Beach volleyball has forever been an intriguing sport to me. Growing up in New England, I’ve never had much exposure to it. In fact, the only real interaction I’ve had was on Saturday afternoons as I’d flip through the channels and find a presumed southern California AVP match. I knew some names: Karch Kiraly, Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings. I’ve even played summertime pick-up games, so I had a sense of what was going on. However, like all sports, there are subtle nuances that make up the sport’s backbone that I simply didn’t know, and only people who are engrained in the sport can see.
So while you’re probably like me and only recognize those previously mentioned names, we’re finding out why a new name you’ve most likely never heard of, Lauren Sieckmann, is turning heads and becoming one of the hottest newcomers in beach volleyball.
For the Love of Volleyball
Type Lauren Sieckmann into Google and you’ll find a wide array of accolades showcasing her talent:
– Nebraska high school state championship
– Qualified for the 2010 youth Olympic games
– Played in the 2011 FIVB Word Championships
– Won the 2009 Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year
– Plays professionally on the AVP Tour.
She’s impressive, trust me.
I was able to sit down with Lauren and learn about how she’s quickly excelled in this sport.
“In high school, I was a classic hustler,” Sieckmann said. “I was an addict. I would go to practice two hours early and make my dad hit balls at me. I would train before practice, after practice and during every moment in-between.”
Lauren was obsessed with the game. She consistently read books about volleyball, watched a myriad of matches, and practiced nightly setting drills in her basement as she obsessed over her own development. She even confessed to occasionally sleeping with a volleyball.
“These things are important to me,” Lauren states, “they are what separate me from the pack and they’re the things that have helped me get to where I want to be in the sport.”
It’s hard to deny that Lauren trains incredibly hard. In a sport that requires you to be your own manager, agent, and sometimes coach, Lauren’s steadfast mentality to date has ostensibly masked her vision to recognize if her Recovery has affected her performance on the court or not. I say this because her mindset is so laser-focused on training and improvement, that it has often caused her to overlook the importance of Recovery.
I think many athletes fall into this trap.
Prior to WHOOP, “performance” was the only aspect most athletes cared about. In baseball, you have a batting average. In basketball, you have a shooting percentage. In all sports, you have a winning and losing percentage. All of these end results are highly valued and meticulously measured. However, to date, there has been no metric for how well an athlete has recovered from practice, or how well they slept the night before. WHOOP is now that tool.
“I never considered Recovery as an important aspect of my training. In high school, I would go to bed late and wake up late, but then in college, I started getting more Sleep and saw huge improvements in my game. When I prioritized Sleep, I got stronger, faster, and better. People noticed improvements in my game and would ask me for my secret, ‘what was I doing?’ they’d say. Ever since then, Sleep has been a staple in my routine and even more so now that I’m on the AVP Tour.”
The AVP Tour and Personal Accountability
Joining the AVP Tour has been a new journey for Lauren. Switching from the five teammate sport of indoor to the one teammate sport of beach volleyball has affected different aspects of her training.
“In beach volleyball, everything is self-driven. You have to find your own partner, you have to plan your own practices, you have to call a coach – let alone find a coach – and you have to be your own advocate.” Lauren mentions that you are more accountable for your actions because you are your own agent and your own general manager.
Having this personal accountability as an athlete can be daunting. Just training alone is something that requires more than enough mental and physical energy, and diverting too much time to training and managing one’s career opens the door to dismissing Recovery as an imperative aspect of athlete optimization.
WHOOP fills these holes. It provides the data athletes need in order to monitor Sleep, assess Recovery, and predict performance so that they can get back to what they enjoy most – playing their sport.
The Nuances of Recovery
Not all volleyball players have the luxury of high salaries and large endorsement deals, thus when athletes travel for matches, many of them can’t afford the luxurious hotels that promote healthy Sleep hygiene. Therefore many athletes opt for crashing on friends’ couches or wherever they can find a cheap housing option. The issue with this is that sleeping on couches is not an ideal way for professional athletes to recover.
Now that Lauren understands the importance of Recovery, she gets creative when she is on the road for matches.
She emulates what it’s like staying at home. She builds make-shift ice baths, has a personally administered curfew, tries to cut out all the ambient light from windows, and always makes Sleep a priority, no matter what.
“Every match is equally important. I need to be 100% ready to perform. There is no time for injuries or lack of Sleep. You have to be at your best the entire season and Recovery is the key to that.”
“Utilizing Recovery to its fullest is my main goal this year. Especially in volleyball, people don’t tend to peak until their late 20s early 30s. If you don’t recover properly and are not consistently healthy throughout your career, then you’re done in this sport.”