Rogers and Dalhausser’s six-year partnership is somewhat of a rare occurrence in the world of beach volleyball, but with all the success they’ve had in the past years, the reason for sticking together is clear. The two were AVP Tour champions four years in a row, and have long been competitive on the international scene, winning numerous titles and placing third at the 2009 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships and first in 2007. Not to mention their status as reigning Olympic champions.
But dominating both domestic and international tournaments doesn’t make this pair invincible. The top-seeded duo lost to Julius Brink and Jonas Reckermann in the recent FIVB World Championships, sending the German pair on to the quarterfinal round. And Rogers and Dalhausser still face stiff competition all around the world leading up to the 2012 London Olympics. When asked about playing in the FIVB Brasilia Open in April (where they defeated their Brazilian opponents and won the gold medal), Dalhausser described it as “probably the toughest tournament of the year” due to the multitude of talented teams that compete there.
“You have so many random Brazilian teams in the draw and guys you’ve never seen before, but are obviously good teams,” he said. “It’s hot and it’s elevated, so that makes it hard to catch a breath.”
In order to keep up with the competition and stay on top of their game, rigorous training is a must. Dalhausser said the duo performs three cardio workouts—running, stair machine and elliptical—plus an intensive plyometric workout on a track. This is all in addition to three weight workouts during the week and typical volleyball practices in the sand.
According to Rogers, all this hard work pays off and improves their play, a necessity when they are squaring up against world-class competition.
“There’s positives and negatives playing against the best in the world, which is definitely the international tour,” said Rogers. “It’s going to make you play better, and it’s going to raise the level of your game, and it’s definitely done that for Phil and I, as well as all of the other players. And that’s a good thing.”
From the moment Rogers saw Dalhausser play, he knew that they would make a winning team.
“I watched Phil play and I just felt that he was, as far as from an athletic perspective, a cut above everyone else,” Rogers said of his partner. “He was very raw. He had a lot of technical things that were wrong with his game that he needed to correct, but they were all correctable things. I felt that if I worked with him, I could correct those, make them so that they were solid, good.”
Although he enjoyed playing with his former partner, Sean Scott, Rogers ended that partnership in 2005 and began playing with Dalhausser.
“I was like, man, I’ve gotta take a chance on this guy. He’s really talented, and he’s in my backyard, so I’ve got to see where this can go, and it went pretty well, so far.”
Dalhausser also had plenty to say about his teammate. Rogers’ beach volleyball expertise has been helpful to his game.
“When we first started playing, the first couple years, he was definitely the coach of the team, and I was okay with it, never really had a coach, and I was trying to absorb anything he would tell me,” he said of their relationship. “But with years gone by, we’ve kind of come up with our own game plan; we kind of bounce it off each other. He probably knows more about beach volleyball than anyone in the world, so I’ll still go to him and ask him if I’m doing something wrong. But it’s more of a partnership now than a coach-player relationship on the court.”
Rogers couldn’t agree more: “He had great ideas, he’s a very intelligent guy, he can understand things now that he’s been doing it and getting experience. Now it’s almost completely 50/50.”
So does their relationship off the court reflect their perfect harmony on the court? From what Dalhausser describes, the answer is yes.
“Off the court we’ve always been pretty low key, we kinda hang out and both kinda go with the flow,” he said. “I think that helps us a lot because we get along well off the court, so if something doesn’t go right on the court we can deal with it off the court.
“We both actually kind of have the same personality, we’re both pretty quiet, we both kind of keep to ourselves, and a lot of times we just kind of do our own thing when we’re sitting in our hotel room. We may not say a word to each other for a couple hours,” Dalhausser said. “And I think that because we spend so much time together that actually works out in our favor, because if you spend so much time with somebody you could run out of things to say.”
They may have similar personalities off the court, but Rogers and Dalhausser don’t always feel the same way about certain aspects of their careers. With Olympic success and international titles comes a busy schedule, hours of traveling and long stretches of time spent away from home. This summer, Rogers and Dalhausser have been playing more heavily on the international circuit than in years past due to the absence of the AVP on American soil.
“We’ve been traveling a lot, a little bit more than we’re used to at this point in time in the year, but that’s kinda just the circumstances being with the demise of the AVP, that lack of larger prize money tournaments,” said Rogers. “You kind of just have to go play in the big ones internationally.”
To Dalhausser, this is just a fact of life: “I’m kind of used to it, so it doesn’t really bother me too much,” he said. For him, the location of a tournament can make all the difference, naming cities like Klagenfurt, Austria and Prague in the Czech Republic as great places to visit.
Rogers, who has to leave his wife and two kids, a twelve year-old and ten year-old, at home in California when he travels abroad, has a different opinion: “The bad thing is the actual travel,” he said about playing in international tournaments. “For me, I’m finding that by far the most grueling part is the actual travel itself. It’s tough to be away from them.”
But all that travel is necessary for international success and, eventually, the 2012 Olympics in London.
“We’ve always been far-looking,” Rogers said, noting that he works with a three-year outlook. “When we first started playing in 2006 that was when I told Phil, ‘Look, I want to play with you, because I think we have an opportunity to get to the Beijing Olympics, and if all goes as planned I think we could do pretty well there.’”
Dalhausser, on the other hand, focuses more on the immediate future, naming the possibility of competing in Olympic trials as a concern.
“Are there going to be trials, are there not?” he, as many other American beach players have questioned. “It’s kind of hard to look forward if we really don’t know how we’re going to qualify.”
Although London is on the horizon, it’s going to take a lot of time and hard work to get there. Not only do Rogers and Dalhausser have a long summer of international competition ahead of them, but they also have to worry about the trials process for the 2012 Olympics.
“The way USA Volleyball formatted the trials is that essentially if you get into the trials it’s all or nothing, you have to win that trial event if you’re going to go to the Olympics. And I don’t think that’s very beneficial for this sport,” Rogers said. “Potentially they’re going to have one big tournament every four years, and no one’s really going to care about anything else.”
Both Rogers and Dalhausser agree that there are better ways to determine who goes to the Olympics. Rogers suggested having a domestic series with a year-long lead-in, where teams will have an actual score and know were they stand. At that point, the international component would also hopefully come in to play.
Dalhausser agreed that international tournaments are important to consider for the Olympics.
“If you’re looking for the best two teams to represent this country, I think the FIVB system is the best because you prove yourself against the best teams in the world, who you’ll be playing in the Olympics.”
Originally published in August 2011