Walker excited to get 'sand in between his toes' as new UA sand volleyball coach
When Steve Walker was coming up through the middle school and high school levels of volleyball in Newport Beach, Calif., he kept hearing about an up-and-coming girls volleyball star.
“All I heard about was this young lady that was going to be the next best thing ever to come out of orange county as a volleyball player,” said Walker, the head coach of Arizona’s new Division I sand volleyball team.
“Of course, it was Misty-May.”
As in, Misty-May Treanor, half of what is widely considered the greatest beach volleyball team of all-time. Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings won gold medals in each of the last three Olympics.
Walker and his wife Melissa, an assistant coach on the indoor team, consider themselves close friends of Treanor’s, in part because they went to the same high school and college (Long Beach State).
Upon the Jan. 15 announcement that sand volleyball would be added to the UA’s slate of Division I sports in Spring 2014, Treanor and Walker exchanged Facebook messages, and Treanor told him “she was excited”.
Walker has already started his recruitment for his roster, which will have multiple players from the indoor squad including sophomore Madi Kingdon. The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with Walker to discuss his new job, the sport itself, how Treanor’s popularity helped the sport and more.
On being named the head coach: I think above everything else it’s a real honor. For some time I’ve been looking to get into a leadership position and to do that at the U of A, in a great school and in a department where there have been so many good coaches that have worked here. It’s an honor to be working alongside those people now.
It’s funny, a good friend of mine posted something on my Facebook along the lines of, “it’s every person’s dream to have a job where you get paid to have sand between your toes.” All joking aside, it feels great.
On the difference between indoor and sand volleyball: The court, the dimensions, it’s approximately three feet smaller in length, and then you have two people that have to cover the whole court. So obviously the outdoor elements, the sand, wind…again it’s a neat sport I think it’s a sport that the players themselves that try to cross over from the indoor to the outdoor have really gained respect for because you have to be extremely well rounded in your skill sets.
On high school sand volleyball and recruiting: Arizona was actually the first state to add high school sand. I believe this year there’s going to be upwards of 13 teams playing. The tournament play, which I’m allowed to recruit, that’s going to start in March.
For the time being im actually allowed to be out there recruiting hardwood players because a good number of our players, our best players, will also be crossover players from the indoor program.
Madison Kingdon is a dynamite sand player. She’s won several tournaments up in Phoenix and she’s someone I look for to be on our top teams.
On the impact the Summer Olympics had on interest in the sport: It’s amazing, the interest level. Just being out this weekend recruiting and not only the support we’re getting from community, alumni, but just the volleyball world in general is so excited about this sport being added. Didn’t hurt at all how well we did in the Olympics. From the Olympics is clear it’s a nice, fun enviornment to be in.
On the interview process and whether he approached indoor head coach Dave Rubio (who was in charge of the hiring) or if it was the other way around: It sounds funny, but it was rather mutual. When we got the real green light that this was going to be something, that we were gonna add this program, right away when I knew that would take place I knew that’d be something I was interested in. Dave also approached me with the idea in mind for me to go to the sand team and it didn’t take a long time to decide at all. It was a mutual coming together and I’m extremely excited.
On his experience in sand volleyball: I grew up in Southern California, played [sand] somewhere around middle school, high school started playing the beach game. Played it all the way through years after.
I had a good stretch in Southern California on the Pro Am circuit in the California beach volleyball series. I earned the highest rating you can get, called the Triple-A, it’s something I’m really proud of…I was able to earn that in the mid to late 90s….With regard to coaching on the sand, I’ve had a number of opportunities to work with current pros, male and female, and I knew right away it’d be something I’d be interested in if it became a possible career path.