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One of the mantra’s I live by is, “If you are not learning then you are done living.” I’ve heard it said in various ways but it always means the same thing: No matter how old or experienced you are, you can always learn more. Whether it is in life or sport, this saying holds true. One of the things I love most about Karch Kiraly (Volleyball legend) is that he is always working on his game and learning from his competitors, despite being the most successful player ever to play the game. 

In a beach volleyball tournament in Newport last summer, my partner Lucas and I came out complacent, expecting the young qualifiers to fold, but they didn’t. Instead they steadily gained more confidence, while Lucas and I ended up looking confused and sacrificing our first loss in a double elimination tournament. The next team we played was even better and we were on an outside court with gusting winds, fighting for the win we needed to continue in the tournament. They were a great ball control team and with a little help of the wind and some bad energy on our part, they upset us and knocked us out of the tourney, placing us third when we had hoped to win.

For Lucas and I, the learning experience was to play each point like it is was our last--from the opening whistle until the final serve. We played like we thought we could win with strategy and experience, leaving out the most important ingredient, the heart. It is true that our experience, and patience to stick with a game plan, often gives us the edge over younger, less experienced teams, but these qualities should be merely enhancers to the most important element in any match, playing hard, with maximum concentration. 

Taking third was very disappointing. I felt like we had gone so far, only to be shut out at the last minute. But, lesson learned. Now, spring is just around the corner, and Lucas and I are on a mission to make a change. This season, we play with heart.

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