Ali McColloch is no stranger to the courts: The UCLA graduate played at the collegiate level and co-founded a club team. As team coach at UC Davis, she’s training mostly indoor players, who had to adjust to playing beach. While indoor pits six-person teams against each other and has specialized roles, beach is played in doubles and has no specialized positions. The inaugural beach volleyball team played its first match on March 2 and finished the season with an 8-10 record. We sat down with McColloch to chat about one of the university’s newest sports.
Challenges of the first season:
The hardest things have been matchups; some of my beach-only players match up well with my indoor players, but I don’t have those partnerships year-round. As for training, I love that so much. It’s not hard. It’s more the logistical side.
On coaching indoors players for beach:
I think the hardest thing with beach, for indoors players, is that there’s only two [of you players] out there, so you can’t really hide your insecurities like you can indoors. If you’re not the best at ball control, in indoors, you can be a three-rotational player in the front row. But in beach, you can’t hide that. So the girls being confident in their playing, their abilities to pass, the all-around game itself, is probably the biggest challenge for them.
We don’t talk about winning and losing a lot. If you’re giving 100 percent, you’ll be successful within yourself and in a team. Some people are afraid to try when they’re thinking about the outcome. We’re trying to make sure they know it’s OK to try and to fail.
Favorite memory so far:
My first day of coaching, I remember I got chills. It was our first meeting, and we had the whole team together. I was really proud of myself and also very thankful for all the people involved in my life up until that moment. I’m excited to help these girls in positive ways and move them toward what they want in life.
Planning the team’s future:
Right now, we’re working on developing a solid beach-only team and strong schedule. I want to create a match atmosphere that’s electric and family friendly. Ultimately, I’m excited to help these girls and move them toward what they want in life. If a kid comes back to me and tells me, ‘You made a difference in my life,’ that’s what I’m here for.
A shorter version of this interview appeared in the spring/summer 2019 issue of UC Davis Magazine.