COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Phil Dalhausser is a three-time Olympian with a gold medal and the most FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour post-season awards for any athlete, current or past. In the United States, he is one of only five beach athletes to attend three or more Olympic Games.
Dalhausser made his professional debut in 2003 and his first FIVB World Tour tournament played was in 2004. His career has spanned 13 years on the World Tour against the best in the game, and he continues to be a leader in stats and ability.
Highlighting his most recent season on the FIVB World Tour, Dalhausser was selected as the international circuit’s most outstanding men’s player in the voting by players, coaches, referees and FIVB officials.
In addition to being named the top male performer for the 2017 campaign that started in February in the United States on Fort Lauderdale Beach in south Florida and ended at the end of August in Germany at the Swatch Beach Volleyball FIVB World Tour Finals in Hamburg, Dalhausser was also named the best blocker for the seventh time and best offensive player for the fifth time.
With the three 2017 honours, Dalhausser has now accumulated 30 post-season awards.
Describe how beach volleyball has changed since you started in 2003.
Phil Dalhausser: Beach volleyball has gotten, in my opinion, way more competitive. The athletes now are bigger and some would say better. But when I started on the World Tour, I was the tallest on the World Tour. Now I'm maybe not in the top 10, if you're including qualifier players. It's going that direction where most sports are. Basically, the Tour has gotten bigger and the players are more physical. It's the deepest it's ever been.
What do you think has made it that way?
Dalhausser: I think the federations realize they can win two medals in the Olympics compared to one in indoor volleyball. Some guys that maybe would've played indoor 10 years ago are now on the beach.
What are routines you do to stay healthy? You've had a long career, what's kept you in the game?
Dalhausser: Things I do to stay healthy are maintenance things. Like I stretch, roll out, I try to get a deep tissue massage once a week. I get dry needling every other week. Stuff like that to stay on top of things. If something pops up, like a little minor thing, I try to take care of it right away, rather than waiting and it turn into something not so minor.
I've been at events in the mixed zone and heard opponents, after playing you, tell you they idolized you when growing up. What is it like to play the younger generations that grew up watching you?
Dalhausser: Playing the younger guys makes me feel old (laughs). It seems like just yesterday that Nick (Lucena) and I were the young and up-and-comers. Now, what 12 or 13 years later, we're the veterans. I guess it’s a good feeling when players tell me that. It means that I've been around and on top of the game for a while, and that's not an easy thing to do.
What allows you to stay in the game like that? Is it a testament to your drive?
Dalhausser: I think the biggest thing is never thinking that I know it all. I'm always trying to improve. The second you think that you know it all, or that you can't get any better, is when I think your game starts to decline. I think that's with anything, in any kind of profession. I'm constantly trying to get better, even at 37. I think that helps a lot.
What does it take to stay dominant in this sport for so long?
Dalhausser: I don't know about dominant, but like I said, it's kind of the same thing. I'm always trying to get better. I'm never satisfied. I think that drives me to be better and keeps me on top of the game.
You've had strong partnerships in your career. What have you learned from those partners through the years?
Dalhausser: I think the biggest thing I've learned over the years, as far as partnerships go, is that it's not only being a good player, it is being a good partner. You could be the best player in the world, but if you're a crappy partner, that takes away from your team. I try to be the best partner I can be. If my guy is struggling, I try to do something to pick him up a little bit. Basically, that's what I've learned over the years. If you sit there and bash your partner while he's struggling, that's not going to help things. I try to make things better. Which is way harder than it sounds.
Coaches in beach volleyball are becoming increasingly more visible to the general public. What do beach volleyball athletes look for when hiring a coach?
Dalhausser: Coaches are becoming more popular out on the World Tour. There are maybe two teams that I can think of that don't have coaches that travel. For me, looking for a coach, if you have a good coach it gives you a competitive advantage. Anything that will give you an advantage, even if it's just three or four-percent of an advantage, it's going to help. Maybe that makes a difference in a match, here and there.
For me, I'd like someone that is good with technique. During a long season, your technique can get sloppy and for a coach to notice that, I think that's important. Also, someone who has game plans. Not all coaches have everything you need. Some, their strengths lie in technique, and some their strengths lie in game plans. I think it's important to find someone who is good at both.
You're the most decorated beach volleyball athlete for FIVB World Tour post-season awards, and you've been to the Olympics three times with a gold medal in there. Is there anything else to check off the bucket list as an athlete?
Dalhausser: As far as checking off things on my bucket list for my career, I think I've checked them all off. I'd like to win another World Champs. It's been a while since I've even medaled, the last time I medaled was in 2009. In 2019, I'd like to make a good run in the World Champs. Obviously, I'd like to play in another Olympics and medal there as well. It's been almost 10 years since Beijing. It's been a while, I'd like to do well in the Olympics.
Is your next goal Tokyo, for the 2020 Olympics?
Dalhausser: As of now, the goal is to go for it. I'm going to stick around as long as I keep winning. I think it'd be hard to leave the sport if I'm still winning tournaments. That's the tentative plan right now. I'll take it year-by-year and see what happens.
How do you define success?
Dalhausser: I would define success by not only winning tournaments, but staying on top of the game for an extended period of time. Guys like Emmanuel (Rego) and Ricardo (Santos), they were on top of the game for so long. That's what I'm striving for.
What do you say to the people that say you're already up there with Emmanuel and Ricardo?
Dalhausser: I'm a numbers guy. I look at how many tournaments they've won, compared to how many tournaments I've won. They are quite a bit higher than I am. I'm like 20 behind Ricardo and 40 behind Emmanuel. I still have some work to do as far as that goes. I've had a good run on the World Tour. I don't do well with praise, I try to downplay it. If anyone says that, it's obviously an honor because those two guys are the two best players to play on the World Tour, in my opinion.
Where do you think you'll be when the Olympics head to LA in 2028?
Dalhausser: I will not be playing volleyball, that's for sure. In 2028 I'll be 48 years old. I'll be out of the sport, as far as playing. Maybe I'll be coaching somewhere, maybe college or for a country. I'd be open to moving to another country and coaching a program over there.