ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – For Nicki Bechtold, playing on one team is not enough. She plays on two.
There’s indoor volleyball for Eckerd College in the fall and, in the spring, she’s on the Tritons’ beach team – her first time playing the sandy outdoor variation.
One of her favourite aspects of transitioning from the hard court to the sand has been the contrasts between the two.
“Beach has a lot of environmental factors,” she said, before practice last week. “It’s a lot of wind. You have to take that into consideration, you have to take how hot or cold it’s going to be.
“And indoor, it’s always going to be a set temperature. You can use them to your advantage, and it helps a lot once you get to know everything that’s going on.”
Eckerd has begun the season 5-1, including a four-game win streak. Bechtold has played on the sand, winning four of her first six sets.
Her goals for this season don’t just revolve around her own improvement, but the team’s championship aspirations, too.
“I really just want to develop all the skills and make as many improvements as I can,” Bechtold said. “I am really hoping we make it to the championship, and we stay consistent throughout the whole season and just keep getting better and stronger every day.”
Being on two teams comes with sacrifices. In both the beach and indoor seasons she has a tight schedule with little time to relax.
On an average school day, Bechtold and her teammates wake up at 5:45 a.m. for beach volleyball practice. It doesn’t stop there. Following their two-hour morning practice she has class from 9:30 a.m. to noon, another class from 3 to 5 p.m. before going home for homework, dinner, and sleep.
A jam-packed day is a regular one for the Eckerd College volleyball team, but Bechtold wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’re constantly going, but it’s really nice,” she said. “I honestly like being busy. I would rather be busy than not do anything, so it’s awesome.”
Although the workload of being a student-athlete is difficult, Bechtold stays ahead of the game. She spends every Sunday preparing for the following week and gets as much work done as possible to make the struggles of balancing academics with sport easier.
She also credits her professors for being understanding of the dynamics of her schedule.
Most important to her, she said, are her teammates, which makes the constant grind of the college life all the more worth it.
“My favourite part is the people, especially the team,” she said. “It is just an incredible environment. I feel like everyone here is my family. All the coaches are amazing, and everyone here is just incredible.”