Two-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor gives Tampa Catholic star treatment

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Sat. August 29, 2009 | Times Staff

MayThe The Tampa Catholic volleyball team couldn’t have asked for a better guest coach.

Misty May-Treanor, arguably the world’s best beach volleyball player, spent this week working with the Crusaders. Her father, former Olympian Butch May, was hired in May to become T.C.’s new head coach.

It’s been a year since May-Treanor (above, in black) and teammate Kerri Walsh won Olympic gold in Beijing. She’s currently taking time off from the AVP Tour, which runs from February to November.

And this week, there she was, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, playing back row and mentoring players who couldn't help but be awed by her presence.

In between sweating on the court and a post-practice trip to Busch Gardens, May-Treanor took some time with Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina to talk about coaching, her future, the death of the three-sport athlete and Lady Gaga.

Q. So when a high school coach asks you to come help out – and that coach happens to be your father – do you have much of a choice?

A. I think I had to convince him to come help. It’s hard being a new coach. You don’t know the girls and you’re trying to feel things out. My husband (Detroit Tigers catcher Matt Treanor) was like, ‘Maybe, you need to go help your dad out.’ So I called and asked. I love coaching and teaching and obviously that’s what I want to do. It’s fun for me. I get to yell a little bit, make them work.

Q. You probably know your dad better than anyone. What can these girls expect from him as a coach?

A. My dad’s a real technical coach, so he likes to stop and talk a lot. I was hoping to come in and speed the practices up a bit. It’s tough because with a high school team you only have a certain amount of time, and you want a finished product. … They have to learn on the fly, so you have to be able to run a fast-paced practice but also be able to throw in the technical aspects of it. He’s very knowledgeable person and coach. He’s an Olympian, so he knows his stuff.

Q. He said it was great to have you here because they can connect with you. You are much more visible to them. You think that’s true?

A. I’m a visual learner. When I was younger, I would practice with Karch (Kiraly). I’d want to watch him pass, and I’d try to copy his passing. So if I can come in here and show the girls – some of them are visual, some are auditory – they can see someone play at the speed the game’s supposed to be played at.

Q. Everyone equates professional volleyball with the beach game. Do you think indoor can ever gain that kind of popularity?

A. A lot of players go overseas and make money indoor. I always tell people to play indoor as long as you can, because the beach is always there. I think it’s a shame. I think kids nowadays aren’t being allowed to play three different sports. I was able to play three different sports. (May-Treanor grew up playing tennis, and played soccer and volleyball and ran track) Now, they’re specializing. Kids are getting hurt. They burn out. … I think you build a better all-around athlete the most sports you’re exposed to..

Q. In this state, the FHSAA nearly cut the number of maximu varsity volleyball matches from 25 to 20. Do more games make a difference?

A. The games shouldn’t matter to me. I wonder sometimes when kids get a break. Maybe make a dead period, where coaches can’t be with them for three weeks. Give their bodies a break. Allow them to be kids.

Q. How do you spend your time off?

A. I spend it at home, walking the dogs, in the house, spending time with my husband. Little things, that people would maybe do daily, I think ‘This is wonderful.’ If I lock the house and I’m just inside, I’m great. I might go down to the beach and play. I’m very spontaneous.

Q. What’s on your playlist?

A. I have hip-hop, Lady Gaga, Kanye West. I have country. I have spa music when I’m trying to relax if I need to sleep on a plane or we have a tournament coming up or I need to get some rest. I have a gamut of everything. I mean, everything.

Q.  When can we expect to see you back on the court?

A. I don’t have a time frame. I do want to start a family, so we’ll see.

-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA

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