Q and A with Janet Evans: How life begins at 40 if she’s going to return as an Olympic medalist again

Janet Evans turns 40 today. No matter who’s holding a clock to time her on this one, she isn’t ready to feel old.

Her son, Jake, also turns 2 today.

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“Cupcakes and balloons — that’s fine with me,” the three-time Olympic swimmer said from her home in Laguna Beach the other day. “It’s an all-kids’ party.

“I mean, who wants to turn 40? Every year goes by too fast now. No, I don’t need any interventions.”

Interruptions, maybe. Like, some quiet time to catch a nap between workouts that could lead to a curious adventure sending her back swimming at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Between time spent as a mom to Jake and 4-year-old daughter Sydney, and a wife to Bill Willson for seven years, Evans has put away the teddy bears she used to clutch as a teenager after winning gold medals and bared her soul to the pool again, making not so much something she wants to call a “comeback” but more of an attempt to see what’s possible.

You’ll find the USC graduate before the crack of dawn at the Golden West College pool in Huntington Beach most every morning, sticking to a plan set by her former USC coach, Mark Shubert.

Evans had a moment to come up for air and explain how things were going as she hit the milestone age mark:

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QUESTION: Where do you hurt today?

ANSWER: Definitely, my shoulders. I just swam eight miles and it feels like there’s a piano on my back. Then I did two hours of exercise and an hour of lifting (weights). It feels good. But it does hurt.

Q: How in the heck have you managed to avoid a major injury for so long? What’s the secret?

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A: In my sport, any shoulder injury – that’s it. For me, my stroke doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the shoulders. The interesting thing about swimming again is that a lot of the things I read, researchers say older athletes can do the same things physically as they did earlier in life, but once they become injured, it obviously takes a longer time for healing. So knock on wood, the shoulders may hut, but it’s nothing that a little ice or massage won’t help. I’ve had nothing career-threatening. That’s just a blessing.

Q: Coach Shubert has called this a “project” rather than a “comeback.” Is that mentally the better approach to take with this?

A: Yeah, I think so. I didn’t start doing this to come back for the Olympics. I was just getting close to 40 and at a place in my life where I could find more time to do things, coordinate it with my family. A lot of moms feel they get to a place where you can put things back on the front burner. This is something I felt I could still do, but who knows what’ll happen. We take it day by day.

Q: So during this “project” you’ve been breaking masters records in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle events. Does that kind of create any sort of goal-setting with incentives to push forward?

A: My times are improving and right where I want them to be 11 months out of the trials. It’s always great to break a world record – on any level – but I’ll need to do more than break those records just to meet (current Olympic) standards. They are a very good indicators, though. The other day, I swam against two people who were 88 and 91 years old. Talk about inspiring! This has been a very interesting journey into the masters’ world, but I’ve loved it.

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Q: And there was Dana Torres, at 41, competing in the 2008 Olympics, taking three silvers. That had to be inspiring.

A: Dara and I were on two Olympic teams together – she does the one-lap events and I do 16. So it’s very different training. But yeah, what she did inspired all of us. It was incredible. But it’s a different journey, a real personal one, for each of us. I know if I never swim another stroke, I don’t regret what I’ve done the last 11 months. Regardless of what Dara did, I’d still be doing this.

Q: There was the story recently about Diana Nyad, age 61, trying to do the 100-plus mile swim from Cuba to Florida. It seems like only the water conditions prevented her from doing it. Is that something you’d ever be able to do?

A: I don’t do ocean. That scares me. I’m a very spoiled pool swimmer. I know (Diana) well. I followed her story and it was sad to see it end for her the way it did, but it’s not the result that mattered, it was the journey to mentally and physically get there. I’m not sure anyone has given her enough credit for what she did at age 61.

Q: In all the training you’ve been doing, how important is sleep in the equation of working out, eating right and avoiding stepping on a fork or pulling a muscle stretching for a pacifier?

