Beach volleyball continues to grow in popularity as a competitive sport and two Shore schoolgirls are among the next generation to be leading the way.
Belmont Intermediate pupil Holly Isherwood of Devonport, and Westlake Girl Domi Menoita of Rothesay Bay, are proving themselves to be among the best young Kiwi talent in the sport. Impressive wins at national and Australian tournaments have propelled them to international completion in the USA this winter. The girls, who compete at Under 15s level despite Holly being just 12 years old and Domi 14, answered some questions for Channel before they head off to California later this month...
Channel Magazine: What drew you to beach volleyball initially?
Holly Isherwood: Every time my family and I went down to Narrow Neck beach, we always played volleyball. At primary, about the age of nine, I went to a fun, indoor volleyball club held in Takapuna Grammar School Hall. But it was a beach volleyball holiday programme at Mairangi Bay Beach Centre that really got me into the sport.
Domi Menoita: When I was six, my sister began playing volleyball. I was taken along to all of her tournaments, local and national, and even to some trainings. You would always see me hitting a ball to myself behind the bleachers or against a wall. As I grew up, I became more and more interested in volleyball. In intermediate, I started having private trainings and playing tournaments. When I was 13, I started travelling overseas for beach volleyball.
CM: How long have you been involved in this sport?
HI: Started as a beginner at the age of nine, developed for three years and then competed in November 2017.
DM: I have been involved in volleyball since I was six, playing since I was eight, and training since I was 10.
Do you have any sporting role models?
HI: My number one role model has always been my coach, Susana Vega. Even though I have had many coaches, Susana is the one who has pushed me the most and taught me heaps. She has challenged me throughout all trainings, and helped me push my limits.
DM: Since there aren’t many beach volleyball players in New Zealand, I never really looked up to anyone until I was eight. Brad Takai (ex-national indoor player) and Danielle Quigley (NZ beach volleyball player) coached me for several years until I was old enough to train with the older girls. Sam O’Dea (Commonwealth bronze medallist) coached me for a season until he went overseas, other coaches were Mike Watson (NZ beach volleyball player) before Susana Vega from Spain and Brazilian Luis Paulo began to coach Holly and I.
Do you have any views on the differences in kits worn by male and female beach volleyball players and rulings around that?
DM: Whenever I tell someone about the sport I play, this topic always pops up. For me, I believe there is no sexism involved with the kits that men and women wear. In many places that beach volleyball tournaments are held, temperatures can reach insane temperatures. With beach volleyball already being ranked as one of the most difficult sports, overwhelming heat isn’t much of a team player. For me personally, wearing too many layers in the sun can make me overheat and feel light-headed, and I’m sure it happens to other people too. I feel like the stereotypes around female beach volleyball players and the kits worn has become solely for entertainment, it’s made it hard to feel confident in these uniforms. However, I have learnt to appreciate how everyone’s bodies are different in a good way. Everyone has their own physical strengths and weaknesses, so it really doesn’t matter what kit they wear.
HI: At training I prefer shorts and t-shirts, but in a physical and competitive game I would rather have a crop top or bikini on. I don’t like exposing my self to other people, so after a game I wrap a towel around me or put on a set of clothes.
CM: Please tell us about your successes in the sport...
HI: I only started competing in December last year so it's been a steep learning curve for me. Domi and I won the Harbour U15 Aged Group, New Zealand U15 Aged Group Championships in January 2018 and at the same tournament finished 4th in the U17 Aged Groups. We then travelled to Surfer's Paradise to compete in the Queensland Junior Championship, which we won. Our next tournament is in July in Huntington Beach, California, where we will play in three tournaments.
DM: There have been many success since I began competing on 2015. This year, the highlights have been winning the National Beach Volleyball U15 gold, Queensland Junior Beach Volleyball Champs U15, both with Holly. We also placed second in the 2018 Auckland adult beach volleyball competition.
Which is your favourite North Shore beach? And do you train & play beach volleyball on any local beaches?
HI: I sometimes train down at Narrow Neck Beach or go to the Takapuna Grammar where there is a volleyball net and beach court. But I normally train and play at Mairangi Bay Beach Centre.
DM: My favourite shore beach is my local, Rothesay Bay. It’s such a small and beautiful beach, and it doesn’t get packed. There is always someone I know there and the spot in front of the monkey tail tree is perfect for peppering (a volleyball term used for passing, setting, and hitting back and forth between two people). Holly and I train at the Mairangi Bay Beach Volleyball Club.
CM: Can you describe the feeling you get when you win a match?
HI: Two words: surprised and proud.
DM: Winning a match comes with an exhilarating thrill and a sigh of relief. Most matches are quite tight and, with all volleyball games, anything can happen. It's a great thrill for us both when we get the win.
CM: If you didn’t compete in beach volleyball, which sport would you like to excel at?
HI: Any. I did play netball in previous years, and I have played a bit of football and touch rugby. In any sport or anything that I do or play, I always strive for the three Ps: Practice, Perfection and Perseverance.
DM: Growing up, I didn’t like the sports everyone else was playing. Netball, basketball, soccer, none of them appealed to me. I only seemed to like sports that were different. That is why I think I would have found volleyball one way or another.
CM: In five years time I hope to...
HI: ...compete in and win the Youth Olympics. In order for this to happen, I need to persevere, train harder than I have before, strive for perfection and quality, and stay healthy. With the help of my family, coach and partner, I think my dream will come true.
DM: By 2023, I will be 19 years old. I hope to have: gone on a gap year with my best friend, possibly got a scholarship to an American university, competed in the 2021 Youth Commonwealth Games, competed in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, competed in the 2022/23 Youth Olympics Games and U19 World Champs.
Holly and I are now focusing on our tournaments in the USA in July and hope to be selected for the Secondary School Beach Volleyball World Champs in 2019 in Italy.