The Olympian shares her dreams for Rio and how her husband introduced her to the sport.
Posted in , Jul 25, 2016
Most of the Olympic athletes heading to Rio, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games started training in their sport at a young age. But not Brooke Sweat. She didn't grow up playing beach volleyball. Her family rarely went to the beach when she was young and though she did dabble in volleyball in high school, it was on a hard court, not soft sand.
For Sweat, beach volleyball was just a hobby that slowly morphed into a passion, one she was introduced to in college by the other great love of her life: her husband.
The Florida native grew up with two older brothers who constantly kept her active. She was always running after them, playing whatever sport they were into at the moment. When she went off to college she met Nick Sweat, a professional beach volleyball player.
“[He] and his twin brother played a ton of beach volleyball,” Sweat tells Guideposts.org. “When we were dating, I’d go out and watch and then eventually started trying to play it.”
She began to fall in love, on and off the sandy court and credits beach volleyball with bringing the pair closer together.
“At first, it was just so new to me and even though I played indoor volleyball all my life –it was so different,” Sweat explains. “I loved that it was something that just me and my husband could go do and spend a lot of time together.
Eventually, Sweat began to take a more competitive interest in the sport. She started playing a few small East Coast tournaments and racking up wins. In 2010, Sweat and her then-partner Kristen Batt had a breakthrough year which forced the athlete to make a decision about her budding sports career.
“We were having pretty good finishes and I was like, ‘You know, I could probably really do this if I put my mind to it – if I really commit to it,” Sweat recalls.
By 2012, Sweat had packed up her life in Florida and traveled across the country to train in California. The move was difficult for the athlete as it meant leaving her family behind.
“I had told my family and I told myself, ‘I’m never moving to California,’” Sweat says. “Florida is home, this is where I want to be, this is where I grew up, but my husband and I just prayed about it. A few days later we packed up our car and went to California.”
A year later, Sweat was named the 2013 Association of Volleyball Professionals Defensive Player of the Year. She also claimed a bronze medal at the 2013 FIVB Berlin Grand Slam.
When she heads to Brazil this summer with partner Lauren Frederik, the pair will be facing tough odds. The two-woman team has had an up and down year when it comes to finishes. Those disappointing performances have only made the two of them more determined to leave everything on the court in Rio.
“It’s definitely made us stronger,” Sweat says. “There’s going to be more hard moments to come and now we know how to handle them. “If we can bring it all together and have that consistency while we’re in Rio every time they step on the court to play--I think we’ll be successful.”
Sweat’s ready to see all of her hard work and sacrifice pay off in Rio and she hopes to make her loved ones proud, especially her mom, who’s been the glue that’s held the family together while Sweat spent years traveling for her sport, missing holidays, vacations and those big moments.
“She’s just been a saint,” Sweat says of the matriarch of the family. “She’s pulled our family together and kept it together no matter where we are in the world. She is our prayer warrior, our spiritual guidance. She always knows what to say, how to say it, when to say it. She’s just been my everything in this journey.”