A: That’s a question no one has really asked before. My husband keeps telling me I need more sleep. It’s really the only time the body has to recover. The hardest part of coming home after a practice is starting a full day with the kids. As an athlete, you want to lay on the couch and watch TV. I still have the mindset of an elite athlete , but now I come home, and I’m a mom. Sleeping at night has become very important to me, but it’s really hard sometimes. You have nights where the kids are up sick. You need husband time. But he’s been awesome. He lets me get to sleep by 10 p.m. every night. I get close. But I do have a friend called caffeine that works as well.
The kids are the most interesting addition to training, but the good part is my coach has a daughter that’s married to my husband’s best friend, and we have kids almost exactly the same age. So my kids are close with my coach’s grandkids. And because of that, he understands what I’m going through. I might get up one day and say, “Coach, Jake was up all night with a cough.” And he’ll say, “OK, then get some sleep, and work out at this time instead.” It helps so much to have a coach who really knows what his daughter is going through in the same situation and he’s super good with all that.

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Q: Your records that were broken in Beijing with the suits that are now banned: Don’t you just want to race again, in those LZR Racer suits, to at least feel like you’re entitled to at least try to get the records back?

A: I do! I do! But in all honesty, I’m so happy since I’m swimming again that I missed that era. That was so ridiculous and such a black mark on our sport. I’m so happy it’s finally over. That really evened the playing field. The sport is based on body type and hard work, but everyone just floated in those things.
Would I like to use one of those suits? I think, ‘Gosh, I need all the help I can get.’ In our sport, it’s about getting tired hips and your body changing position. But with that wetsuit, you keep a buoyancy and the body stays in the same position, so you never get tired. Most swimmers get to a point where they feel they’re swimming uphill. But in those suits, it was like swimming downhill.

Q: It’s true your training starts with a swim at 4:15 a.m.?

A: I get up at about 4, I swim from about 5-to-7, left weights, then come home in time for my husband to hands the kids off on his way to work. I’m a full-time swimmer, full-time mom, with double workouts three days a week. It’s been a little tiring, but I also feel super good, and energetic, and I’m really eating better. Know what I mean?

Q: You’re basically working out while your kids sleep?

A: Yeah, and it helps that my parents live close by. They want to see the kids, so they go over in the afternoons . . . it’s win-win.

Q: And through all this, you haven’t had to change your stroke at all — still the head bob and the straight left arm?

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A: No, and in fact, it’s more similar to how it was when I was beginning. By (the 1996 Games in) Atlanta, I weighed about 130 pounds (seen here). Now I’m closer to 112, to when I was in the late ’80s when I was a teenager. My stroke has been surprisingly good, which is another reason I could attempt this. If I needed to lose 15 pounds, doing this wouldn’t have made any sense. The fact is I haven’t swam in 15 years – I didn’t swim through either pregnancies — but I’m in good shape, and it’s not like I’m starting from nothing.

Q: How can experience work in your favor when you’re in the starting blocks against other competitors? Can you play mind games with them?

A: In my career, at the ripe old age of 40, you know how you did things correctly and incorrectly, so that helps. With age does come wisdom – isn’t that what they say? I should put that on my Twitter feed. But as far as having an edge . . . I don’t know. If I was a teenager swimming against someone who held a world record, I can’t say I’d be super psyched about it.

Q: Your exercise regime now — yoga, Pilates, weights – must give you such a strong core. How is that different from the training you last did in the 1996 Olympics?

A: Swimmers have always really had to have a strong core. That’s the basis of their stroke. You don’t realize what great abs you can have, but that’s from proper swimming. You use the stomach muscles more than anything. And society is now focused so much on the core muscles, so it’s fun to integrate all that.
If swimming was just about pounding out four hours in the pool, that would just be boring. There’s less about actual swimming now and more about having a level of fitness and strength outside the pool. If I’m 40, if all I was doing was swimming 15 miles a day, no way would I be doing this. But thankfully the training has changed to make is much more interesting.

Q: Was part of your training throwing out the first pitch at a Dodgers game recently? Nice arm. And you, again, avoided major injury.

