Updated: Jan 13
I came out of the gate hot. Guns blazing, fire raising hell. Bent on becoming the next great. Inspired by each turning success. Feeling more than capable of conquering dreams of Tokyo 2020... It all started in 2016 with some taste of success, a will and drive to prove myself, and a skill derived from growing up on the beach, bumping balls by second nature. This is my story. The winding road of an athlete. To care too much, to leave it all out there. To fear giving up everything to pursue. Is it logical? Does it make sense? No safety net. What will the future look like? You have to give it all to have a chance. Do you? Can you be a balanced Bomgren and make it all work? It takes a lot of trust and a lot of passion to be a pro beach volleyball player. Here's how I did it wrong...
My intention is not to beat myself up for mistakes but open up about my journey so as to help the next generation coming along. Because I made a lot of great choices, built a lot of wonderful catalyzing habits. Gritted through some tough challenges and came out stronger. But I definitely broke in the process. The love for the game. Poof. Was it always stilted in my self worth? If I didn't have volleyball what would I do? Who would I be? Existential. Good to have these questions now rather than later... A lot of things have gotten in the way of me being my best athlete on the volleyball court. Here's to expressing, recognizing and removing them.
1) Comparison. Do not, i repeat. Do not stack yourself up against anyone to determine your own value. Especially if his name is Taylor Crabb. Back in 2016-17, we would spar with Tay and Gibb on a semi-regular basis. I absolutely loved these battles. Rallies would last a long time with both of us on the court. Challenging each other. More times than not, his offense would prove superior as my transition game needed and still needs work. But, I felt so close. I felt so hungry to chase the man who had the reins to the rule of the beach kingdom. We would be up 19-17 in a practice, and he would shine a wry smile over his shoulder after 4 straight clutch points in which he turned it on. Everyone has seen it. Most have been on the receiving end of it too, so there's nothing to be embarrassed about. He would drop a confident, cocky yet playful "almost" as he walked under the net. In the moment, you couldn't help but laugh. I truly wonder how hard he was even trying. So nice of him to give me a chance and get my hopes up. Hopes and dreams of being one of the best defenders in the US. This is where I should have kept laughing. Instead, I used it as fuel. Fuel that would end up charring my own will for the game. This f@#$%^&* doesn't even train! He parties all night, and shrugs his shoulders when he scoops you and makes you looks silly. If I keep training and grinding, gritting through the process, it's only a matter of time until I pass him. At least that's what I thought... Yikes! Haha! As I watched him drift away steadily onto Cloud 9 where he is known worldwide for his freakish defense, quick arm, and rum and coke diet. How does he make it look so easy? So calm and collected. The lack of fear, the lack of struggle. Sometimes, we all think it is about adding things to our arsenal. When in fact, the absence of props or boosts allows for our true hidden power to come forth. Our nervous system when balanced and present is capable of some remarkable reaction times. Anyways, we went in opposite directions. Or did we? Nope. My expectations in relation to a superstar are what left me feeling inferior. I still grew. I still improved. Learned lessons. Became steadier. If only I could have seen that in the moment, and stopped the inner turmoil. Comparing ourselves to anything other than our own day to day happiness and expansion is such a common folly. Pass me the rum Tay.
So Tokyo 2020 is not gonna happen...? I had to grieve that loss. I had been sitting with it for a while. The childish boyish wonder of Olympic rings on my wall, with each circle holding in it a lesson that if I stayed true to would assure me a chance at greatness. A belief in myself that over time vanished. I remember the straw that broke the camel's back... The 2018 Huntington Beach FIVB/AVP hybrid tourney. My little ass just got through a wind blown battle with Dalhausser/Lucena. Partner Drost played some amazing ball, and I struggled to even see the sun with Phil surrounding me with SPF 120. My fragile ego watched on after we were eliminated and saw some 6'7 men playing defense as well as me and piking balls to the sideline with absolute authority. I felt tiny, and like my dreams were absolutely farfetched. I laughed at how insanely good the level was, but inside held back tears of dreams destructed. How the f$%#@ do I compete at that level? I felt like I was at the kids table looking at my Cheerios with embarrassment, while the big boys shared wartime stories. So I moved forward with my journey, but lost hope in that moment. I'm once again not trying to host a pity party, nor ask for people to build me up. That's my job, and that's the only way it will feel real and not stilted. Wake up call.
2) Mindset. For a long time, I have lived in, reveled in the role of underdog. So much so that I have cut myself short, and left myself feeling mentally drained. On the way up, it is easy. Comparatively speaking. Every success is brightened, and the failures do not hurt so much. The expectations are lower. It's a Catch 22. People start to know you. You get treatments for free. You get mini sponsorships, and people love the smell of your farts. Everybody just asks about the volleyball stuff with glowing eyes like they have met a legend. And I am just trying to piece it together like any other human walking this Earth. Grounded in realness. It's easy to soak up the praise and the attention, but I want people to feel inspired in their own abilities to achieve not caught up in a starry eyed superhero lens of what I "seem to be." So, when I play in a rec game and I get roofed and somebody celebrates like their first born just got accepted to Yale, it's aggravating. It's easier when there's no pressure. From yourself or any expectations of what a pro should look like. I realize this is my own ego getting in the way. It's not fun to lose. It's not fun to have a mark on your back. That sigh of relief when you win.That chip on your shoulder that Trevor Crabb plays with to instill dominance regardless of opponent. It's hard to come by. The relentless attitude to believe in yourself and the willingness to give it your all regardless of outcome. To hold back in any competition is to sell ourselves short. If you don't give it all, it doesn't feel as painful. I think I have been self-protective, coping with losses too painful to process. Continuing to envision success and put in the work, yet come up short because of your own inability to mentally cross the finish line. So many close losses that would feel alright, if I had only not self sabotaged the finish. When you give it all, that is enough. Why do I fear success? Why do I fear winning? Why won't I let someone tell me I'm good? Will I ever be good enough?
We, as athletes of a secondary U.S. sport, have a choice to make. Unfortunately, we have to choose how we use our energy, and balance this with other career paths. This balance und
ercuts our development but brightens our futures. It forces us to dig deep and be more rounded. To evolve and to grow, which I like for the volleyball community. It gives a richness and a closeness to our experience. It makes us more grounded and appreciative for it all. I am currently in Phoenix with a stable coaching job looking to make strides of maturity in other aspects of my life. If I were to tell an athlete at the crucible of their journey whether to go through med school or pour it in their passion, there is no clear cut right answer. There is no wrong decision. Yet, I would upon returning to the start of my career, move forward with balance and a more future oriented plan to free up the joy of competition. It's a fine edge wherein needing something to survive can fuel us, but allowing space can bring our flow to new heights. At the moment, I am choosing that flow. To create a lifestyle outside of being an athlete. To discover this, the nuances, the creativity. What am I outside of the volleyball court? Is my confidence stilted in my ability to spike a ball? Can I grow internally and see the beautiful bloom this has on and off the court? I am committed to this journey. I assume I will be on the court again soon. But, first things first. I am taking care of my body. Doing more things I enjoy. Staying strong and fit. Having tough conversations. And doing my best to bring my heart to the volleyball community. Show the reality of being human as a competitor. Hopefully inspire and be inspired in the process. Have a great Namas-day