AVP Players have it… Do you?

I recently had a conversation with a person who had contacted me on Facebook. In January I started a company called VolleyCamp Hermosa which provides accommodation and coaching for beach volleyballers who want to test the sands of the southern left coast. This young man was interested in coming out to California for some high level training and he needed information on our housing plans.

After some conversational sparring on prices, training, personal athletic histories and wanderlust, I discovered that he wasn’t intending to be one of my average guest athletes. They normally come for a week or two of intense practice sessions and then promptly return to their lives with a smile, some more knowledge of the game and a tan. His intention was to move to Hermosa Beach permanently and he simply wanted to jump-start the process by spending the first week or so at my VolleyHouse. I was interested in his story and proud of him for taking the initiative to send me a message. Some more texts were sent but eventually I needed to sign off and run to practice so I tried to close the deal.

ME: Alright! Then bring it on! When should I expect you?

    This was the point at which our conversation took the unsurprisingly disappointing downward turn. It was unsurprising because I’ve had the same exact talk with too many people. For me, its like watching an instant replay of a gruesome sports injury over and over again. At first it makes you sick. You wonder how and why it happened. It almost hurts YOU just watching it.
People have these dreams, desires and goals. They have spirit and a certain touch of optimism. The problem is that they can’t bring themselves to grab what’s right in front of them. They see it. Its so close. But, for some reason, they trick themselves into thinking its a mirage. It can’t be that easy. It can’t be as simple as saying “Yes” and booking a ticket or packing a bag. It has to be far off. It has to be difficult to reach…

Perspective is everything.

GUY: Just gotta save up some money then I will definitely hit you up!!!

    He said this with a spirit akin to that of your friend who proclaims he’s going to make Scarlett Johansson his girlfriend. He wishes he was that guy, but he doesn’t truly believe it. Now, you may have read “Just gotta save up some money” and thought it to be reasonable. He certainly thought it was. Maybe he didn’t consciously know what I did. Maybe in the part of his conscience he could hear at that exact moment, there was positivity. But, I had the disgusted feeling in my stomach that he would never make it here. I know what happens to a dream deferred.
For me, it was the same sad failure to launch that I’ve witnessed a hundred times. Friends and strangers alike come to me saying how great it must be to live the volleyball lifestyle, how lucky I am. “I wish I could just move from city to city and explore the continents like you do.”

A bit about the author: I’ve coached thousands of athletes and taught hundreds of coaches. I managed a solid enough professional indoor career. I play a beach tournament every weekend during the summers. I am a managing partner for BeachCamp® Volleyball Destinations. This gives me the opportunity to spend a total of two months every year playing, coaching and hanging out at all inclusive resorts on the best beaches in the world. I’ve lost track of the number of cities I’ve spent the night in. I’m also not shy about sharing my adventures on social media hence people often use me as a sounding board when contemplating their desire to travel, to move to a new city, or even a new country.


…This brings me back to the guy who said he wanted to move to California for beach volleyball.

GUY: Okay I’ll hit you up when I get the money and everything in place!!!!

ME: Coming from somebody who has moved to a lot of places around the world……

I sent this is in two messages with a breath of delay to build suspense and potency.

I’d like to pose a question.

GUY: Sure

He said “SURE”, no doubt looking at his touchscreen in dreamy state of mind. His thoughts were filled with all the cliche California things that the Golden State loves to flaunt; sunshine, waves, bikinis, board shorts, and of course, volleyball nets stretching as far as the eye can see. Little did he know, I was about to wake him up in a discomforting and aggressive way. He thought he was safe just tossing questions and ideas around with me. Tisk, tisk. I’m a ‘take action’ kind of guy. I hate waiting. I hate excuses. I hate inefficiency and I believe words are important. If you put them into the world, they should have meaning.

ME: What will be different and WHEN will it be different?
What’s the turning point you see that makes you pull the trigger to MOVE?!

I pictured him re-focusing on the screen and sliding his head back a quarter inch while furrowing his brow. He had to be thinking, “Why would he ask that???”

I continued.

In my experience, no timing is ever perfect. Its just someone who makes it perfect. As far as saving up? That’s crap. You should take the flight here or drive and get a job here NOW!
Then, you are already living your goal rather than pushing it away with time and distance.
And I’m not saying this so you come to my VolleyHouse… Because I don’t think that’s the perfect answer for someone who wants to move here full time.

GUY: I’ve never done anything like this and I don’t want to go out there and get stranded so I want to get enough money to where I could stay somewhere at least a month or two just to be safe and give me time to find a job.

