April Ross leans back in a lawn chair with her feet soaking in a shallow, plastic pool. She grips a blue drink, complete with a decorative umbrella, in her left hand. With her right, she throws a volleyball off a carefully angled cooler, then smacks the rebound over a net in her backyard.
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“Guys,” the beach volleyball star writes in a caption, “I think I finally figured out how to do quarantine.”
From backyard workouts to freshly baked bread, the two-time Olympic medalist tries to strike a healthy balance between staying sharp for her goal of Olympic gold and relaxing during the uncertainty of a global pandemic.
Ross and her partner Alix Klineman were the top American team in the Olympic qualifying rankings as of March 16, when the FIVB began to postpone qualifying events because of the coronavirus outbreak. At first, Ross was panicked. With no events to play and no prize money to win, her income was minimized. But with her sponsors sticking by her, Ross moved toward accepting the abnormal circumstances.
“Once reality set in and I realized that we could be here for a while and I couldn’t waste this time,” Ross said.
The former USC indoor volleyball star studies video of her team and opponents. It’s a time-consuming task that usually gets skipped during full-time training. With a makeshift gym in her garage, Ross is determined to leave this quarantine period stronger than before, even if that means she’s doing lunges while her dog pokes at her legs for attention. She reads sports psychology articles and practices visualization techniques, picturing pressure-packed matches in her mind and honing how she will react.
“If you’re playing a challenging opponent, you want to be focused on each point, you don’t want to be focused on the end of the match. I think this is just another lesson in that,” Ross said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m trying to maximize each day.”
Ross estimates she’s locked in on her beach volleyball goals for two-thirds of her time. The remainder is spent on other aspects of her life. She finally found the energy to clean her Costa Mesa house. She feeds old hobbies like wood-working she’s constructing an outdoor table and discovers new ones like baking making quick bread ranging from banana to zucchini walnut.
She reads the news but seeing the number of COVID-19 cases climb daily started becoming scarier than informative. For her sanity, she allows herself only a certain amount of time each day to keep up with the recent events. When the Olympics were postponed, it was no surprise to Ross, who had been keeping track of developments. But it didn’t lessen the sting. Ross was in denial until the final decision, she said. Then she was discombobulated.
“I didn’t know what to think and it was a little bit frustrating,” Ross said. “I needed something to hold on to.”
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