by Ian Clark with Don
Courtesy of Volleyball Magazine
Portraits by Aaron
*All rights reserved
me clear this up. I'm really not the crazy guy you might think. I can
only guess that a lot of people look at the lebret on my chin and my
tongue and tattoos and get a little intimidated,maybe think I'm a
The funny thing is,I was considered nerdy and quiet when I joined the
tour in 1995. Now my image seems to be just the opposite.
I had my tongue
pierced a couple of years ago,then I got the lebret a few months
later. My motivation was simple.
In beach volleyball, you hear a lot of
criticism that players are too similar,too
generic. I have to agree. I don't think there
are enough personalities. In basketball,you
have so many. Rodman. Alonzo Mourning.
Kobe Bryant. It's important to have that. But
it's even more important for me to
express myself how I want,and I like this look.
fine with it. Sure,the first time I came home with my jewelry,
there were a few comments like, "What's that
coming out of your lip?" After that,
it was back to normal. Even my grandparents
were totally cool about it.
questions I hear most are, "Did it hurt? How do I kiss girls? Does it go
all the way through?" For what it's worth,here
are the answers: It did hurt when I
first had it done,but it healed quickly. It
folds down when I kiss a girl. And yes,it goes
all the way through. There is a metal plate on
the inside of my mouth holding it in.
Sometimes,when I walk through airports,people laugh,and I've heard "Oh
behind my back a few times. But I enjoy
I try not to be is judgemental about anybody. I'll give anyone a
chance,and I think that's important. People can judge me by the way I
just be myself. Pretty soon, I think people
will come to realize that I'm actually a
nice guy,or at least I hope so. This is just a
look. It doesn't mean I'm crazy.
had a lot of players come up and say, "Well,you've got your look for
I don't know if it's going to work." But
not my plan. Like I said,this is just me.
It's an expression of myself,and if people are
going to pick up an interest in volleyball
because of it,that's great. I think it can
problem with beach volleyball is that people are starting to think of
it as an
older sport. There's some truth to that,I
think. Look at Karch. He's still winning,and
he's 38. I'm only 28,and I figure maybe I can
get some younger kids to look at the
sport and say, "Wait a minute. This is cool."
I mean look at what Andre Agassi did
Most guys on tour have been playing since they were kids. That's one
I wish I'd had that extra seven or eight
Guys who have been playing forever,
it's got to come pretty naturally to them.
up in Boulder,Colorado,and I played a little bit of everything:
soccer,football,tennis,golf. I was decent at
all of them,but I was never great. I didn't
stick with them that long,either. I played
tennis for a year and a half and golf really
steadily for one summer.
The summer of 1987,a friend called and told me to come down to the
Rec Center and check out an AVP tournament. It
was only about half a mile from
my house,so I went. Sinjin and Randy and Dodd
and Hov were the hot teams at the
When I saw these guys,it looked like they were having the time of their
It was like a big party. I remember
thinking,wouldn't that be a great way to make
In an age when pro wrestling is a multi-million dollar
industry,volleyball has a
pure and natural appeal. Nobody gets hurt.
Nobody dies. Everyone is just out to have
fun. Personally,I don't see anything good
coming out of wrestling. You want to talk
about promoting violence. Hitting guys over
the head with chairs? It's not real,but I
don't think it's good for kids to see.
With the internet and all,it seems like kids today are forced to grow
time they're eight or nine,and there are so
many things to do. It wasn't like that when
I was young. When I started playing
volleyball,there wasn't even an organized team
in Boulder. Me and a friend and a couple of
other guys had to join a club in Denver.
We'd drive an hour each way every Wednesday
night,practice,then play tournaments
I was pretty much obsessed with volleyball for a while. I remember I
job bussing tables at a resturant. One
time,there was a conflict with the schedule.
I'd asked for the weekend off to play a
tournament in Aspen,and the manager didn't
want to give it to me. I quit and played
After I graduated from high school,I packed up my car and drove to
I ended up playing for a guy named Rick
Olmstead at Santa Barbara City College,
and he worked our butts off. We'd jog,then run
stadium stairs,then do pushups. He
was ruthless. But I have to say,he taught me
discipline and got me in some of the best
shape of my life.
Sometimes after practice,a few of the guys would sneak down to East
to get in some games. Rick didn't want us
doing that,and he had spies that reported
back to him. If he learned we were there,he'd
bury us the next day in practice. We'd
be doing stadium runs,and he'd yell something
like: "So Clark,how was your day at
the beach yesterday? You guys have some good
games? Then everybody would be
pissed off because he'd make the whole
team do sprints,even if only a few guys had
To me,there's nothing wrong with indoor guys playing beach. It makes
stronger,and since there are two players on the court instead of six,it
helps your quickness. It also helps you move across the court and gives
a better idea of the court size. And most of all,it forces you to excel
all facets of the game.
I played a second year at Santa Barbara under Jay Hanseth,who was a
guy and had no problems with us playing
doubles. After that season,I had to make a big decision. UC Santa
me a scholarship,but Marv Dunphy wanted
me to play at Pepperdine. Problem was,I'd have
to pay about $20,000 a year if I chose
Both places have great business schools. When it came down to it,my
asked me which was better for my volleyball
career,and I told them dead honest truth:
Pepperdine. They said, "Okay,go to
Pepperdine,"and they paid my way. It worked out great. I ended up
starting on the 1992 NCAA championship team,and look where I am
now. I give my parents a lot of credit.
always supported me. Both of them are pretty career minded. My dad is a
physicist at the University of Colorado,and my mom
opened and owned her own furniture store. It
would have been easy for them to criticize what I'm doing,tell me I've
got to do something else. But they said: "You want
to play beach volleyball,that's great. Give it
your best shot."
