Beach volleyball is synonymous with California. Since 1996, when Women’s Beach Volleyball was introduced to the Olympics, Californians have represented, achieving medal status in 4 of 5 games including three time Gold medal champions, Misty May and Kerry Walsh-Jennings. If the Olympic Games are any indication, California is where the world class volleyball players are found! In fact, Lauren Fendrick, one of four Team USA Volleyball players taking the court at the Olympics in Rio this month, grew up right here in Carlsbad.
Moving to Carlsbad from Escondido at age 10, Fendrick attended Carlsbad High School where she excelled at several sports including tennis, basketball, softball and golf. She maintained a 4.74 GPA (on a 4.0 standard) while earning both the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award by the North County Times in 1998-1999 and the All-Academic Team Captain by the San Diego Union Tribune in 1998. At age 14, her best friend convinced her to quit tennis to play indoor volleyball and it was love at first serve. With her mom driving her to practices and tournaments, and under the tutelage of coach Tom Ranney, Fendrick was soon averaging ten kills per match across three varsity seasons. Numerous accolades, academically as well as athletically, earned her a full scholarship to UCLA. Fendrick played volleyball and softball, earning All-American distinctions in both.
In 2003, remembering beach volleyball from her CHS PE class, taught by Tobyn Knudsen, Fendrick transitioned to the sand. She went on the play in both AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) and FIVB (Federation Internationale de Volleyball) events, racking up top-ten finishes by 2008. Fendrick simultaneously worked on her J.D. from USC, passing the bar in 2011.
For many athletes, the Olympics are the goal of their career. But for Fendrick, it wasn’t until she was named an alternate for the US Olympic Team in 2012 that it seemed within reach. “I was always striving to get better, to grow as an athlete, but those are day-to-day goals. I certainly thought it would be amazing to go to the Olympics, but it took me a while to realize it was a realistic possibility.”
Together with Brook Sweat, they form a team that maintains a sold relationship both on and off the court; they work together as one unit while playing and are able to communicate their offense and defense systems and strategies seamlessly. “Brooke is a great defender who makes these amazing reads in the back-court. This really complements my game as a midsized blocker,” shares Fendrick.
Beach volleyball requires athleticism as well as technical skill. Fendrick praises her strength coach Anthony Darmiento for preparing her for tournaments. Beyond the physical game, however, she says, “There are aspects of beach volleyball that are like a chess match.” Between plays, her analytical mindset helps her read opponents’ tendencies as well as keep a “pulse” on the game to make any adjustments. During plays though, she feels that it’s best to be present in the moment and not preconceive moves; the cerebral mindset has to turn off. That said, Sweat and Fendrick are able to deliver enough varied plays to keep their opponents on their toes.
Not content playing her own game, Fendrick, together with her husband Andrew Fuller, a player as well as coach, created the LF Foundation. The quote on the Foundation website, “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand,” speaks to the power of the knowledge that the couple wish to share with communities to foster connections and growth. They have held three successful clinics in California, Ohio, and Idaho, and look forward to many more after the Olympics.
Fendrick is the ideal role model for young children. When asked what advice she might give her young fans, Fendrick says, “See yourself succeeding when you know that there’s a possibility for success, and then take a look at what actually happened and learn from it! You really have to work to trust yourself and cultivate a positive inner dialog. Don’t be afraid of failing, and believe in yourself!”