He thought these were valid reasons. I thought these were summer flies you wave out of your face with the back of your hand.

ME: It wont happen.
You wont get stranded.
You’ll get here. You’ll start hunting immediately.
You’ll find some kind of random job within two weeks that will bring some sort of income.
Aren’t you paying rent somewhere now? What’s the difference; spending money there or spending it here?

I have found, in my short 30 years, that humans have a severe inability to just lay down, do nothing, and die when bad luck comes our way. When faced with the most impossible odds of sickness, troubles and misfortune, lives MAGICALLY, somehow continue. OFIFO (pronounced: oh-fee-fo) is a term I learned from my close friends and family in the FDNY. It means “One Foot In Front of the Other”. When things are at their most difficult, we all must carry on and sometimes all we can do is put OFIFO. BUT, we still do it!

So what is it that makes GUY think he would move to Hermosa Beach, and then, all of a sudden, freeze or crumble to pieces?!?! If someone kidnapped him in his sleep, took his job, made his house disappear and rolled him out of the back of a van on Pacific Coast Highway, would he stay there? Unmoving and unwilling to go on? Laying in the road for all of eternity!?
NO! He’d make his life happen!

Back to our Facebook messaging:

ME: Then what’s your plan to save money? How fast are you going to acquire what amount of money and how?
GUY: Probably a few months… Not a super long time.

I could almost hear him saying “Uh…well…I…Uh” as he stuttered through his sentences. He didn’t have a real plan. I decided to dig in and ask questions I already knew the answers to.

ME: Are you going to eat less? Stop going to bars? Stop buying gifts for your girlfriend? No more candy or soda? Give up your DIRECTV account for the extra 60 bucks each month?

In truth, there are not many people that would actually NEED to do these things but I had to get a point across. The point is this; that his whimsical thoughts and words were meaningless without action. This is where I got mean.

ME: I’m going to make a bet in my head. And I hope that I lose. I really do.

GUY: Whats the bet?

ME: I’m betting you don’t get out here.

GUY: You will certainly LOSE that bet my friend!

I imagined him expanding his chest and throwing two alternating fists at it when he said this. I decided to put a real image in his head to go with his ego asserting attitude.

ME: Start packing today. Leave your home March 20th… Take the 10 days to explore the US or buy 8 energy drinks and power through. No matter how much money you do or you don’t have, you will be out here by April 1st. In time for a little preseason… In time to find someone to play with for the first tourney… In time to land a job in the service industry before the summer tourists take them all. I finally moved here permanently on January 1st. I had $800 in my bank account and some credit cards with a much larger number than that in the “Current Balance” column. I also slept in my car every night across the country.

Here’s the cold, hard truth. The fear of the unknown, surmised to be the greatest fear of all, is trapping this kid. He is terrified of the closet because he’s never opened it wide enough to see there’s no monster.


Here are some anecdotes from players who opened the closet door with their dukes up, ready to punch that monster in the face. They all found the wardrobe to be relatively safe and sound. Ballsy moves and a little bit of sacrifice seem to be the norm in our sport. Everyone who plays at this level has to make the decision, at some point, to go for it. Its apparent that when you MAKE things happen, big things happen. These are the type of people who don’t make excuses, who don’t let fear get in the way…

Ryan Doherty moved to Huntington Beach a few years back and delivered pizzas his first year. Now he’s a household volleyball name around the world.

Derek Olson – “ I graduated from Oregon and with $900 and put everything I could fit into my car and drove down without a place to stay or a job. Got a construction job digging holes and stayed on my buddies floor for 2 months! 51% courage, 49% naive. My body was resilient lol.”



Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena have shared stories about winning tournaments on Saturdays, driving all through the night and then sleeping in cars and on beaches before their Sunday victories.

Irene Hester Pollock – “Originally from Texas and newly engaged, my husband and I knew I had to move out to California in order for me to pursue beach volleyball. Not knowing anyone to call in CA, I moved into a hotel for a month of training while working as an online sales rep and planning my wedding! Later, we even took separate flights back from our honeymoon so he could get back to his job and I could play in my first ever AVP event. We have been living apart our whole marriage just so I could chase my dream. He’s my biggest fan. It still blows my mind thinking about it.”



Brooke Sweat – “Before I moved to California I made a lot of trips out here trying to make it! I spent many nights on the couches of acquaintances who are now great friends! I remember staying at the beach all day doing anything and everything I could do to get better.”




Billy Allen – “Braidy (Halverson) and I actually spent a night on the beach for a Santa Barbara tournament because hotels were too expensive. There was a guard patrolling the site when we came back at night so we had to sneak over and TUNNEL our way into one of the closed sponsor tents. We had a terrible night of sleep and suffered for it playing the next day.”



