Women's professional beach volleyball legend Holly McPeak ran into an acquaintance at her local grocery store recently.
"A guy named Bobby Bates was sitting near the exit,'' McPeak said. "He is in his 80s and was always at Marine Street playing volleyball when I was growing up. He could do anything with a pokey. Bobby is a true living legend. I always see him at the gym. He has been bugging me to pick up golf and go pro the last 15 years."
So McPeak had this quip when she saw him.
"I'm retired,'' she told him. "I'll see you on the golf course.''
The sport of volleyball isn't quite ready to let her go yet. Just last month, just nine days after announcing her retirement from the sport, McPeak was named to the Volleyball Hall of Fame class of 2009. She will be inducted into the prestigious Hall of Fame on Oct. 30 in Holyoke, Mass., the sport's birthplace. She is the only American among six inductees this year.
When asked if she considers herself one of the sport's legends, the three-time beach volleyball Olympian said, "That's for other people to say. I put the time and energy and hard work in to make the sport what it is today. I put everything I could into being the best I could be."
So far, after her sudden retirement as a professional beach volleyball player just weeks into the 2009 AVP season, the Manhattan Beach, Calif., native said she is doing just fine.
"It's more of a relief with the way I was playing," said McPeak, who had been paired with former University of Nebraska women's player Jenny Kropp this year and retired following three consecutive ninth-place finishes on the tour. "I've done too much in the sport to go on playing at a level that is not where I wanted to be at. What's the point?
"I was playing great in practice,'' McPeak added. "I was playing at a high level. I don't know. It's the right time for me to move on. Maybe my mental focus was not as good. When you know, you know. When you are done, you are done."
McPeak said she probably still could have continued competing on the tour.
"But I'm not like that," she said. "I still need to be passionate about what I do. I'm super-competitive and super-intense. I felt I needed a break. I'm not going to limp away from the sport. I'm leaving because I'm not doing it the way I want and I'm not competing the best way I can.''
In the first tour stop in May at the AVP Crocs Open in San Diego, McPeak and Kropp finished 1-2. Afterward, McPeak decided it would be her final appearance.
"I woke up the Sunday after the San Diego tournament and I was not happy playing volleyball,'' McPeak said. "I've played long enough at a high level where I enjoyed it. I'm not enjoying it anymore. Earlier in the season I was frustrated, but then I would bounce back. Maybe I could have bounced back again. But my brain was not in it."
McPeak says she has no regrets with how her career unfolded.
Beyond her 72 career victories (which puts her third in most career victories among women's beach volleyball players) and her nearly $1.6 million in career earnings (third all-time), McPeak also will be best remembered for helping bring along the careers of some of the game's top current female stars.
"Holly is the consummate professional," said three-time Olympic gold medalist Karch Kiraly. "She deserves credit for being a good player and a good coach herself. A lot of players got a lot better playing with her. That's the highest compliment you can get as a volleyball player."
McPeak felt her ability to help her partners with their games was one of her greatest strengths.
"Absolutely," said McPeak, who has played with standouts like Misty May-Treanor, Elaine Youngs, Jen Kessy and Nicole Branagh. "I helped make my partners better. If you look at the top right now, three of the top four players have been my partners."
Along with Youngs, McPeak captured a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics. She placed fifth with Nancy Reno at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and was fifth again with May-Treanor in the 2000 Games in Sydney. She was named the MVP in three different leagues in the United States.
"I'm grateful I had an awesome career," McPeak said. "I saw the world. I went to three Olympics and was on the medal stand. I'm ready to move on. It's the right time."
McPeak doesn't have one particular fond memory of her career. Instead, she prefers to look at her whole body of work.
"I'm proud of the fact I won with seven different partners and I'm proud of the fact I won 72 more times than anyone thought I could win," McPeak said. "I'm proud of giving it my all every time I went out there."
Looking toward the future, McPeak plans to remain involved in the sport with her beach and women's college volleyball broadcasting duties.
"I've got broadcasting experience, and I know the sport," she said. "I know the athletes. I want to give back to the sport. Television is how you get fans. You have to win fans through TV. I like telling viewers about the sport and why things happen. Hopefully that will help get people interested in the sport and caring about the sport. We've got great athletes playing at the highest level."
McPeak is also excited about being able to spend more time with her husband, former AVP CEO and commissioner Leonard Armato, who stepped down from his longtime post earlier this year.
"I'm enjoying time with my husband," McPeak said. "Things have slowed down for both of us a little bit. We've got exciting futures."
And, perhaps, some time to pick up her golf game.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Mike Miazga is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.