This pro beach volleyball player and a coach has many things to do, because she is also precision nutrition coach, certified practitioner in ActionTypes, and at the same time she takes part in a successful business project (perform-ready.com) related to performance of athletes, but not only. She is a M.A. in Sport Science and PhD in American Studies. We introduce you Dr. Elena Kiesling. We asked her a few questions and here are her answers for us.
1. Why did you decide to become a professional beach volleyball player?
That is simple. I love the game. You get to be outside, you get to play in beautiful places, and you get to meet cool people. I am not sure whether I actually made a conscious choice pro beach volleyball, though. I remember when I was younger, like 18 or 19, I could never decide which surface I loved more, indoor, or beach. So I ended up playing both. But, as you can imagine, that gets very tough on your body at some point because you never really get a break. Over the years I fell more and more in love with beach volleyball because the athletic and cognitive demands are even more challenging in the sand than they are indoor. And I love a challenge.
2. Which was the most memorable tournament? How did you feel, what was your experience?
The most memorable tournament was an FIVB challenger in Korea. I flew there with Jana Köhler because her partner was injured. it was my first international tournament and we played a strong U.S. team in the quarterfinals. I believe we lost the first set and that was when I decided “no, you did not come all the way here just to get a fifth. Get yourself together and start playing.” We did. We won the whole tournament. I guess the reason why this memory stuck and not, for instance walking on the Klagenfurt center court in front of thousands of ecstatic fans, is because for me it describes the way I approach the game. When I step onto the court I want to play, because I love the game. And anything less than playing and putting your best out there would be disrespectful of the game.
3. Tips for people who are thinking to play beach volleyball professionally?
Make sure you get the right people around you. I am a firm believer of teamwork. Sure, there is so much an athlete can do on their own, but why not getting someone on board who is an expert in strength and conditioning, an expert in psychology, nutrition, etc. Playing beach volleyball professionally is such an amazing experience but also very demanding work. So you want to make sure you have people around who have your back.
4. What are your expectations and objectives for the near future?
I will be going into my last season on the German Beach Volleyball tour in 2020. I love the sport, but there is also so much more to life that I want to explore. I am currently setting up a business with a friend with which we want to connect the sports world with corporate culture and help empower people on their way to reach their full potential. It is an exciting project and it takes up more time than I have. Besides, after 20 years of more or less professional volleyball, it is ok to try something new 😉
5. You are also coaching professional players, what are the core qualities for success of professional teams in your opinion?
For me the core qualities of success in any form are a strong team culture that respects the individual. If you believe in a person, they can do great things. When you look at successful sports organizations, they usually have great team culture that empowers individuals and let’s people be who they are. Think of the Seattle Seahawks for example. I think that is a very valuable asset. To let people be themselves and empower them to reach their goals. Great coaches can do that. Gregg Popovich is another example, who I really admire for bringing a certain type of culture to such a highly competitive environment like the NBA.
In our own little team, we try to ensure that we have a healthy growth mindset. We work with the ActionTypes Approach to make sure we value each person’s unique needs in terms of teaching motor skill but also cognitively.
6. What would you say to all the hobby players out there?
Keep learning, keep playing and continue to grow this beautiful sport. If you get stuck, reach out! I would love to see more hobby players reach out to each other and connect. We could be a really strong community.
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