1. What is your greatest strength and why?
I think having an open mind and a curiosity to learn. I’ve found myself repeatedly surrounded with some pretty amazing people over the course of my career– from all the beach veterans, like Linda Hanley and Liz Masakayan, who would let me practice with them when I was new to the sport and had no idea what I was doing to the incredible team I have around me today helping me navigate my pregnancy and return to competition (Austin Einhorn, Aaron Quinn, and Sara Cohen-Tanza) and all the intelligent, successful hard-workers who I’ve learned from in between. It would be silly of me to not be listening and watching and learning from all of their expertise!
2. Describe a situation where you had to make a quick decision in a match and what did you learn from that experience?
I’m more comfortable as an analytical left brain type of thinker, which can be a strength for strategy and analysis, but a detriment in live play. I do a lot of work off the court to help me stay present during plays, but I allow myself space to analyze between plays when the ball is dead. What comes to mind is an inner-battle that happens frequently when I’m at the service line. And the particular moment that comes to mind was a serve from the semi-final match vs. Canada at World Championships. It was the second set, we lost the first, and I was going back and forth between sticking to the game plan serve location or going with my gut which told me to serve a different zone. I went with my gut, served the different zone, we won the point and it helped unlock a change in the momentum in our favor. We ended up winning the match and heading to the finals. I realized later, when discussing this with my sports psych, that I equated listening to my “gut” as being flippant and irresponsible, but she explained that your senses actually are taking in data at a faster rate than your conscious mind can analyze. So if you are experienced in an area, your “gut” feeling can actually be the knowledge gathered unconsciously from your senses. Therefore, it’s totally rational and sensible to listen to your gut! This blew my mind at the time and still does!
3. How do you handle stress and pressure?
I take the view that stress is a positive thing. We all need some stress in our life — otherwise couch potatoes would be the healthiest beings on the planet! But if I have too much stress in my life (which is easy to tell from tracking the data that I collect regularly with my MightySat), then I use a couple strategies to try to return to my body to a parasympathetic state so it can recover. If my pulse rate (PR) and oxygen saturation (O2) levels are out of range (when I’m not pregnant PR above 44 and O2 below 97 for first thing in the morning readings before I get out of bed), then I know that extra stress (whether mental or physical) might be best saved for a day when I’m better recovered (if possible). Sometimes, this happens on game day and that is ok too! The knowledge just gives me a focus of recovery for before and after matches, so I can put all of my available energy into the match(es). My techniques for handling this involve having a good daily routine — eating good nutrient dense food, staying properly hydrated (coconut water is my go-to!), having good sleep routines (no blue light near bed-time, proper room temp, etc.), breathing and mindfulness routines (I like box breathing, Brian Mackenzie’s breathing protocols, and Headspace), imagining pressure situations in practice, visualizing myself executing a skill in big game moments, etc.
During game play, if a thought is entering my mind when I’m trying to stay present, I cue myself to something external — in serve receive I tell myself to focus on the ball. This is not actually what I focus on — I focus on reading the server’s shoulder, approach, etc– but my cue to myself is to focus on the ball. This is something that I can easily repeat if thoughts keep coming into my head and this forces me outside of my head for a moment and into the present, which is where I want to be while the ball is in play. Now, that I really think about it, I feel like about 50% of what I do on a daily basis is dedicated to the mental side of the game.
4. If I called your coach right now and asked him or her what is an area that you could improve on, what would he or she say?
lol, recovery! I have a hard time balancing my body’s needs with the desire to do more. Naturally, I tend to do too much rather than too little. But, my trainer told me, being 1% overtrained is worse than being 5% undertrained, so I try to remember this and incorporate it into my decision making. And this is another reason why it’s so helpful to have the objective numbers of the MightySat to add to how my body is feeling and how much training load I’ve accumulated.
5. What excites you most about your career as an athlete?
Learning — beach volleyball is such a unique atmosphere where on most plays every person on the court is touching the ball. If you are struggling, you can’t be subbed out, you don’t have a coach who can tell you what to do, the other team will target you with every ball and it’s you (and your teammate) who have to figure out how to adjust and problem solve or lose. It exposes you on so many levels and in my experience it has brought to light so many aspects of myself that I didn’t like, so I had the opportunity to work to change them. And then I get the exposure again in match play to see if I was effective in changing my thought process or behavior or reaction to a situation. I so, so love that aspect of our sport.
6. What is your most favorite aspect of the Masimo MightySat?
The instant, objective feedback on where my body is at — sure you need some baseline data (1 month is usually good!) — but after that I place it on my finger and in 3 minutes I know objectively how my body is functioning.