A: Everyone told me, “‘Don’t throw out your shoulder.”They know I just don’t do well with sports on land. Water only for me

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Photo by Jon Soo Hoo/Dodgers

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A batch of chocolate chip cookies via Woodland Hills was the deal breaker: Vin Scully says he’ll return for 2012, season No. 63

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Vin Scully opened the top of the sixth inning of tonight’s Dodgers-Rockies broadcast on Prime Ticket by looking into the camera and holding a couple of cookies up with his left hand.

He explained:

“Every time this year, a nice lady in Woodland Hills named Mrs. Marti Squyres sends me some chocolate chip cookies. This year when she sent them, in the letter she said: ‘This is a bribe to get you to come back next year.’

“Well, I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. You and I have been friends a long time. But after a lot of soul searching, a few prayers, and decided that maybe we could do it, we decided that we will come back with the Dodgers for next year.

“God’s been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. I asked him for one more year at least. He said, ‘OK, be quiet, and eat your cookie.’

“I’ll do the same thing.”

And with a wink, he added, getting a little choked up: “Let’s go back (to the game).”

It couldn’t have been much classier. No confusing press conferences (like last year). No waiting until the offseason (when it becomes lost in the other sports).

The Hall of Famer will be starting his 63rd season in 2012 with the same schedule of doing all home games and most of the road games this side of Colorado.

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The long, and short, of The Longhorn Network launch

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Yippee ki yay: The official launch of the 24/7, ESPN-owned, somewhat controversial Longhorn Network powers up from the University of Texas’ Austin campus quad today at 4 p.m.

We’re just not sure who, if anyone, will bear witness to the first channel devoted to a single school.

Carriage deals have not been announced. Only a few small, in-state distributors supposedly have it. Verizon FIOS presumably will come on board, but not until Sept. 1. DirecTV and Time Warner, the two biggest media barons, aren’t close to hooking horns yet.

Whatever ESPN stands to gain by its 20-year deal that pays the university $300 million remains to be seen – assuming someone sees it before the Longhorns open the season Sept. 3 against Rice on TLN.

“We have confidence someone will see us (on the first day),” said Stephanie Druley, the Longhorn Network’s VP of programming. “It’s inevitable we’re going to be on TV.”

A live broadcast of ESPN “College GameDay” starts TLN with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and Erin Andrews as the eye candy. Don’t look away from Samantha Steele, Kevin Dunn and Lowell Galindo, either. They’re TLN signature talent pool.

The first live event arrives at 6 p.m. — Pepperdine faces the No. 4-ranked Texas women’s volleyball team in the Burnt Orange Classic from the campus gym (called by Carter Blackburn and Heather Cox). Then, on Sunday at 11 a.m., Cal State Northridge’s womens soccer team gets some TV time facing Texas.

The official website of the network – http://espn.go.com/longhornnetwork – is already begging you to bang our your cable or dish system to bring it on. Subscriber fees are again a sticking point.

Otherwise, most of the commotion surrounding this channel that the Big 12 allowed Texas to launch so that it wouldn’t jump to the now-Pac-12 are the ramifications of plans to carry high school football games. Many perceive that as somehow giving Texas a special recruiting advantage.

The NCAA, calling a rare “TV summit” at its headquarters in Indianapolis earlier this week, has tabled that motion until it can figure out how to level the playing field.

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When high school video streaming gets other media screaming: The followup

As a follow-up to today’s media column (linked here) about FoxSportsWest.com streaming four high school football games on its website starting next Friday, we came across this piece that kind of folds into the way the media is going and who’s got issues with how technology is taking over some coverage:

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By Todd Richmond
The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — High school athletic associations nationwide say a federal appeals court ruling upholding Wisconsin’s right to sell exclusive rights to live-stream games online preserves a lucrative new revenue stream, while newspaper groups fear the ruling could lead to more restrictions on covering games that entire communities follow.

The dispute centers around the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s exclusive contract with American-HiFi to live stream state tournament games. The WIAA sued in 2008 after the Appleton Post-Crescent newspaper streamed four high school football playoff games on its own.

A federal judge sided with the WIAA last year. On Wednesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals backed him up, saying the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee media outlets free broadcasting rights.