I've seen guys who are 6-6 and can jump 40 inches on the beach and
win a game to save their lives. One thing I have learned is that
is more skill-oriented than just physical. You've got to be able to do
perfect thing over and over and over. How many great physical athletes
there in the NBA? And how many Michael Jordans are there? It's the same
thing. Jordan's got the physical skill,
but his technique is perfect as well. I think
that's why you see 38-year old guys like
Karch still winning tournaments. Another thing
is experience. That's a huge part of this game. Just learning what's
right shot at the right time when your in trouble.
Or using the right serve. Little stuff,like
making sure you serve a guy if you just got a point off him. Those
things add up to so much in any given game. Every once in a while
you'll see a team beat a top seed because they
put it all together for one game. But then a lot of times,you'll see
team get crushed in its next game. That's where
consistency and technique come in.
The truth is, I'm still working on getting to that point. Before I won
Boullianne in Acapulco in April,one of the
knocks on me was that I'd never been in a final. I'd taken
fifths,fourths,thirds but that was it. Now that I've won,I've got more
confidence that I can do it again. But Bill
and I have to steady out and play well every tournament.
Having a regular partner is important. Earlier in my career,I switched
alot,but you can only do that for so long if
you want to be sucessful. Look at Todd
Rogers and Dax Holdren. They've been playing
together for 10 years,and they're a great team. They know each other's
nuances,and that makes all the difference in the
world. It may earn you a couple of points a
game,and that's a huge advantage. Before
I played with Bill,I played with Dave
Swatik,Troy Tanner,Canyon Ceman and a lot of other guys. But I never
really found a
consistent partner. I talked to Beef before last season,and we started
together and it worked out well. He's a good defensive player,and he's
bigger guy. And he can sideout well and transition,and he can also
sometimes,so I don't need to block full time. Last year Bill and I
to play on the FIVB tour. We didn't break any AVP rules. There were a
number of tournaments we were allowed to play in,and we did that. Jose
Emanuel played in one more than they were allowed,and they got fined a
of money.I honestly don't think the other players had any negative
towards us because we played FIVB.
We weren't high enough ranked to go to the
tournaments we wanted to go to,so we wound up going to France and
Belgium and Moscow,which weren't premier events. It
was a big move for us. If we'd done lousy we
would have lost a lot of money. But in the long run,thank God we
did it. Now
we're the No. 1-ranked American team on the FIVB tour. It worked out
October 1,1997. That date still sticks in my head. It wasn't too long
moved to Vegas. A friend and I went to the
casino to play a game called Caribbean
Stud. He was getting married in 10 days and
was a little antsy, so we decided to blow off some steam. I walked up
to the table,placed
a bet. On the second hand, I began
fanning out my cards. There was a jack,a queen
and an ace of spades. I looked at the next card,King of spades. I began
push the last card into view. I saw a one and a zero. It looked red,but
I spread the cards out further. I saw it was a 10 of spades.
A Royal Flush. The payoff was $64,000. Before
we sat down at the table,my friend and I had decided we'd give each
other 10 grand if we won. Obviously,we never thought it would happen.
But it was a pretty cool feeling to see him give his wife the
money in cash on their wedding day. I'd like
to tell you that that's the kind of stuff that
happens when you move to Vegas, but the truth
is, a Royal Flush only hits about once
every six or seven million hands. But to me,
that story is a great example of the fun you can have when you live
life to the fullest. That's a philosophy I've had ever since I
got out of college. I don't want to look back
someday and have any regrets,so I do things a little differently.
And yeah, you've got to watch yourself in Vegas. It's a town that can
people and spit them out like you'd never
believe. I have to admit,the first few months we were there,we went out
partying all the time. I don't think it was a problem because
we were still working out. But it would be
really easy to be in that town and start to lose focus on what you need
to do. If that happens,you get sucked in real quick. And if
you get sucked in deep,it's hard to come out.
I've seen people do it,and it's not pretty.
I think I've found the right balance, though.
I'm out in the sun all summer,but in the winter I'm a vampire,going to
bed at 6 a.m.,waking up in the afternoon,partying,going to shows and
clubs,playing golf and gambling a little here and there. I remember one
time I was riding in a cab with Mike Dodd,and he asked me about living
in Vegas. I told him it was awesome,and he said: "I wish I would have
done that at some time
my life." For me,that kind of validated it.
Because if you look at that guy,he's had a dream life. And when he said
that,it kind of made me realize how fortunate I am to have the
opportunity to do this kind
of thing and how foolish it would be not to take advantage of it. Not
I'm not serious about my volleyball. A few months ago,I moved from
Hermosa Beach,and there's no question that right now my first
priority is to get to the Olympics and win.
But my desire to have fun and enjoy life is
always going to be there.
A while back ,I was in Turkey for a tournament. One day,Eric Fonoimoana
and Dain Blanton and Beef and I were sitting on a huge,cliffy mountain
overlooking the Mediterranean. A couple of the guys were saying: "I
can't wait to get home," and
all of the sudden we realized we were taking
things for granted. We were in a place we had never been. We had just
gone cliff diving. The sunset was beautiful. Did we really want to go
home? Once we thought
about it,we all laughed. I mean,some people save their money for months
months to take trips like that,and we get to do it as part of
our job. It's hard to complain.
I remember my first year on the tour. As a joke,one of the PR guys
in my bio that I'd been a guest star on the TV show CHiPs. I still get
asked about that.
The thing is, I don't need fictional adventure stories anymore.
Now,I've got plenty of real ones.
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