Canberra, Australia, March 15, 2017 - For most teenage athletes, wandering into a training environment overflowing with Olympic athletes and experienced world campaigners would be pretty daunting.
That was the scenario for Phoebe Bell, when she decided to take the plunge and joined the Volleyball Australia High Performance Beach Volleyball Centre in Adelaide.Quick links - Beach volleyball:
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Barely 19 at the time, she was suddenly rubbing shoulders with five Olympians in a world-class training environment where being the best in the world is the ultimate goal and the path to get there is intense and demanding.
But Bell didn’t blink. Having made the decision to focus on beach after a successful campaign as an indoor player, there was no turning back.
“I love it,” the 20-year-old said this week ahead of the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour event at Sydney’s Manly Beach.
“It is hard, and at times it can be very challenging mentally and physically, but I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
“I love being an athlete, I love training, I just love the lifestyle.”
This weekend Bell will be reunited with 2012 London Olympian, Becchara Palmer, after playing with 2016 Olympian, Nikki Laird, at the World Tour event in Shepparton last week.
It’s the first time a World Tour event has been played at Manly since 1990. Shepparton was the first time Australia had hosted an event of such magnitude since 2007, and this weekend’s women-only competition has attracted teams from all over the world.
Bell and Laird finished with a bronze in Shepparton, after starting the event as the number one seeds. The competition this weekend is even tougher, with Laird and three-time Australian Olympian, Louise Bawden, likely to be the top seeds.
But Bell has the confidence of youth on her side.
“I’m pretty excited about this weekend, I’m back playing with Becchara and we’ve played a few times together already,” she said.
“We know how each other plays, and playing in front of a home crowd is always fun. We’re both pretty chilled, so it makes it enjoyable.”
Bell has thrived in the Adelaide high performance environment, where Laird, Palmer, Bawden, Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar are all happy to share their Olympic experience and to work together to return Australia to the top of the world table.
For someone still finding her place on the big stage, it couldn’t be better.
“I’m happy to be in a training environment where the girls all do have a lot of experience,” Bell said.
“They push me every day, which helps me a lot when I come into competition. I just train and try and do the best I can, which at the moment is good enough.
“I think I’m improving every single day at training, and I’m lucky all the girls are so supportive and have so much experience both on the court and off the court, they teach me a lot of things.”
The other advantage of training and playing alongside experienced partners is they usually take on the role of chief planner. So far this season Bell has played with both Laird and Palmer, and she’s more than happy to let them do the strategy.
“I’ve been lucky with my partners, both Becchara and Nikki, they’ve both been to an Olympics, they’ve both experienced a lot,” she said.
“So they help a lot with the game plan side of stuff. It means I don’t have to do too much thinking, I can just go out and play.”
Bell and Palmer are likely to head into this weekend as the tournament seventh seeds. The competition starts Friday at Manly Beach, with the medal matches set down for Sunday afternoon.