Thursday, 18 April 2024

International Volleyball

Brooke Sweat taking on mentor role alongside Kennedy Coakley

Brooke Sweat taking on mentor role alongside Kennedy Coakley

RECIFE, Brazil — There aren’t that many firsts remaining in Brooke Sweat’s beach volleyball career. She played her first AVP in 2007, her first FIVB in 2009. She’s made the Olympics, won eight AVPs and claimed 10 medals for the United States. She has played at the sport’s highest level with the sport’s most well-known player in Kerri Walsh Jennings, and she has also played in low-stakes cash tournaments you’ve never heard of, split-blocking — perhaps split-pulling, or just not even bothering sending anyone to the net at all — with Kendra Van Zwieten.

It’s worth wondering, then, what’s she doing here, in Recife, Brazil, on the heels of five knee surgeries since the summer of 2021, preparing for another qualifier in another country with, of all individuals, an 18-year-old high school senior named Kennedy Coakley.

They’ll begin the Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Challenge-Recife  in Thursday’s qualifier, where they are joined by fellow Americans Teegan Van Gunst and Kim Hildreth, Savvy Simo and Toni Rodriguez, Tri Bourne and Chaim Schalk, and Hagen Smith and Logan Webber. Only two American teams are directly into the main draw: Top-seeded Trevor Crabb and Theo Brunner, and Chase Budinger and Miles Evans.

Sweat has had, by any measure, a tremendous career. In a span of five years, from 2013-2017, she was named the AVP’s Best Defensive Player in four of them. She made five finals in six AVPs in 2014. She qualified for the Rio Olympics despite her shoulder practically being held together by sticky putty and KT Tape. Then she nearly did it again in Tokyo with Walsh Jennings.

For a career such as that to meet its conclusion with a surgeon’s knife is not the manner in which Sweat wanted to retire. When the time comes to leave this game as a player, she will do so on her own terms, and she’ll do so leaving an impact bigger than the one she has currently made. What better way to do that than to help a high school senior with an iridescent future cut her teeth on the Beach Pro Tour, learning the ins and outs of travel, preparing like a professional — and realizing that, while volleyball is the reason for the travel, there’s also much more to the sport than the sport itself.

“We’re 20 years apart but we get along so great, we have a good time together,” said Sweat, who at one point was playing with and against Kennedy’s mother. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, like, I’m about to play with an 18-year-old. Stepping into…

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