From a soccer stud to a beach volleyball fanatic, Jonny Baham does it all

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Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's freshman beach volleyball player, Jonny Baham, lunges to receive the ball during the Beach Volleyball Wildcat Invitational on March 2 at Bear Down Bear, in Tucson, Ariz.

If you’ve ever watched Arizona beach volleyball, then you have probably noticed standout freshman Jonny Baham dominating the courts with current sophomore and partner-in-crime Brooke Burling. For Baham, beach volleyball didn’t become her passion until the start of high school.

The freshman prodigy started her athletic career by playing soccer, a fundamentally different sport from beach volleyball. 

Baham was born in Hawaii and began playing soccer there at the age of 4. She started out her career by playing on a club team, competing in tournaments all across the state. She then played for her school team. 

Everything seemed set for the young soccer star. She would continue her athletic career playing soccer, no questions asked.

Even at such a young age, Baham had her eyes set on playing soccer, perhaps even for a college team in the continental United States. It was the perfect story for a next professional soccer star who started to compete at a young and formative age. She would continue to play for a competitive program in college, with the ultimate hope of making it to a professional league.

“Yeah, I thought everything was planned out. I was going to keep playing soccer until I couldn’t play anymore,” Baham said.

Baham’s father, a former basketball player and current high school basketball coach, supported her decision to play soccer. Baham never considered playing basketball because of her “rebellious nature.”

“My dad played basketball, so there was no way I was going to think of playing that,” Baham joked.

But something pivotal in her life changed. 

When Baham turned 10, she was introduced to court volleyball, but that didn’t mean quitting her first love. From the ages of 10 to 13, she continued to play both court volleyball and soccer. She juggled her time between the field and courts. It wasn’t until Baham was 13 that she became interested in her current love and passion, beach volleyball.

“The day before I came here [the University of Arizona] for my unofficial visit with [head coach] Steve [Walker] was the day I quit playing court volleyball and soccer,” Baham reminisced. “It’s so weird to think about that now.”

After that day, Baham’s life would change forever, whether she knew it or not. From then on, she was a beach volleyball athlete, not a soccer player, as funny as it must have sounded to her. Little did she know she would be committing to play at a nationally ranked program in one of the best conferences in the nation.

After playing beach volleyball for now over six years, Baham doesn’t have any negative feelings toward her departure from a life of soccer.

“I don’t regret my decision to not continue playing soccer. I’ve found my home here, so I’m beyond happy,” Baham said.

However, Baham hopes to keep up with the Arizona women’s soccer team. She hasn’t been too avid of a soccer supporter since she started playing beach volleyball, but she wants to change that now.

“My goal is to start going to some [Arizona] soccer games and cheer them on,” Baham said.

But back on the courts, Baham and her partner, Burling, have had some of the most dominant performances this season, getting crucial wins against conference opponents Stanford and USC.

Ever since Baham met Walker during her unofficial visit to the campus in 2015, she's had nothing but good things to say about his leadership on the team.

“Steve [Walker] has been there for me any time I need him, and I’m so thankful for that,” Baham said.

Baham has made a mark for herself as early as freshman season in a sport she never dreamed of playing.

“Sometimes you do things in life you never thought you would ever do — for me something like playing beach volleyball,” Baham said.

From a soccer stud to a beach volleyball fanatic, freshman Jonny Baham will continue to dominate the sand courts at the collegiate level, even if she has only been playing the sport for six short years.



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