“Golden girl” awaits FIVB World Tour stop in Manly

 

Australian Kerri Pottharst talked recently with the FIVB about an upcoming World Tour event in Sydney and other topics.

Sydney, Australia, January 28, 2019 - As qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games continues here in March with an FIVB World Tour stop on Manly Beach, Australian “golden girl” Kerri Pottharst is excited to be involved with the international Beach Volleyball event that will be held within walking distance of her home.

“Very, very excited to see who's going to come down and play,” said the 53-year old Pottharst, who teamed with Natalie Cook to win the Olympic Beach Volleyball gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Summer Games after claiming the bronze medal together at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

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“I always love watching the sport at a high level,” added Pottharst, an 11-season veteran (1994-2004) on the FIVB World Tour where she played in 92 events with three gold medals, 23 podium placements and 37 “final four” finishes with six different partners.


Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook celebrating at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney

“I'm going to be hosting a Canadian team (Amanda Harnett/Marie-Christine Lapointe) and maybe an American team at my house,” said Pottharst, who captured all three of her gold medals with Cook.  “Obviously, each night I'll be helping them out with how they're going. I end up being like a little side coach to anyone that stays with me. It’s fun!”
 
With the FIVB in the midst of a six-week break on the World Tour, the international circuit will resume play at the end of February with stops in Cambodia and India, Australia will host the world’s “elite” men’s and women’s players March 6-10 on Manly Beach for the second-straight season.
 
Despite playing her last competitive Beach Volleyball event in 2004 at a FIVB World Tour event in Milan in the weeks following her third Olympic appearance in Athens with Summer Lochwicz, Pottharst has been busy with speaking engagements, writing a book, being a television commentator and “motherhood”.
 
During a meeting with a FIVB representative in mid-January, Pottharst was available for a “Q&A” about her time since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where she was last seen on the International circuit.Copacabana action as a television commentator.

Question: Since Rio 2016 Olympic Games, what have you been doing with your time?

Pottharst:  have been doing the same, I guess, as I was doing in the previous years and that is mainly motivational speaking for corporate groups, at conferences. I emcee lots of sports awards and other events for corporates as well. I do team building beach volleyball days. So, I take groups out onto the beach. I sometimes do a little bit of charity stuff here and there, with charities that are close to my heart.
 
I also find the time to commentate on our national tour. We also produced a 25‑episode show in 2017, "Inside Volleyball," that I co‑hosted each week which was fun and I sit on the board of Volleyball Australia.
 
But the most part of my time now is spent building my health and wellness business where I help people get healthy and get paid. So, I'm nourishing their bodies and helping them nourish their bank accounts at the same time. It's a network marketing business and I'm absolutely loving it. I was introduced to the business by Natalie Cook. We both do it together. We've created a huge team, and we're helping loads and loads of people in the process. So, I absolutely love that, especially working together again with Nat.


Question: Since you last competed on the FIVB Tour in September 2004, have you noticed any changes with the style of play, development of players, especially the women, since your last match?

Pottharst: Yes, absolutely. The players are all tall now, pretty much. Back in my day, we were considered the taller players. But these days, you know, if I ever go to an event, which I haven't been to for some time, I'm pretty gobsmacked at how big a lot of the players are.  So, obviously, power is much more part of the game.
 
When I was playing, our power game ‑‑ well, my game, was always power. But there were a lot of players who were still shooting the ball around. But these days everybody can hit the ball hard and they do so most of the time.  It's because of that, a lot of teams are using specialist blockers. So, there are many teams - many more teams now that have a specialist blocker and defender.
 
But I really don't think the game has changed much. The second ball obviously is used a lot more, but we were using that as well in our game. We weren't jumping and hitting it hard. It was more of a deceptive play. But that's more physical now in the jumping and hitting of the second ball. Aussies do that a lot.
 
And, overall, I think the players have to be fitter and stronger throughout the season, especially because there are so many more events that they are playing. So those are the main differences that I can see.

Question: The Australian team of Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy have had a great season with four gold medals, post season honors. Were you surprised with their play last season? Do you feel they are medal contenders?

Pottharst: Absolutely, medal contenders. Not really surprised because I respect them both so much, as players. They've both got very different games which blend really well together.
 
The only thing that surprised me, was that they agreed to play together! I didn't think that they were great friends initially. But that surprise has obviously turned into delight for the Australian public.
 
But also, for the girls, I think they've realized that the game is more important than perhaps some of their differences off the court. I think they've now developed a great friendship through playing together, which is fantastic and I think that will really do them well because they're both really, hungry. I think that's probably the biggest thing. They're both really, hungry and they complement each other.
 
Their cohesion on the court is fantastic. They are absolutely medal contenders. I'm sure they will be going for gold, and I would put them right up there with the ability to win a gold medal.
 
They've still got another good year under their belt. They're still learning and growing. I think what they can add to their game now is really around mind‑set and, you know, building the strength mentally that they need, to perform at the top under the greatest pressure of all, the Olympic Games.

