was the year Shadow Ridge opened, and all the sports were starting new. There was only one guy, Josh Shea, who had ever played volleyball. My Economics teacher, Christian Augustin, was the volleyball coach. I was already the height I am now—like 6’2, 6’3—so I was one of the taller kids in class. He got me to…okay, he made me…try out, and I fell in love with it.
So you learned indoor and fell in love with the game. But how did you learn about beach volleyball?
That first summer, I started going out to Butterfly Park and playing beach. I found the group of guys that played in Vegas – Range, Paolo, Colonel Mike, Air Force Joe, Todd…who’s still in my phone as “Todd Beach”—just great guys that taught me the game. I started going out to California to play CBVAs. The very first one I played in was an old-school rules AA. Aaron and I lost our first game in pool play 15-0. I was like, “Welp… Welcome to California.” But, I wouldn’t tell that story unless we made it out of pool; we won our next two games and made it to the quarterfinals.
When did you see your first AVP tournament?
I started watching it on TV in the summer of 2005 and volunteered to be a ball boy at the AVP King/Queen of the Beach in Vegas that September. Now that I think about it, 17-years-old is maybe a little old to be a ball boy. But I was so in love with beach volleyball, so who cares? And that was the tournament that Rosie did his Vegas Line.
What? You got to see Vegas Line? (At this, I actually gasped. Sean Rosenthal’s Vegas Line is legendary)
I wasn’t working that match, so I saw it from the stands. It was a bit of a tight set from Jake [Gibb], and I’m pretty sure he was hitting against Mike Lambert. Somehow Rosie gets to the ball before Lambo and cranks it crossbody down the line like four-foot line. 🤯 I’m sure DJ Roueche did his Superman sound effect. Maybe that’s where he created it.
Amazing. Okay, so how did you end up in California from Vegas?
There were two things I wanted after high school – to go to college and to keep playing indoor volleyball. Well, make it three things. I also wanted to be by the beach. So I applied to Pepperdine and Long Beach State and got into both, but eventually decided I wanted to go the Junior College route instead…I had no idea what I wanted to study and I wasn’t THAT good at indoor. I went on a SoCal trip with my mom and visited three schools. There was something about John Mayer and Santa Monica College (SMC). I loved his attitude, loved the campus, loved that it was in Santa Monica in the heart of beach volleyball. And Billy Allen was the Assistant, so I’d be coached by two up-and-coming AVP pros.
So you went to SMC, but you graduated from Cal State, Northridge (CSUN). How did you decide to go there?
I’d taken an Intro to Broadcast class at SMC because everybody always joked with me about my voice. I fell in love with it in the first five minutes. So I decided to go to a broadcast school for my Bachelors Degree. I narrowed it down between Pepperdine, USC, and CSUN, but I didn’t want to pay $40,000 a year. So I picked CSUN. And I’m so glad I did—great program, great professors.
After graduating, you had a few different gigs, but nothing permanent. How did you get linked up with the AVP?
Like all my gigs, it started with a connection. I texted John Mayer in 2015 when there was an opening for the job, and he directed me to Jeff Conover (Tournament Director at the time and another CSUN grad), who put me in touch with Donald Sun (the AVP owner). The interview went great. I think the moment I got the job was after Donald’s last question, “When we need you to get the crowd pumped up on Sunday for NBC, why will they listen to you?” I answered off of instinct and said, “Because they’re going to know me. I’m not just going to be in the booth all day long. I’m going to be in the crowd chatting with them on Friday and Saturday, making friends. And when they hear me talk on Sunday, they’re going to want to react because I’m gonna be their friend.” So I think that’s what got me the job.
2020 will be your sixth season as the Voice of the AVP. What has changed between that first season and now?
I’ve grown with the AVP in the sense that when the AVP was in their reformative years, I was in my formative years. People have relearned what the AVP is as they’ve also learned who I am and gotten to know me as the announcer.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
Getting to interact with people. And having the freedom to do whatever I want. I’ll go hang out with somebody in the crowd, or I’ll purposefully talk over a song DJ Roueche likes so he mutes my mic, or I’ll sit in the player’s booth and chat with their coach during the match. I have free rein. I can make the referee throw a ball in the crowd, and there is nothing Big Wave Dave (a veteran AVP ref) can do about it. Because if he doesn’t throw a ball in the stands, then the crowd doesn’t like him—so good luck with that, Big Wave Dave.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Just the length of the weekend. It’s nonstop from Friday morning to Sunday when the final ball drops. It’s the mental acuity and staying focused for that long—eight or nine matches a day for three days, always being “on.” As DJ Roueche and I have chatted about, we never really have a mental break; we always need to know what’s going on. Even if I’m not saying something, I’m paying attention. But I realized not everything that happens needs to be accompanied by something from the announcer or DJ. Sometimes you just let it happen. With that being said, I still want to know everything that happened. That way I can get the vibe and flow of the game, can feel the crowd so I can add to it in the best way.
Is it totally instinctual when you decide to say something on the mic?
I react to the game on the mic as I would if I were just watching in the stands. There are times when I haven’t said something for a while and decide no matter what, next point, I will. But it’s 95% instinctual.
You work for the Golf Channel, FIVB, NCAA Championships, college and high school sports, and are headed to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Even though the AVP isn’t your only job, you’ve told me it’s your favorite. Why is that?
The AVP is everything I do coming into one. I’m announcing the game, but I’m also the in-arena host. I’m doing live hits for NBC and Amazon Prime. Or I’m calling a match on Amazon while simultaneously announcing live in the stadium. Every gig combines into one for the AVP. Which makes me realize…I need to be getting paid more. I’m gonna have to talk to Donald about that.