April Ross Video Interview, U.S. Olympic Beach Volleyball Star
The U.S. Olympic volleyball pair of April Ross, 30, and Jennifer Kessy, 35, was not expected to make it all the way to the finals game, let alone appear in the London Olympics. In fact, the pair had missed out on qualifying for the Olympics in 2008. “Missing out on 2008 really created a determination in me and gave me a ton of motivation to make the 2012 Olympics, and I think maybe made it seem more valuable,” Ross told Uinterview exclusively. “I saw how easily it can slip away, and I think it has helped me relish every moment since we’ve qualified.”
Ross and Kessy went on to win a silver medal at the Games, losing their gold medal showdown to reigning Olympic icons Misty May-Treanor, 35 and Kerri Walsh Jennings, 34 (21-16, 21-16). Still, it was an impressive showing and confirmation that their intense training to prepare for these Games was invaluable. “We looked at everything we did as far as how we practice, how we train, and one of the big things is how we eat, and we changed our diet a lot,” Ross told Uintervew. “Cut out a lot of carbs, cut out a lot of sugars, started eating more natural, more organic.”
Ross has succeeded on every level of competition. In high school, she was chosen as the Gatorade National Player of Year for indoor volleyball. At USC, she helped the Trojans win back-to-back national championships and was First Team All-American in 2001 and 2002. Despite the fact that she has excelled at both, Ross feels that beach volleyball presents more of a challenge for her than indoor volleyball once did. “It’s more you have to think for yourself on the beach. You don’t have a coach on the sidelines, yelling at you, telling you what to do, subbing you out if you’re not playing the way he wants you to,” she told us. “If you’re not playing good enough to win, you gotta figure it out, you gotta figure out how you’re gonna do something to beat the opponent.”
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I think there's so much difference between beach and indoor. It's more you have to think for yourself on the beach. You don't have a coach on the sidelines, yelling at you, telling you what to do, subbing you out if you're not playing the way he wants you to. If you're not playing good enough to win, you gotta figure it out, you gotta figure out how you're gonna do something to beat the opponent. And you have to touch the ball every other time. If you're playing indoor, you can be hidden on the court. You don't have to serve, you don't have to pass, or you only pass and you don't have to hit the ball. You have to be working on all your skills, all the time. It's two out of three on the beach, while indoor it's three out of five games you have to win. In my opinion you can make less mistakes.
I played indoor growing up, all through college, and really didn't like beach volleyball that much, but I started playing professionally indoor and started feeling very beat up. My knees broke down on me, my shoulder, I couldn't swing at the ball anymore. I actually gave up volleyball, I got a hostessing job and was like "I'm gonna figure out how to make a living outside of volleyball." I actually enjoyed it, but then my teammate from USC called me up and came over and said, "Hey, come and play on the beach with me, just try it, see if you like it." So I was like, okay why not. So I went out — I was terrible, and I don't know why I liked it because I usually only like things that I'm good at, but I think it was just being out on the beach and the culture. It was a ton of fun, so I stuck with it and finally got better and better. So it was just kind of a matter of fate; it wasn't a decision I made where I was like, "I think I'm gonna be good at beach, I think I'm gonna try it." Even though people have said it to me all my life — you need to play beach — I'm like, no I don't really like it. It was just a random act of fate, and here I am, so it's worked out.
We have our coach who, before each match, watches video of our opponent and draws out a scouting report, shows us their tendencies, writes down what he thinks we should do against the team. [Partner] Jen [Kessy] and I have our own opinions, so we take that and talk amongst ourselves and talk about what we'd feel comfortable doing against the other team, so it's kind of a collaboration. We'll start with that, but we're not opposed to changing in the middle of the match, so if it's not working, we call a time out. Jen and I talk about what we might try to do different, so it's all just a work in progress, but I'd say it starts with our coach and his notes.
I think [back] for four years now, since 2009 when we really set a goal for ourselves to make the 2012 Olympics, we looked at everything we did as far as how we practice, how we train, and one of the big things is how we eat, and we changed our diet a lot. Cut out a lot of carbs, cut out a lot of sugars, started eating more natural, more organic. Just as healthy and clean as possible, salads, vegetables and lean meats all are fair game. We still like to live and have good food, so once a week we'll go out to a big dinner and have something really yummy to eat.
I don't really have a morning ritual. I have what I like to eat, but that's more based on performance and how I feel after I eat it. Jen and I like to have some time to sit at breakfast, though, we like to have at least 45 minutes where we can drink our coffee and kind of relax. We try not to rush, because if you're rushing at breakfast you'll just end up rushing the rest of the day. So I guess if it's one thing, it's just to take our time and enjoy a little bit of time in the morning.
Missing out on 2008 really created a determination in me and gave me a ton of motivation to make the 2012 Olympics, and I think maybe made it seem more valuable. I saw how easily it can slip away, and I think it has helped me relish every moment since we've qualified. I'm just gonna make the most of this and have a ton of fun and do my best.