Fourteen-year-old Connor Flynn threw a volleyball in the air and spiked it over the net as three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor gave him a quick thumbs up.
Flynn and his twin sister Lilly were among 150 youths that signed up for May-Treanor’s Dream in Gold Juniors Clinic and Tournament series, which made a stop at the end of Riverside Boulevard in Long Beach on Friday.
“She helped me to spin the ball, flick my wrist and spike it over the net,” said Flynn, who will be a 10th grader at Chaminade High School in Mineola in the fall. “It’s awesome that she came down to Long Beach to help us improve our game.”
Participants got more than just volleyball tips Friday. After a lunch break, the retired May-Treanor sat with the youngsters for a Q&A session, in which she mentioned that she and her husband, longtime Major League Baseball catcher Matt Treanor, are working on starting a family. She later told Newsday that she has hung up her ballroom heels since rupturing her Achilles tendon on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" in 2008 while competing with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. She now takes it easy with spinning classes, walking her pets and spending time with her family, and is focusing on helping others test their limits.
“You have to have passion for everything you do,” May-Treanor, 36, told the attendees. “The work you put in is what you’ll get out of it. Work hard and you’ll always keep improving."
The series, which continues in Long Beach until Sunday, provides aspiring volleyball players a platform to take their game to the next level. The junior clinic on Friday, inviting youth ages 8-18, covered the basic volleyball fundamentals and game strategies.
Though Flynn has played recreational beach volleyball each summer for two years, he hopes to use what he learned at the clinic to help him get onto his school’s varsity volleyball team.
East End Volleyball founder Rich Heiles said May-Treanor is one of the best volleyball players and the kids should take advantage of her experience and wisdom of the sport.
“I’m sure she’ll motivate them to get into the sport and work harder to rise to her level,” said Heiles, 61, of Hampton Bays. “They’ll walk away from this knowing how to set, serve, bump and communicate with their partner, among other things. It’s quite an experience.”
The series, presented by Spalding, will continue today and Sunday with more instruction and tournaments for juniors and adult tournament with $5,000 of cash prizes.
May-Treanor, who stopped at each court to lead drills on movement, setting, bumping and serving, said she wished she had much more time with the kids to relay her expertise.
“Hopefully, they’ll continue the drills I’m teaching them,” said May-Treanor, of Long Beach, Calif. “Volleyball isn’t easy, but no sport comes easy.”
Kristina Manchenko, a ninth grader at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills, was thrilled to meet an Olympian for the first time and excited to learn from her.
“I want to make my varsity team at school so this couldn’t have come at a better time,” the 14-year-old from Melville said. “I really hope she comes back next year. She motivated me to become better at passing the ball back and forth, keeping an eye on the ball and communicating with my partner. It all helps.”