“It could potentially cause problems down the road,” said Paula Casey, executive director of the Arizona Newspaper Association. “(I) could see them infringe on what newspapers can do, if they think they can stand up in court. It could make things very tough for newspapers.”

High school associations like the WIAA generally oversee extracurricular sports in their state schools, coordinating schedules and tournaments and sanctioning state champions.

The squabble in Wisconsin underscores the sometimes uneasy relationship between the media and the athletic associations over who owns and distributes game accounts, particularly visual images.

Tensions have only grown during an Internet age that demands immediate reporting and Web posting.
Continue reading

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Griffin or Die: Clippers’ star finds intern work at comedy site

The Associated Press

Blake Griffin is going to work for Will Ferrell instead the NBA.

This week, the Clippers All-Star forward is interning at Funny Or Die, the comedy website co-founded by Ferrell and Adam McKay. Griffin arrived at the site’s L.A. offices Tuesday to begin three days of work in video production.

He will help write, shoot, edit and act in several videos for the site. Funny Or Die quickly creates digital comedy videos, often with celebrity guest appearances.

Griffin said he’s a big comedy fan and an avid viewer of Funny Or Die. As an intern, he hopes to learn more about film production.

“Just to get an inside look at how things are run here is exciting to me,” Griffin said. “I don’t know what interns at Funny Or Die are like, but I’m about to find out, I guess.”

Mike Farah, president of production at Funny Or Die, pledged that Griffin will be treated like other interns. He noted that the 22-year-old Griffin is, after all, about the same age as most of the site’s college interns. (The others, of course, may not be able to dunk over midsize sedans.)

“We’re going to put him to work,” said Farah. “He’s shooting a series of videos, and he’s also coming to meetings. He’s basically doing everything that an intern does.”

Griffin counts “Old School,” “Wedding Crashers” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” among his favorite movies. On Funny Or Die, he likes Zach Galifianakis’ mock interview series “Between Two Ferns.”

“I’ll go see a bad comedy over a good action movie any day,” Griffin said.

Though Griffin averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game last season, he says he’s not above fetching coffee in his week as an intern.

“I don’t mind doing stuff like that,” he said. “It’s not a problem for me.”

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Net gain for Israel: Farmar flocks to Tel Aviv

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By Jeremy Last
The Associated Press

TEL AVIV, Israel — Greeted at the airport by fans singing and banging drums, New Jersey Nets guard Jordan Farmar said today he is excited about playing during the NBA lockout with Israeli champion Maccabi Tel Aviv, a club he followed as a youngster.

Aside from Israel’s own Omri Casspi, who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Farmar is the only Jewish player in the NBA.

He is one of the highest-profile players to play for Maccabi, the runner-up in the Euroleague last season and an organization he said is “committed to winning.”

Farmar, the former Taft High of Woodland Hills and UCLA star won two NBA titles with the Lakers before joining the Nets in 2010, will play for Tel Aviv as long as the lockout continues.

“I’m committed to this team, to the coaching staff and the organization for the time I am here and I want to do my part to help the team grow,” Farmar said at a news conference at Maccabi’s Nokia Arena. “Leaving at the end is not something I’m looking forward to … but there is a business aspect to it. Part of my contract says when the NBA restarts I have to go back.”

Farmar has been interested in Maccabi since he visited Israel as a youngster and saw the team play. Farmar’s parents divorced when he was a child. His mother is Jewish, and his stepfather is Israeli. His father, former baseball player Damon Farmar, is black.

After playing for UCLA, Farmar became the first Jewish player in the NBA since Danny Schayes – son of Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes – retired in 1999.

“Jordan is one of the best and most exciting and I believe most special guards who have come to Israel for a long time. We’re thrilled to have him,” Maccabi coach David Blatt said. “The great part of the story is Jordan wanted to come and we wanted him. It was really a decision of the heart rather than a professional matter.”

Farmar expects to adjust easily to the European game and fit in well with a deep Maccabi squad.

“I’m here to be a positive influence,” he said. “I’m a leader by nature, whether I’m on the floor or not. I’m not here to show anybody up. I’m just trying to be a member of the team, a positive influence and whatever they ask of me I’ll do.”

