HERMOSA BEACH, Calif. (July 19, 2013) – Cameron Rodriguez is competing at the 2013 USA Volleyball Beach High Performance Championships (Beach HPC) in Hermosa Beach, Calif., nearly 3,000 miles away from where he began, literally and figuratively.
Rodriguez, 15, hails from Virginia, just north of Washington, D.C., and is one of the few East Coasters competing at the Beach HPC.
“It’s interesting,” Rodriguez said with a chuckle. “A lot of times people ask me, ‘are you from California?’ or, ‘where do you train?’ And I’m like, ‘oh, I’m from Virginia,’ and they don’t know what to say. They’re like, ‘how do you even play volleyball?’ ”
| Cameron Rodriguez receives the ball at the USAV Beach HPCs.
Rodriguez began his beach volleyball career at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where his dad would play socially with his friends. But before Cameron was 10 years old, they wouldn't let him on the court.
“I wasn't good enough to play so they’d make me pass to myself and stuff because they didn't want me to ruin the game,” Rodriguez said.
He didn’t begin playing volleyball with kids his own age until he was 13, when his family found out about an indoor club team in the area. Unlike California, where volleyball opportunities are numerous, Rodriguez has to drive 45 minutes to get to practice.
“When we were talking to the club director at the time, he was like, ‘I don’t think you’re going to make it. We have a really good team,’ ” Rodriguez said. “And then when I tried out I was just as good as everyone else.”
Rodriguez prepared for his indoor volleyball debut by watching YouTube videos of Olympic matches at his dad’s urging to get a sense of how top athletes play the game. He has made something of a habit of proving people wrong, and said his favorite volleyball memory was playing against 18-year-olds on his high school indoor club team.
“There were these two 6-foot-8 guys that played on the 18s team,” Rodriguez said. “And on the first two plays, I hit around them both times. They were really surprised because, you know, they’re huge. They didn’t expect anything out of me. That was really confidence-boosting.”
He plans to use some of that confidence at Beach HPC, where he is competing in the U19 division. Rodriguez said he was originally uncomfortable with the idea and thought he would have a better chance at medalling in the U17 division.
“I was really nervous the first couple points in the very first game, and we were down by a good bit but we started coming back,” Rodriguez said. “I just need to get taller and jump higher."
Though he again finds himself playing against athletes that are older than he is, Rodriguez is now not only allowed on the court, but is more than holding his own.
He plans to continue playing volleyball in the future, ideally playing indoor for an NCAA Division I or II school in California and qualifying for the AVP Tour.
“That’s my ultimate goal, to qualify for AVP. But that’s about it,” he said. “I don’t want to get too serious and have unreasonable goals and lose sight of what I want out of the sport.”
For match schedules and results, click here.
2013 USA Volleyball Beach High Performance Championships
U15 Girls: July 19-21
U17 Girls: July 18-20
U19 Girls: July 19-21
U21 Women: Gold - Jace Pardon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Lara Dykstra (Redondo Beach, Calif.); Silver - Sophie Asprey (Dallas, Texas) and Becca Strehlow (Long Beach, Calif.); Bronze - Kamila Tan (San Diego, Calif.) and Emily Podschweit (Denver, Colo.)
U26 Women: Gold - Stevi Robinson (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Kaitlin Ledoux (Phelan, Calif.); Silver - Leah Hinkey (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) and Emily Stockman (Hermosa Beach, Calif.); Bronze - Kirby Burnham (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Meg Norton (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
U15 Boys: July 18-20
U17 Boys: July 18-20
U19 Boys: July 19-21
U21 Men: Gold - Branden Clemens (Carmel, Ind.) and Chris Long (Tustin, Calif.); Silver - Brendan Duff (Carmel, Ind.) and Cody Martin (Tucson, Ariz.); Bronze - Skyler McCoy (Long Beach, Calif.) and Austin Rysyk (San Jose, Calif.)
U26 Men: Gold - Adam Cabbage (Rio Ranchero, N.M.) and Rob Page (Rochester, N.Y.); Silver - Kyle Stevenson (Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif.) and Martin Lorenz (Spokane, Wash.); Bronze - Weston Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and Kevin Villea (Glendale, Ariz.)