Sunday, 14 April 2024

International Volleyball

Tim Brewster, Kyle Friend, and volleyball’s most unique relationship

Tim Brewster, Kyle Friend, and volleyball's most unique relationship

HERMOSA BEACH, California — How many times had Tim Brewster asked Kyle Friend to play a beach volleyball tournament with him? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty?

They laugh when thinking about the number, the exact total of which remains unknown. The only one that actually matters is the final offer, the one in which Friend, partnerless heading into the 2022 Denver Tour Series, shrugged his shoulders and agreed.

That is the ask, and acceptance, that changed both of their lives forever.

Since 2011 or so, Friend had known he was gay. Took him two years to come out with it. Since, he has become something of a north star to those wrestling with similar decisions, a welcoming ear to listen, a steady voice as one of the few openly gay players on the AVP Tour.

Since he was a teenager, Brewster knew, on some level, that he was gay. Raised in a conservative, Catholic family — and endlessly loving, to be sure — coming to the open acceptance of it was no easy thing. When Friend alas agreed to block for Brewster in the summer of 2022, Brewster was, as he said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, “figuring me out,” mired in an internal struggle to which few could relate. Kyle Friend could relate.

“Seeing an example of someone who is out and confident and able to do volleyball, I’d never been around that,” Brewster said. “To see somebody like that helped me through a lot of these internal struggles I was having. Obviously I worked really hard and there was a lot of stuff I did to make my volleyball really good but there’s also a mental component, whether it was confidence or being comfortable, it helped my volleyball click. It made a huge difference for me on and off the court. It was cool for me to see that journey.”

The off-court acceptance, both public and private, of who he was and what it meant, would take time. But the on-court freedom that came with playing alongside someone who understood Brewster on a level few, if any, could was immediate. They finished seventh in Denver, good enough to qualify for the Fort Lauderdale Pro Series later that summer. Brewster’s first main draw. Then they qualified again for Atlanta, stunning Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander in the first round for Brewster’s first main draw win, upsetting John Hyden and Logan Webber for another. They’d ultimately finish seventh, and those watching could be forgiven for wondering: Where had this Tim…

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