By Katie Branham | Oct. 16, 2018, 3:34 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Lindsey Sparks and Devon Newberry compete in beach volleyball on Oct. 16, 2018 at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Lindsey Sparks and Devon Newberry are teammates in every sense of the word. The two have known each other for years, have partnered in beach volleyball for two years, will compete as UCLA teammates starting next year they are currently representing Team USA together at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.

Sparks is a freshman at UCLA playing beach volleyball for the Bruins, and Newberry, a year younger, has verbally committed to UCLA after she finishes high school in the spring.

For Sparks, adjusting to college life and competing at the Youth Olympic Games has its own struggles.

“It has been really hard with school trying to stay caught up on that,” Sparks said. “Also trying to get used to the lifestyle of being a student-athlete in college. Hopefully I’ll adjust quickly when I get back and go right back into training and weight training and everything.” 

Sparks spends her evenings doing school work. Some of her courses now include sociology, political philosophy and, fittingly, colonial Latin America.

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For Newberry, it’s a nice preview of what is to come. 

“I think it is really cool to be here with Lindsey and see her as she starts college,” Newberry said. “It kind of gives me a preparation year of what I’m going into next year. It kind of helps me know what to prepare for.”

For the duo, which has been training, competing and traveling the world this summer, the past month has been one of many changes.

“I just started college training, which is the best training, so that was really nice to have before I was coming here,” Sparks said. “It was definitely tougher to train with Devon, but we trust each other enough that we were both training on our own and we felt good when we came together.”

They both realize the value of the education they’ve gained outside the classroom by competing at the Youth Olympic Games.

“I think you meet these people you never expect to,” Newberry said.  “You’re living together for two weeks and you have no idea what to expect from it, but you just become so close because they know what you’re going through with sports because they are going through the same thing.”

“There are good people everywhere,” Sparks said. “There are strong teams from every country who have their own styles of play, and you get to pick up little things from each team - like I want to do that because they are really good at this on defense, or other things.”

The learning experience continues as the women adjust their mindset to prepare for the bronze-medal game. In Tuesday morning’s semifinal, the U.S. women lost 2-0 to Italy’s Claudia Scampoli and Nicol Bertozzi (21-16, 21-19). They will play for bronze against Frida Berntsen and Emilie Olimstad of Norway on Wednesday.

But this team has the same goal in mind. 

When asked about future goals, Newberry was quick to say, “We want to be in the Olympics hopefully, playing together,” and Sparks finished the sentence practically in unison: “…absolutely playing pro, too, that would be awesome.”