Question: It's nearly been 19 years since you and Natalie Cook captured gold.

Pottharst: Thanks very much for the reminder.

Question: Are your successes from the Sydney Games still paying dividends for you?

Pottharst: Yes, absolutely. I still do a bunch of motivational speaking. I've really developed my game in that area. I believe I've really perfected the art of being able to tell my story in a way that is inspirational and aligned with the group that I'm talking to. I’ve learned to really hone in on delivering the messages that the client wants me to deliver.
 
I had 28 presentations over the past year. So that's one every couple of weeks. Being able to have that as a career and earn income from that has obviously taken a lot of work, a lot of trial and error, having to really push past a lot of my fears and doubts. But it's still paying dividends.
 
It's not so much the gold medal that is getting me along to these events now. It's because I'm able to deliver the messages in the way that I do. You can't just win a gold medal and expect people to listen to whatever you say.  Maybe in the first 12 months they just want to see you, meet you and hear you.
 
But this far past our success, still being able to tell the story or use the stories to motivate and inspire other people, is the key to longevity.
 
And now, I’m pretty excited because my plan is to bring what I’ve learned in that area to other athletes. Teach them how to speak, to present, to inspire others with their story. That's kind of the next chapter for me in 2019, teaching others how to do that as well. 

Question: You've written a book. You've been sought after to speak at conventions and other events. What's next for you?

Pottharst: I think I just answered that.

Teaching others to do the same. Maybe another book down the path but more so around how to speak and tell your story perhaps. That might just be a short read. Who knows? 

Question: What advice would you give to young players entering the FIVB World Tour?

Pottharst: Grovel. Grovel for everything, like as in, have grit. Really get down, get dirty. Be prepared to do anything. Train at crazy hours in the morning, late at night. Train longer than you think you should. Work on your mind‑set. Work on the mental side of your game. Work on yourself.
 
Personal development, I believe, is crucial in anything. Something that we really plugged into, especially leading into our greatest success and the sand.
 
And when I say, "grovel and have grit," it's just like be prepared to work hard and don't be a princess around, you know, "I can't train, that's too long" or "Those hours don't work" or don't think you know everything. Listen to everybody. Take something out of every situation - watch every game that you can. Take something from everybody, every coach. Talk to other coaches. Talk to other players. Be open and you'll find your game and the way you want to do things by learning how others have done it in the past.

Question: What advice would you give to older players at the end of their World Tour career?

Pottharst: Read my book  - haha. It’s called "The Business of Being an Athlete" and you will find out everything we did to create Olympic success. Basically, keep doing what you're doing and hopefully you're doing some of that stuff right now and that is preparing you for post‑career. Everything from talking to the media, trying to get sponsors, networking, attending events, working on your personal development, planning etc. My book gives you the tracks to run on. 

Question: What about your family? How are they doing? Has your son Tyson realized yet what a great moment it was for his mother to win on "home" sand?

Pottharst:
Ues, he absolutely does. Tyson has heard my stories many times. He sat there as an 9‑, 10‑, 11‑, 12‑year‑old for the entire hour listening to me present. And he knows my story very well; and he sometimes tells my story to his mates, bits of my story.  I'm sure it's sinking in, in all ways into his life.
 
He's very much like me. He's quite hand‑eye coordinated, so he's quite talented at all the different sports he plays. But he's also very much like me, he's very lazy. (laughter)
 
It's funny to say that I am lazy. But I do say that I'm kind of generally lazy because I never really enjoyed all the conditioning work, but I just loved to play. I love to play. I love to win. I love to work out how to win. He's very much like that.
 
He'll get to the point now when he realizes that I can’t rely on his talent anymore and he’ll have to really work hard and train hard. So, yeah, he's a chip off the old block.


Kerri Pottharst with son Tyson (red hat) and Australian team members including Dani Moffitt, watching the sitting volleyball finals at Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

Question: Will your son become a beach volleyball player?

Pottharst: He plays beach volleyball now, but who knows. I have no idea. He's not really 100% passionate about any one sport. He plays soccer. He's starting to learn the Australian game of cricket. He's going to high school this year where he will learn basketball, so who know what he’ll end up liking most.
 
He's not super, super tall, so perhaps beach volleyball would be a great game for him. I do coach him once a week where he doesn't listen to me at all and he's the worst child in terms of mucking around. So, he's funny. So, I just yell at him all the time. It's hilarious…. well, most of the time!

Question: Anything else of interest in your life going on now?

Pottharst: One of the things I love doing that people may not know about is I love gardening. I have really worked on developing a beautiful kind of resort‑style back yard with palm trees and easy to manage plants.
 
I love hanging out with friends. I love going to the beach. I'm not big on swimming, but I love going down to the beach and just cooling off in the water, hanging out.
 
I was watching a tournament the other day wishing I was still able to play. I can't really play because I have so many injuries now that my knees, they just go out the minute I start to move around too quickly.
 
But I'm good at pepper, good at peppering the ball. So, if that was a game, I would play that!