Meet Muscle Feast Athlete, Traci Callahan. Traci is a highly accomplished Beach Volleyball Pro. She made a name for herself early on as a collegiate volleyball athlete but eventually found her way to the sandy beaches of California.
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Traci started playing volleyball in middle school and quickly found a passion for the sport. By the time she finished college, she had earned herself notable titles like NCAA Division Freshman of the Year, Female Student-Athlete of the Year, and was a three-time All American by 2009.
Following college, Traci decided that the best way for her to play volleyball professionally without going to Europe was to switch to sand volleyball. In 2010, she played her first tournament as a member of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. After two years of competing professionally state-side, Traci became a USA National Team Athlete competing internationally in North America, Central America, and the Caribbean on the NORCECA Tour.
Q. What have been your greatest achievements so far as a professional sand volleyball athlete? _ A. During the NORCECA Tour on the USA National Team, I had seven international podium finishes, including two gold medals. Plus, I placed 5th on three different occasions for AVP Best Finish between 2014 and 2020.
Q. In 2015, you retired from Beach Volleyball for three years and became the Assistant Volleyball Coach at Florida State University. Why did you make this change and what did you enjoy most about coaching?
A. I temporarily left competing to pursue coaching because I needed something that provided a little more security and still allowed me to do what I love. But coaching is so much more than that to me; it's about encouragement and mentorship; it's about helping an athlete reach their vision. I have been passionate about coaching since 2009, working with athletes as young as ten years old.
Q. What tips do you have for youth that are interested in competing in sand volleyball?
A. I would encourage kids to find a local program that can teach them how to play the game. Then, sign up for local tournaments and play. It’s simple, but the great thing about beach volleyball is that there are no substitutions. There are no coaches who choose if you play or not. If you sign up to play, you get to play! For those kids interested in playing at a high level, I would recommend planning a trip to California in July and signing up for all the tournaments here. Most of the big junior tours host their championships in July in Hermosa Beach, California.
Q. In 2018, you began competing professionally again, but switched positions from blocker to defender. What was the reason for this change?
A. In Beach Volleyball, there is always a blocker at the net and a defender at the back of the court. You will typically see tall athletes guarding the net, reaching over the net to stop balls from crossing over. On the other hand, the defender needs to be balanced and quick-footed. These athletes are often smaller than the blocker because they rely heavily on their ability to be fast and agile.
At 6'2" I am an excellent sized blocker, but I was being outplayed at the net at the highest level of the game. I knew that if I wanted to reach my highest potential in this sport, I needed to make the change to a defender. While I might be taller than the average defender, I am naturally agile, which is rarely found for someone my size. With two tall players, my team has a massive advantage over other teams in our sport.
Q. Do you have a different diet when you're competing?
A. My diet is pretty much the same year-round. I like consistency, and I don’t want to yo-yo in my weight at all. I find it keeps my mind healthy, and my body fresh to eat a healthy diet year-round. However, I do find times during the year to indulge in different treats. I eat birthday cake and love pizza like everyone else, but I also find other ways to satisfy those cravings. For instance, I make protein pancakes with the Muscle Feast Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate a few nights a week for dessert, and I mostly eat pizza on vegetable crusts. For me, the best diet is full of eggs, lettuces, fats like avocado, nuts and coconut, bison, chicken, rice, some fruit, and a little chocolate.
Q. Do you have a training and recovery regimen?
A. In season I typically practice 4-5 days a week. Our practices are roughly two hours long, and I may stay longer to work on different aspects of my game (like serving or speed drills). I train 3-4 times a week in the gym, usually an hour to an hour and a half. I get bodywork done five days a week, including stretching, soft tissue work and occasionally cupping. Recovery is an essential part of my training regimen.
Q. What is your favorite exercise?
A. I love training, so it's hard to pick just one. Probably my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE exercise is medicine ball slams. It's an incredible feeling to throw something as hard as you can into the ground… it's therapeutic. I also love any drills that include jumping and single-leg balance drills.
Q. How has COVID-19 affected your training and competing?
A. I have had to get VERY creative with COVID restrictions. Many of my training sessions for months were virtual zoom calls with my trainer. The beaches have also been closed for months, so I had to find a private court to train since I couldn't train at the beach. Thankfully, the AVP tour organizers put together a three-weekend event called "The Championship Cup Series" that ran July 18th through August 2nd.
Q. Who has inspired you to keep pursuing your passion for sand volleyball?
A. Different people have inspired me at different points in my career for various reasons. However, I would say that my husband, Matthew, is the one who believes in me more than anyone else, even when I thought I wasn't any good. His constant support has made a big difference in my career. My team is also a source of inspiration to me every day, from my trainer to my coach. I find that if you surround yourself with people who are continually pushing their limits, it creates a culture of excellence, where a "no excuses" mentality becomes a core belief.
You can learn more about Traci by following her on Instagram @callahanvolleyball and be sure to follow us on social to stay up-to-date as we continue to highlight our customers and athletes!