Volleyball

SANDCAST is the leading podcast for beach volleyball and stories in the volleyball world. Hosts Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter take listeners into the world of the AVP, FIVB, NORCECA, and any other professional beach volleyball outlets, digging deep into the lives of the players both on and off the court as well as all of the top influencers in the game.

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It’s fitting that John Mayer would spend much of his retirement podcast talking about everyone except John Mayer.

Much of it was spent discussing Trevor Crabb, despite Mayer even catching himself midway through and mentioning that he didn’t want it to be “a full Trevor Crabb podcast.” It didn’t stop him from singing Crabb’s praises further, though, nor did it stop him from elaborating on the positives of former partners Jeremy Casebeer, Ryan Doherty, Brad Keenan as well as his podcast partner, Billy Allen. Almost anyone who Mayer came into contact with over the course of a career that spanned from 2003-2018, he made sure to bring up.

It was a podcast as fitting as the manner in which he made his retirement known, which is to say, completely on accident.

“I didn’t want to make a deal of it,” he said on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “I had known this year – it’s just been so hard to do LMU and play at a high level, and I felt like I was being average at both. And plus, my passion’s gone to coaching. I just love it, I get consumed by it. I thought this might be my last year [playing]. I just thought I’d see how I feel in the off-season, if I felt like I was missing something. I still loved all the coaching and I wasn’t missing the lifting and conditioning.

“I told my wife on our way to the AVP banquet, because she’s the one who would say something, just ‘Please don’t say anything. I don’t have a speech prepared, not that anyone would care’ but I knew she might say something to Mark [Schuermann, the AVP’s emcee]. She said ‘Oh, yeah, I won’t say anything,’ so the night was going through fine, ‘Alright, I’m off the hot seat, having a good time, just hanging out,’ and at the end of the night, Mark starts talking about me, and I’m like ‘What is he doing?’ And he says ‘Come up here!’ And I’m like ‘Why do I have to go up there?’ And he says ‘You gotta say something!’ My absolute nightmare.”

The reception, of course, was warm across the board. Quiet and humble, soft-spoken and endearingly self-deprecating, Mayer is retiring as one of the most respected players in the country, both for the way he played and the manner in which he carried himself.

Retiring, too, almost seems like a misnomer. He’s retiring as a player, yes, but Mayer actually might be on the beach more now than in the past decade. With the time he’d typically devote to the weight room, he’s now available to coach beach teams, the first of which to hire him is Billy Allen and Stafford Slick. He’s helping launch a beach division of Gold Medal Squared. He’s devoting more of himself to Loyola Marymount, the program he has helped improve from 6-17 to 15-14 to 22-14.

And even the unquestionable, objective improvement he has overseen at LMU, he had to shed the credit.

“I think I just scheduled more matches so we could get more wins,” he said, laughing.

Ah, yes, it’s never to his own credit. The four AVP wins, two FIVB gold medals, 2015 AVP, 2015 Best Defensive Player – all a credit to someone else who helped him along the way, be it a coach (“I owe Tom Black everything,” he said), a partner, his wife, anyone.

That’s Mayer. He even mentioned that perhaps he would have had a more successful career in spots had he chosen to focus on improving himself a little more as opposed to always, always, always attempting to bring the best out of his partner. But that just wouldn’t have been Mayer.

He’s a coach, after all. Through and through.

Now he’s set aside to become the best he can be at that, a role in which his own improvement will mean the inevitable improvement and development of those around him.

A role befitting the man who has always put others first.

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It’s a wonder how they’re not brothers, John Mayer and Billy Allen. Similar demeanors – calm, collected, neither too high nor too low. Similar styles of play – crafty, ball-control-oriented, hyper-efficient. Similar hobbies – reading, coaching, dadding.

Mayer thinks Allen has always been the better of the two. Allen thinks the same about Mayer. Any pandering to the crowd is done mostly in jest, Allen flexing after a float serve ace or a poke kill, though that’s more than Mayer will generally do. He might offer the slightest of smiles.

One of their chief similarities one might notice – and will inevitably notice if you listen to their podcast, Coach Your Brains Out – is the importance they place on mindset, emphasizing the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

“One thing I’ve learned is that we all have fixed mindsets and we don’t even realize we have fixed mindsets,” Mayer says on SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “It’s really hard and the shift is never ending.”

And neither, it’s become evident, is their improvement.

Mayer, after making just three career AVP finals in his first 11 years on Tour – it should be noted that he also made a pair of Corona Wide Open finals in 2011 – made four in 2015 alone, winning in New Orleans with Ryan Doherty. It culminated in him being named AVP MVP.

Allen has seen a similar ascent. From 2004-2015, he failed to make a single AVP final, which set up a breakout pair of seasons in 2016 and ’17, winning his first career AVP in Seattle in 2016 with Theo Brunner and following it up the next year with Stafford Slick. His win with Slick was sandwiched between a pair of finals appearances, the first in New York, where he fell to Taylor Crabb and Jake Gibb, and then San Francisco, where an injury limited Slick.

Allen and Mayer discuss their ascents, their shifts in mindsets and what their future looks like on SANDCAST.

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Much to the disappointment of the listeners of Coach Your Brains Out and SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter, there will be no Anchorman-esc battle between the two podcasts.

We’re now on the same team.

That’s right. VolleyballMag.com is now the distributor for both podcasts, which are as similar as they are different, both focusing on the same sport while diving into it in vastly dichotomous angles.

Coach Your Brains Out began as many podcasts do: A few friends with a similar interest, an iPhone, and a bit of editing know-how. John Mayer, Billy Allen and Nils Nielsen put an iPhone on a table and just talked about whatever volleyball and coaching topics came to mind. Allen would edit, they’d post, and, as they joke frequently on the show, maybe a few people would even listen.   

They enjoyed doing it. Soon, they realized more than a few actually enjoyed listening. The show expanded in every way a podcast could. The audience grew, the technology evolved from one iPhone to a few mics. Guests have been some of the top performers in their respective spaces, including the likes of volleyball legends Phil Dalhausser and Karch Kiraly, authors Joshua Medcalf and James Kerr, and coaches John Kessel and Tom Black, among dozens of others.

It isn’t just coaching they analyze, but traits and features of high performing individuals and teams, digging into the various recipes for greatness, both physiological and psychological.

“Around the time we were starting it we were turned on to ideas like Train Ugly’s website, a lot of ideas like motor learning and different ways to teach the game,” Allen said. “That was a lot of what sparked our first couple episode and we were fired up on that. Before we did the podcast it was fun to pick [John’s] brain and just talk, that kind of stuff, and now we’re still able to do that and get some great coaches from around the world too.”

“We try to find people striving for mastery in whatever they do,” Mayer added. “Whatever ways we can find to be our best.”

Coach Your Brains Out publishes on Thursdays, typically in 30-minute episodes. 

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