Q&A with Misty May-Treanor

Misty May-Treanor
Misty May-Treanor

Misty May-Treanor might be officially retired from the professionally volleyball circuit (after winning three-straight Olympic gold medals), but she’s definitely keeping busy. This summer, she launched her clinic series “Dream in Gold” with Spalding and Nike, and she continues to play tournaments for fun. Not to mention she’s picked up golfing (a la Gabby Reece?). VBM caught up with her as she drove home from an event in San Diego, to hash out the details on her clinics, her future coaching plans, and her thoughts on what will happen to beach volleyball in this country.

Volleyball mag: What inspired your Dream in Gold Clinics?

Misty May-Treanor: Well I had clinics that I did prior to coming back for 2012 and they were called M2 volleyball clinics. I had to put the clinics on hold when I made the run for London with Kerri again, so I hadn’t really done clinics for about a year and a half. And then I’ve always signed things “Dream in Gold” so that’s how that started and it kind of stuck. So with M2, I was just doing business and that was just the name of the clinics. This time I wanted my clinics to be called Dream in Gold clinics because that’s what we all want to do. So honestly I’ve just picked up my clinics again, but they are now called Dream in Gold Volleyball Clinics and I partnered with Nike and Spalding to help, those are two of the sponsors.

VBM: Are the clinics beach or indoor or both?

MM: In January, I did a clinic up in Portland, Oregon, and it was an indoor clinic, so I do indoor and beach, just depending. The Dream in Gold juniors’ series is beach clinics geared towards the juniors and the Dream in Gold Clinics that I’m doing with Spalding this summer are beach, except for Pottstown and Waupaca, which are grass. Other than that for the summer it’s beach.

VBM: You father Butch goes with you on your trips, right?

MM: He goes to all my clinics, yep. I have him because he’s very knowledgeable and he works with the small young kids, which is great because he’s so technical. But I love having him at all the events, and the parents and the kids love having him there too. Not only are his stories funny, but I think people get amazed that at 72 he’s still able to move and do things. But he’s really fun to have at each stop and the kids really enjoy his teaching.

VBM: How would you describe your coaching style?

MM: Well obviously I’m not going to run anybody into the ground because hopefully when I have the same clinics the following year they want to come back. So my goal is not to have anybody hate me. The clinics are usually four hours, so I’ll have three hours of instruction and then I’ll do an hour lunch with the kids. I hang out with the kids and I do Q&A, just interact with them. After, all the kids get autographs til the last person goes home. But in that amount of time it’s hard to really break down the skills so much so you try to introduce them to different aspects of the game. My goal is to have them leave with more information than what they’re coming in with because at the end of the day each player is their own individual and they have to find out their own style. But if I can give them, in a confidence building manner, a different approach to looking at a skill or maybe being a little more efficient that’s what I want to do.

VBM: What are some of the most important pointers you share with the kids at your clinics?

MM: I told somebody earlier, sports are getting so specialized now. I was fortunate enough to get to play many different sports and I think it made adjusting to different situations easier, reading different angles, but now it seems like a lot of kids strictly play one sport, so [the clinics are about] getting them to identify patterns, identify what the other players on the other side are doing so they can read it a little better. Movement is very important. They can be the most skilled player, but if they’re inefficient in moving, they could be one step behind. They’re not getting to a ball they should be able to get. It’s also getting them to be fundamentally sound or giving them tools to be fundamentally sound because at the end of the day when you’re tired, in a long match, or you’re hurt, your technique cannot break down. You have to learn to walk before you run. And a lot of players now think they have to run before they can walk, that walking is beneath them. “We want to jump serve,” they say. But can you float serve? “No, we jump serve.” Ok, but what if your ankle is sore one day and you have to stay down? It’s kind of introducing them to the idea that even at the highest level we work on the simplest and most mundane things because at the end of the day that’s what it comes down to. And then you progress from there.

VBM: Do you have any plans beyond these clinics for the rest of your “retired” life?

MM: Well, I graduated in May with my masters in coaching and athletic administration and was helping Long Beach State with their sand volleyball program as a volunteer assistant. I really like coaching; my husband and I, we want a family. I’ve been working on my golf game, I love golf. So that’s my new sport, I’m like, “Ooo, golf.” But I love teaching the sport of volleyball. I also worked with the Wounded Warriors on an event and I’ve been asked to participate in a program which I have my fingers crossed and am looking forward to that would possibly take place in November. It’s just time to pass my knowledge on to others. I play though; I get out there, still mess around and have a good time. I’m not too far away from the game.

VBM: Are you planning on coaching for Long Beach again?

MM: Not right now, no. I was just the one year. I was a volunteer, my dad was the manager. Matt Ulmer was the head coach there, Erika Chidester was the assistant.

VBM: When you got your masters, what sorts of things did you learn that you didn’t learn as an athlete?

MM: Well, one, you appreciate goals the second time around more because you actually know what you want to do as opposed to the first time around you’re like, “I guess I’ll take this major because I think I want to do this.” But no, one of the biggest aspects when you’re a player and you want to go coach is learning what takes place in the office, what are the other things the coaches need to think about besides putting a lineup together. I think that’s the biggest thing, because as an athlete you’re like here’s your schedule, here’s your uniforms, we meet at the bus this time. But you don’t know how all that came about. I thought one of the most interesting aspects was all the legal issues that you have to deal with when you become a coach, it’s pretty interesting. It just helped me to refine my coaching philosophy and get some good workouts and stuff. I liked it a lot; I had a great time in that setting.

VBM: And how would you describe your coaching philosophy now that you’ve gone through that additional schooling?

MM: Well like I said, I’m a fun coach. I want the players to have fun, but I want to make players think for themselves. That’s ultimately what I want to do, I want to create thinkers, and pass enough knowledge on so that at the end of the day they don’t need to rely on somebody telling them what to do or where to go. But in a very enriching environment. You have to deal with so many people in different ways: teaching, confidence building, working to each other’s strengths.

VBM: What are you predictions for the future of beach volleyball in this country?

MM: Well, I think more colleges are definitely going to add sand programs, which is great. It allows kids to get more scholarships. I do understand that the tour is coming back, I’m not really sure what’s going on with the tour front though. That’s why I’m with the juniors. I want to give them something solid so they can play all the time. It’s like any other thing, after the spark of the Olympics it rises and it will fall for a little bit then it rises again. That’s just the way the sport has always gone. But we’ll definitely see the collegiate game grow. It would be fun to see guys sand volleyball in college. I think that would be fun, and they’d have a great time doing that, especially the guys that aren’t able to get scholarships or aren’t picked up for their [indoor] teams. To have that would be fun. I think it’s definitely growing.

Dream in Gold Outdoor Junior Series Schedule

July 12-14 Oshkosh, Wis.
July 25-27 Denver/Snowmass, Colo.
August 3-4 Long Beach, N.Y.
August 24-25 Virginia Beach, Va.

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