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Love is in the air … on the ground … in the sand

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(AP Photo/Jae Hong)
Kevin Love goes up to try to block a spike by Sean Scott in their first-round match this morning in Manhattan Beach.

Some of the photographic highlights of Kevin Love’s attempt to play in today’s qualifying round for the Manhattan Beach Open, but one that ended with a one-and-done against the No. 1 seeds John Hyden and Sean Scott 21-16, 21-15 in about an hour:

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(AP Photo/Jae Hong)
I’ve got your double-double right here: Kevin Love signals to partner Hans Stolfus during their first-round match this morning in Manhattan Beach.

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(AP Photo/Jae Hong)
Can you dig it: Love comes back to help Stolfus as he receives a serve …

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(AP Photo/Jae Hong)
Love can’t reach this one …

The 6-foot-10 Love told the Associated Press: “Obviously getting beat is never fun, but being competitive, playing against the best team in the country, a team that hasn’t lost all summer, was a lot of fun.

“It’s addicting. It’s an excuse to get on the beach and near the ocean. I definitely want to keep playing, see how good I can get. These guys, they have their 10,000 hours in, so I’m kind of struggling in that regard.

“It’s like having a good basketball sense, you got to have a good court sense out there and for me, I haven’t spent enough time out there on the volleyball court to really know.”

Added Stolfus: “We both said, ‘Let’s have as much fun as possible.’ If we went in too serious we’d put too much pressure on.”

Here’s a Stolfus blog about playing with Love on his UniversalSports.com site (linked here).

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The SI version of the Stow beating: The Day That Damned the Dodgers

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Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins revisits the March 31 Bryan Stow beating in the Dodger Stadium parking lot in this week’s issue of the magazine (linked here), and tries to extract some new filters to use in telling the tale again.

Such as:

Los Angeles county supervisor Michael Antonovich: “What happened was the direct result of a culture [Frank] McCourt allowed to exist in and out of the stadium. It was barbaric.”

Antonovich emailed his spokesman, Tony Bell, on April 1 and told him to announce a $10,000 reward from the county for information about Stow’s assailants–which the Dodgers were not pleased with.

Antonovich says: “McCourt’s people called the office. They were upset we got involved. They wanted us to ignore it. They tried to sweep it under the rug.”

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The O’Hara legacy continues, spreading the gospel of volleyball to the Middle Eastern oil fields

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A couple of months ago, Mike O’Hara was invited to be flown half way around the globe to Qatar and give a half-hour speech to the leaders of nearly a dozen Middle Eastern countries about the value of sports to their cultures.

International diplomacy through athletics was hardly a new concept for O’Hara, a two-time UCLA All-American on two national title teams in the 1950s and a member of the winning tandem for the first five Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournaments.

After commandeering the first U.S. Olympic volleyball team that went to Tokyo for the 1964 Games, O’Hara, who got his business degree from UCLA and an MBA from USC, created of his own international sports management company that has sent him all over the map in search of opportunities like this.

It’s just that, coming up on his 79th birthday, O’Hara might not have been sure who was going to listen to him anymore.

“I wanted to speak freely about the subject,” he said. “I wanted them to know if they didn’t spend capital now for the improved health of their younger ones, they’d spend twice as much for it later.

“I told the position I’d be taking. They needed to hear it.”

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He didn’t even have to show them the self-published book that he recently wrote on the subject — “Volleyball: Fastest Growing Sport in the World! The Basic Guide to the Sport Challenging Soccer.” (linked here). O’Hara found it in three bookstores in Qatar while he was there, which is likely why officials from the country contacted its closest U.S. university affiliate, UCLA, to see if he was up for the journey.

He not only seized the moment, he spiked it clean. Through the gospel of volleyball.

That group of high-octane officials, which also included representatives to more than 30 Western and Eastern European countries, and 11 more from Asia, were at this annual think tank to discuss economic reform for their gas and oil industries, but O’Hara fueled a different discussion.

Profit from having more youths involved in volleyball, he said. Allow more girls to play, too. And do it in the schools already built in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Egypt and Yemen that are already established.

