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Setting the course for victory: Get to know TXWES' new beach volleyball team

08.29.2023 | By: Athletic Department

The rhythmic thud of palms meeting the ball, the soft swish of sand under feet and the roaring cheers that follow an incredible dig— it’s all about to start at Texas Wesleyan as the beach volleyball team gears up for its first year.  

The brand-new team is being led by coach Jorge Rodriguez, the former assistant beach volleyball coach at Stephen F. Austin University. He has almost 20 years of experience in coaching volleyball. 

“I'm excited about starting my own program because I've been doing this for such a long time now, but I always came into an already established program,” he said. “It's been such a process, so I’m excited to finally start practicing on the new court and having the beach volleyball gear. That part makes me super happy.” 

He has his eyes set on getting a national championship within the first few years of starting the program. 

“It's a lot of recruitment. You have to find the right players that really want to compete and succeed in this sport — and that’s tricky,” he said. “All I need are my courts and my players, nothing fancy to win a national championship.” 

His first goal for the team is to get a full roster of 16 players. Three juniors have already been recruited — biology major Emily White and psychology majors Holland Hancock and Leyna Michel. The three girls transferred to Texas Wesleyan for beach volleyball. 

“We already have [another] three committed for next year, so it’s looking good,” he said. 
The Differences of Beach vs. Indoor Volleyball 

All of the girls have played both indoor and beach volleyball, but say they really enjoy the challenge of beach volleyball. Each sport provides unique challenges to the game, with indoor volleyball having a team of six on a hard floor court while sand volleyball is played in pairs on a sand court.  

“For me, indoor volleyball just isn’t my passion anymore,” said White. “I stopped playing for a year and focused on my education but felt this hole in my life. I took a chance and emailed coach Rodriguez, and I’m super excited to get started. I think the coach has a lot of things lined up and has already stepped forward. I think we're going to have a really good team, too.” 

“I feel like it’s a more fluid sport,” said Hancock. “It looks better and feels better. I think once the team gets more established, it’s going to be very popular.” 

“When I played indoor, I was a libero, a defensive player. I wasn’t able to hit because I was so small,” Michel said. “In sand volleyball, you cover more ground as a defensive player.  You can do it all — and that’s what I like, I like to be a universal player.”  

With only two players during each game, sand volleyball takes a lot more trust, connection and coordination between the two players — something Rodriguez said will take time to build during their first year playing together.  

“It’s really important to have that connection and feeling with your partner,” Rodriguez said. “The environment and the feeling of beach volleyball is different — when you get on the court, it’s just you and your partner. You have to do whatever you can to help each other out.”  

The girls will rotate in practice to discover who partners together well. However, it’s important for them all to learn how to work with each player in case they need to swap partners from unforeseeable things, like injury.  

The team also talked about how the coaching is very different, as coaches cannot talk to players while they are playing the game. Players need to know the right moments to call a timeout to be able to talk to coaches. 

“You have to sit back, set it up and teach them how to be self-sufficient,” Rodriguez said.  

The Transfer Experience 

The girls also said that coming to Texas Wesleyan has been a fun experience so far, stating that they can already tell their professors care a lot about their futures.  

“I came from a smaller university, and it's just completely different here. You could tell that the professors care for your success,” White said. She is studying to go into dental school after she graduates from Texas Wesleyan.  

Hancock said she is focusing on social work, wanting to help children in the community. She said her mother’s teaching career sparked an interest in wanting to work with children.  

“The professors here, they're outgoing. And they seem to care about to not only your academics, but your wellbeing and everything that makes you, you,” Hancock said. 

Michel is still trying to discover what kind of psychology work she wants to go into but said that she hopes to start deciding in her fundamentals of psychology class. She transferred from Ranger College. 

“The classes here are a little bit bigger [than Ranger College], which I like, because it actually feels like a school environment,” she said. “They’re not too big and not too small. And the professor of my fundamentals of psychology class said he was going to help us figure out where we want to go [in our careers]. So that will be nice.”  

Going beyond being a student-athlete 

Coach Rodriguez emphasized the importance of having a great college experience overall for his players, stating that the sport should enhance their time in school.  

“My time in college was the best time of my life,” he said. “I feel everybody should have the same experience. Volleyball is the best part of our life in some way, but it's not our life.”  

Rodriguez encourages his players to take time to decompress, hang out with friends and family and experience college life beyond practice, games and classes.  

“The person should be first and the athlete should come after,” he said.  

The girls all decompress in different ways. White volunteers as a volleyball coach for young girls in the community and loves to read historical fiction and dark romance. Hancock says she loves binging on true crime shows and podcasts and spending time with her family, while Michel says she loves to shop, especially at Nike, Pink and American Eagle and loves dogs.  

“We know that if we are going to practice, we’re practicing for that time,” White said. “It’s two to three hours of your life. You go all out, work hard and then you live life. That’s just how it is to be a student-athlete.”  

The team’s first game will be scheduled in the spring. Check for game announcements and come support our Rams!  

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The Texas Wesleyan Rams represent Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, TX.