My Sportsman: Karch Kiraly
The players-only tent at AVP Tour events is a nice perk for those who make a living playing volleyball on the beach. There are comfortable chairs and couches, complimentary sandwiches and nutritional bars, ample protection from the elements, and perfect sight lines to enjoy the bathing suit-clad scenery.
By all accounts, the tent is the place to be on the AVP Tour. But for much of the summer, this players-only sanctuary was a ghost town.
At 47, Kiraly is closer to collecting social security than he is to the drinking age. He won his first Olympic volleyball medal at 23, his second at 27, his third at 35. In a career spanning four decades, Kiraly has won a record 148 pro beach tournaments, the last victory coming in 2005 at age 44. "Baseball has
While this summer served as Kiraly's farewell tour -- at the event in Boston, he was presented with a pink rocking chair, a nod to his ubiquitous hat -- he still had unfinished business on the court. After finishing no better than fifth and as low as 17th in 2006, Kiraly partnered with
The Tampa event was the perfect microcosm of Kiraly's impact on the sport. He arrived in the city the day before the event to host a clinic for a group of adult men. That same group sat courtside the next day, offering Kiraly career advice with chants of "One more year!" That night, Kiraly hopped in his rental car and drove an hour to the coast to sign autographs for 150 kids and parents at a local club tournament.
Teaching volleyball, playing volleyball and talking volleyball. That's how Kiraly spent the final season of his pro career, and it's how he plans to spend his retirement. The teaching will take place at the Karch Kiraly Volleyball Academy, a five-day camp for high school girls hosted by Kiraly and a who's who of volleyball legends. The talking part will be providing color commentary on Fox Sports Net and ESPNU. As for playing, Kiraly will likely settle for his wife
The AVP says Kiraly will always be welcome at any of its events next season, and he'll need to get there early to find a spot in the players-only tent. In 2008 and beyond, it's going to be a little more crowded.