Blog: U.S. Junior Beach Teams Faced Challenges in China

July 30, 2018, 11 p.m. (ET)
U.S. men's beach volleyball players celebrate
Tim Brewster, left, and John Schwengel slap hands during a tournament in December. 

Tim Brewster and partner John Schwengel tied for 25th at the U19 Beach World Championships in Nanjing, China.

My first World Championships was a whirlwind. From long flights, to new and weird foods, to extreme heat, to tough competition; this tournament was nothing like any I had ever played before. There were so many high and lows that made this journey so special and I am so thankful to have been a part of it.

Competing internationally is different for many reasons, but the biggest is the level of competition. International players play a much different style of game than we tend to play here in the U.S.. For one, they are very physical and don’t hesitate to play like it. Secondly, many of the teams have played together for a long time and have a deep chemistry that gives them an advantage. Lastly, they have more international experience than we do here. Especially in Europe, there are many youth tournaments where the athletes get opportunities to play against top foreign players.

Outside of the competitors, there are a ton of other factors that made the U19 World Champs so different. The biggest of those factors had to be the weather. In Nanjing, the weather ranged in the mid to high 90s with about 80 percent humidity. According to weather reports, it felt like playing in about 108-degree weather. Heat like that sucks the energy right out of you. At timeouts and between sets, we used ice packs and cold towels to cool down.

The wind there is also different. Although it isn’t strong, it changes directions quickly. There were times when we would be about to go to the good side and then suddenly it would be the bad side. Playing in unusual conditions like that is mentally hard. You have to be able to completely reset after every point no matter what you are feeling. That is tough and something that I had a hard time doing. You have so much running through your head that to have success, you need to be able to clear it quickly.

Another major factor is the food. Chinese food is different... very different. Even at a nice hotel like we were at, there was not a ton of food that I could eat. I had the same fried rice for three meals a day for five straight days. There were also times when, because of a game or practice, we missed a meal in the hotel and had to eat snacks and food that we packed.

Other factors were having to plan to get on shuttles at certain times, finding bottled water (which was not easy to get), and communicating with such a difficult language barrier. Balancing all of that is difficult and can make competing hard. So it is important to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That was a major key for me that helped me have success. No matter what was thrown at me I would tell myself “comfortable being uncomfortable” and try and overcome it as smoothly as possible.

In closing, Worlds was the coolest experience of my life. It was incredible getting to represent Team USA against the best in the world. Although I didn’t get the result I wanted, I learned so much about what it is like to compete internationally. I am very thankful for this opportunity and am excited for the chance to do it again in the future.