Some truly fascinating people play for the AVP.
It’s one of the best parts of playing the tour. Nearly every player I’ve met has a compelling story, a noble passion, or impressive goals. We all love talking about volleyball, and often do when we’re together, but everyone has so much more going on. Nicolette Martin is a ridiculous artist — you should see her work on the old Wilson AVP balls. Billy Allen has written a fantasy novel — like a full-length, legit book. Ryan Doherty and Chase Budinger were both talented professional athletes in different sports — Ryan as a (very tall) pitcher in minor-league baseball and Chase as a valuable forward in the NBA. Emily Stockman does it all, from hip hop dancing and snowboarding to ATVing and skateboarding.
While everyone is generally fascinating, there are a few athletes that stand out because of their career. And I’m not talking about their volleyball career. A handful of athletes are passionate about other fields, so much so that they’re willing to balance a full-time job and their pursuit of professional beach volleyball.
I referenced this phenomenon in my From My Perspective article last fall. It got me thinking about all of the people on the AVP that are both successful athletes and successful contributors to society in their day jobs. Someone I mentioned is Sheila Shaw, a consistent Main Draw player from Wisconsin who also has a 9 to 5 in marketing.
Sheila almost always has a smile on her face; I feel like she’s constantly mid-laugh. Unless she’s on the other side of the net from you. Then she’s fierce and competitive, ready to rip a ball sharp-angle or throw your high-line shot back in your face. I was a little scared of Sheila until I spent any real time with her. The sparkplug I’d seen dominating opponents (and occasionally me) on tour ended up being really relaxed and approachable.
She’s also 36 and both looks and plays like she’s ten years younger. Sheila earned her best finish – a third place – in Hermosa last season. Like a fine wine, she’s just getting better with age. A phenomenal athlete and competitor, Sheila’s also wicked smart and an exceptional time manager. I applaud her for both her prowess in the office and on the court.
SS – Some see it as burning the candle at both ends. I see it as striving to be the best version of myself. Yes, I might be a rarity in the beach volleyball world when it comes to having a full-time job and playing professional beach volleyball on the AVP, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Volleyball has always been my passion. I grew up in Muskego, WI, a small beautiful town just outside of Milwaukee. I loved indoor as a kid and eventually played at the University of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) and graduated with a Social Work degree. I went on to play indoor volleyball professionally across the big pond in both France and Germany. After a three year stint, I quickly made the transition to beach volleyball. Being a beach volleyball player in the Midwest seems like quite the paradox. But when you love something, you always find a way to make it work.
In Wisconsin, we would train in bars and restaurants with indoor sand courts, or drive an hour to play in a freezing cold warehouse (paying extra for heat in subzero temps). Sand socks weren’t worn to protect our feet from blistering in the heat, but rather to save our toes from frostbite! Looking back at all of these things, I realize I learned how to grind early on in my pursuit. I’m happy to say I haven’t missed a beat when it comes to motivation and drive. Those early days of pushing myself to train in such unfavorable conditions prepared me for the balancing act of work, volleyball, and life.
I moved to LA from Wisconsin about seven years ago to start a new life on the west coast and to pursue my beach volleyball dreams on the AVP tour. Thanks to Donald Sun for resurrecting the AVP Pro Beach tour, I get to be a professional beach volleyball player on American soil. Since moving here, I’ve had the privilege of playing my favorite game in my home country, while also building a career I enjoy and am proud of.
When I’m not training or playing volleyball, the majority of my time during the week is spent in the office. I have worked for a company called BioDiscovery since I moved to LA, so it’s been seven years now.
I’m so grateful that my employer understands and supports both of my passions — marketing and beach volleyball. I have the flexibility to arrive at 9 am (or maybe a few minutes after) so that I can train in the mornings before work. My coworkers arrive an hour before me and get a full lunch break; because I show up late, I work through lunch every day. On days when I need physical therapy, I’m allowed to fit it in on my lunch breaks. During travel for AVP tournaments, I work remotely on the days I don’t compete. Thankfully, at our company, we have an open PTO policy, so I don’t have to worry about running out of vacation days like most people.
A typical weekday with practice consists of:
5:50am Wake-up call. Slam some coffee and wake up the body with the foam roller
6:20am You’ll find me on the sands of Hermosa Beach grinding
8:10am Running off the beach and crawling through traffic to get to the office
8:45am Arrive at work dusted in sand like a churro
9:00am Showered and upstairs at my desk for a full day of work
5:00pm The workday is over
5:30pm Crawling back through traffic to home sweet home. My evenings consist of gym time, dinner, yoga, stretch, recovery work, and hopefully an episode of two of Homeland.
To some people, I might sound crazy. But for me, it’s just my way of life. I LOVE getting to compete against the best in the USA (and in some cases, the world), all while focusing on my professional goals, as well. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be able to work towards my goals on and off the court!