Tealle Hunkus – “I interned for a summer in Chicago as a requirement for my major and joined a random league there. It led to playing 10-12 hrs of beach on the weekends and I knew I wanted to keep doing it for sure. I packed a truck and road tripped out here with my mom from Ohio. I asked a friend to hook me up with my first coach to work my way into the sand world! I started working full time in transportation and logistics solely so I could work at night… It was totally random but I learned quickly how much I loved the industry and still work there to this day. ”

Stafford Slick – “In 2009, I bought a one-way ticket from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Los Angeles. I packed my life and 3 deflated volleyballs into 2 suitcases and moved to Hermosa Beach. I lived without a car for my first 3 years in California to make sure I kept up with rent.”

Amanda Dowdy – “I gave myself 2 weeks in April last year to come out to California and figure it out. I was beyond scared, didn’t have a plan but I knew that playing AVP and FIVB was my dream so I went for it both feet in. During those 2 weeks I couched surfed and trained with the USA Elite Development Program. I said yes to ANYONE who asked me to train. Luckily, things came together for me and by the end of the 2 weeks I flew back to Texas, packed my bags and drove to California to stay.’

Jeremy Casebeer flew to Australia when we played their National Tour together. He arrived with ZERO housing setup. He got a taxi from the airport, met me at Manly Beach and practiced with his suitcase on the side of the court. He managed to “Craigslist” a place within a couple days. We even spent a couple weekends sleeping overnight in the player’s tents on the Australian Renault Tour.

Sheila Shaw – “I was in between jobs and made the decision to leave good old Wisconsin, pack up my little Honda Civic, and drive west. I stayed with a friend while I worked 4 jobs and trained. After a long time, I found a full time job with a company called BioDiscovery which allows me to still train and play the sport I love.”

Tri Bourne and Will Montgomery found friends of friends of friends on Facebook who let them stay in their basement for 3 weeks when they went off to battle on the New Zealand National Tour. They didn’t have loads of people they knew on either island… But they still went.

Hudson Bates shared a room in a house for a summer in Huntington Beach. It slept a rotating roster of no less than 15 different people. Before becoming the Head Coach at Marymount University, he worked part time building docks which landed him enough money to keep traveling to tournaments in the early days. (You thought those muscles were honed in weight rooms?!)



Before I knew what beach really was, I knew California was my ticket to getting better at indoor. As a college kid, I forced my way into a 3 month internship in San Diego. A friend of my brother’s let me stay on his couch the whole summer. I interned in the mornings and crushed cardboard boxes at Ralph’s supermarket from 11pm-6am 4 nights a week. That left all evening for getting my butt kicked on the sand. That got me to a strong enough level to make it overseas for indoor. Now its time for me to chase beach full time in Hermosa.



For all of you out there who want to live volleyball lives or chase any dreams that are important to you… GO!!! DO IT!!! Whatever it takes. Ask your Dad to throw you a hundred balls you can hit. Sign up for tournaments. Play in an AVPNext event. Get your name on BVBINFO by playing a qualifier! Come on a BeachCamp trip or to VolleyCamp Hermosa. You don’t absolutely NEED to find a coach but a good one will definitely get your game going a lot faster. You want to take the big leap in volleyball or any other part of your life?

ME: You have NO EXCUSE that BILLIONS of other people haven’t had. The difference is this; Some of them said “SCREW IT!!! I’m going. NOW.” and they survived. More often than not, they thrived.

    A friend of mine made me a shirt for my birthday last year in commemoration of our conversations on motivation and guts. It has become a de facto motto for me. We decided that the Nike slogan just didn’t have enough emphasis. So we created the initialism J.F.D.I.Y.F.P. Its a slight modification. Perhaps its a tad too forceful but, if taken in the right spirit, it might give you the push you need to go punch some monsters in the face. Just F. Do It Y. F. P! I truly believe that the perception of ‘having enough time’ is the most underrated and crippling factor to progress in all of our lives.

People throughout history have been saying it in their own way since the beginning of time. Here are two of my favorites.

George Herbert – British Poet 1593-1639
“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”

Carl Von Clausewitz – Prussian General 1780 – 1831
“Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage in war than audacity.”


ME: Good Luck. I hope I lose that bet.


-Mark Burik

Founder of VolleyCamp Hermosa
Head Coach at BeachCamp Volleyball Destinations
AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Player

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VolleyCamp Hermosa
Pacific Coast Highway
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Tel: (234) 752-9824
Email: [email protected]