More than four years after her last Olympic appearance, Misty May-Treanor is still training and still a regular around the volleyball court.
It’s just that these days she trains mainly to keep up with her toddler and spends her time on the sidelines as the coach of Long Beach City College’s director of volleyball operations, a role that includes coaching the women’s indoor volleyball and beach volleyball teams.
Two weeks ago, May-Treanor’s place as one of the best to ever play the game was cemented when she was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The 31st induction class also included Nikola Grbic of Serbia, Emanuel Rego of Brazil, coach Man-Bok Park of South Korea and fellow American Danielle Scott-Arruda, a five-time women’s indoor Olympian.
“Winning the Olympic gold medals and being at the top of your sport is special, and this definitely was up there,” said May-Treanor, 39. “I feel very honored to have been part of the class and even to be thought of. I still can’t believe it.”
Her induction would surprise no one with even a passing knowledge of the game or the Olympic Games. For 12 years, May-Treanor was one half of the most successful duo ever to patrol the Olympic beach volleyball sand. She and partner Kerri Walsh Jennings won three consecutive gold medals beginning in Athens, then Beijing and, finally, in London. May-Treanor also went to the Sydney Games in 2000, when she and partner Holly McPeak finished fifth.
When May-Treanor retired from international play after the 2012 Games, she had 112 championship titles in domestic and international matches. She was named the FIVB Offensive Player of the Year three times (2005, 2007, 2008) and FIVB Defensive Player of the Year twice (2007, 2008). At one point during her partnership with Walsh Jennings, the pair had a winning streak of 112 matches.
Dain Blanton won an Olympic gold medal in beach volleyball in 2000 and said one of the things that impressed him most about May-Treanor’s career was her consistency.
“To go back and win gold three times with a target on your back and everyone wanting to beat you, to be that good for every match for that long, I don’t think people realize how difficult that is,” said Blanton, who now works in broadcasting. “People are just charging at you that whole time. She was able to structure herself so that she was peaking at Olympic years and playing so well at those times.”
Blanton called May-Treanor “once in a generation” and said that seeing her ability to close a game and make the big play when she needed to was one of the great joys of watching her play. So, too, was simply the way she carried herself on and off the court.
“She always had her own standards, which were so high,” Blanton said. “She kind of set the mark not only in her competitiveness but also just as a sports person. She carried herself with class and tenaciousness and set the tone for what the best female beach volleyball player would look like in her prime.”
May-Treanor admitted it felt a little weird this past August when the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games rolled around and she wasn’t a part of them.
“I think every four years it’ll be weird because I’ll play back memories and think I should be able to run on the court,” she said. “I think every four years all Olympians will have withdrawal.”
That’s not to say she didn’t enjoy being able to watch the Opening Ceremony, for example, and view some of the other sports along with her family. Although she misses some of the friends she was used to seeing on tour and other elements of playing professionally, May-Treanor is enjoying the time spent with family.
She’s also busy with coaching and learning the ropes when it comes to the administrative duties of overseeing volleyball operations at Long Beach City College. Being at a great school, surrounded by a fantastic staff and having a receptive group of student-athletes has helped the transition, she said.
“It’s like playing,” she said. “When you find something you really enjoy you don’t think of it as a job.
One thing May-Treanor was sure to do during her hall of fame speech was thank all the coaches and those who helped her along the way.
“Coaches don’t get a whole lot of thanks,” she said. “When I think of all my coaches over the years, they all impacted me so much. It was fun for me to thank them on that platform. The doctors, physical therapists, my college counselors, the fans; there’s a lot that goes into it and a lot of work behind the scenes all helping toward the goal. They’re as important as everything else. It takes everyone.”