O’Hara couldn’t help but feel like one of the missionaries who years ago helped establish volleyball in poorer countries by stringing a rope tied to two trees and drawing lines in the dirt to mark off a court.

“A big-time missionary,” O’Hara said with a laugh. “Or more like Johnny Appleseed.”

If you weren’t sure about volleyball still emerging as one of the fastest growing sport on the planet – beach or indoor — O’Hara has a plan to remind everyone of where it’s been and where it can still go. And grow.

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Mike O’Hara, far right, with partner Mike Bright, pose with Miss California after winning their first Manhattan Beach Open tournament against another beach legend, Gene Selznick, second from left, and Mike Higer.

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Never resting on the five plaques that are still on the Manhattan Beach pier to commemorate his historic run from 1960-64 with partner Mike Bright (“he was a surfer dude who could really jump”), O’Hara’s post-beach resume after winning 38 open championships in the sand took him from coach and referee to broadcaster, commissioner and consultant on things such as:

== A co-founder of the American Basketball Association, supporting the introduction of the 3-point play in 1969-70.

== One of the architects of the World Hockey League (which signed teenager Wayne Gretzky to his first deal).

== Peter Ueberroth’s right-hand man in negotiating an overseas TV rights deal for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

== Launching a professional track and field circuit.

== Teaming with Jerry Buss to start the World Volleyball League in 1990, after creating a Team Cup league years earlier.

== Creating a sports called Wallyball – a version of volleyball to be played on indoor racquetball courts, that introduced the concept of rally scoring that was eventually adopted for the pro beach and Olympic beach game.

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O’Hara’s induction into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Mass., more than 20 years ago seems the most appropriate accomplishment to secure his legacy.

But he’s far from throwing in the beach towel.

“I’ve been trying to help volleyball all my life; it’s been real good to me,” said O’Hara.

The 51st edition of the Manhattan Open, which begins with elimination matches Thursday morning, gives O’Hara another chance to spread some seeds as he watches what he believes is the rest of the world passing up the Americans in volleyball superiority.

Most of the top U.S. teams, as a matter of fact, aren’t in Manhattan Beach this weekend, but overseas playing in FIVB events as the 2012 Olympics near.

“The rest of the world has made volleyball their own,” said O’Hara, who lives with his wife Arlen, in the Pacific Palisades. “When I found that out, I was shocked. Soccer, you’d think, would be less expensive than volleyball, but it requires so much real estate, a level field.

“I told the oil rulers: You’re not even going to spend a lot to make volleyball big in your countries. You administer it. You build it. You design it. It makes so much sense to them because they have such tremendous resources.

“The problem is so many affluent countries have the same problem getting their kids away from the computers and video games, and fighting childhood obesity issues.”

Paul Sunderland, a member of the U.S. men’s Olympic gold-medal-winning team in ’84 and longtime broadcaster of the beach game, says O’Hara’s legacy is “as one of the great players — forget about putting him in any generation. And he’s been a remarkable businessman as well, a real visionary. He’s incredibly smart, a hard worker and a super-competitive guy.

“I can see how his business background could get the gulf nations to see his point of view. If Mike sees a way to promote it, he can be a catalyst.”

The goal of O’Hara’s 176-page easy-to-tote paperback is both to record the history of the game from his perspective, and introduce the philosophies of others who still have a powerful voice about its future – like Doug Beal, the USA Volleyball CEO; beach legend Singin Smith; former women’s star Gabrielle Reece; Dr. John Kessel, the USAV director of membership development; assistant USA men’s national team coach Gary Sato, and Dr. Jonathan Reeser, a former FIBA medical commission member.

“I want people to know that volleyball is still a big deal, and I’m hoping there are a lot of groups who can still learn about the sport – from the kids, who need to get out of the TV room and do something healthy, to the parents; from coaches to college students, and even senior players on the beach,” said O’Hara
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“There are an awful lot of audiences out there to enlighten. I don’t think this book will be finished until 10 years from now.”

It might take O’Hara shining his light on it for the seeds to keep growing.

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== More on Mike O’Hara:
= The website volleyballmike.com

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