NewsApril Ross

Golden On The Beach, April Ross Is Embarking On A Masters In The Classroom

by Bob Reinert

April Ross celebrates during the women's gold-medal match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 6, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

While she was collecting medals in beach volleyball at three Olympic Games and seven world championships, April Ross never gave much thought to coaching after her competitive career ended. All that has changed.
This year at age 40, Ross has enrolled at Concordia University Irvine in her home state of California to pursue her master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration. It’s a new academic realm for Ross, who earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations with a minor in marketing from the University of Southern California back in 2005.
“It’s so funny,” Ross said. “My goal then was to work in marketing for Gatorade. I ended up working for Gatorade in a different capacity as an athlete for many years. It just came to fruition in a different way.”
Ross’ first day back at school was Aug. 29. She’s embraced the shift into a new academic discipline.

 


 



“I’m really enjoying it so far,” said Ross, a 2020 Olympic gold medalist who has won a total of three Olympic and three world championships medals. “I’m learning so much and have become so much more passionate about it.


“I never saw myself really coaching while I was playing and thinking about maybe what I would do after I was done. Coaching didn’t appeal to me that much.”


A shoulder injury kept Ross out of the world championships in June. Instead, she did rehabilitation work and stepped away from competitive beach volleyball. During that time, she did dabble a bit in coaching at camps and with USA Volleyball. As for her status as a player?


“It’s a little unsure. I’m not writing anything off,” said Ross, who added that she plans to make a decision in the coming months. “It takes so much motivation to continue at the highest level. So, I just have to decide where my passion really lies at this moment.”


For now, she’s trying to squeeze her studies in with serving as a graduate assistant for the Concordia Irvine beach volleyball program and her various side projects. Among them is serving on the Gatorade Women’s Advisory Board.


“It’s a challenge,” Ross said. “It’s a huge balancing act at the moment. I literally have no free time.”

 

(L-R) April Ross and Alix Klineman celebrate during the women's semifinals match against Team Switzerland at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 5, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

Attending graduate school was a last-minute decision, but Ross has no regrets.
“It has blown my mind,” Ross said. “It’s totally made me excited to become a coach. I’ve learned so much so far that I had no idea about. 
“Coaching is so much deeper than I ever knew. You have to use your power for good. There’s a lot of responsibility involved, obviously.”
Her first two classes are “Principles of Leadership” and “Speed, Strength and Conditioning,” an elective. They’ve already changed her view of coaching.
“The way I’ve understood coaching and the way that I feel like I’ve been coached is a bit transactional,” she said. “That’s what they call it, at least. This whole program talks about being a ‘transformational’ coach and really caring about the athlete holistically.”
Ross is completely onboard with that approach and said she hopes to one day help athletes build character and relationships away from the playing fields. She knows from personal experience that the “challenges and adversity” they face in their everyday lives can affect their athletic performance.
“Use joy as a motivator and to (put) play back into sports because it’s become this really intense, pressure-filled environment for kids and people, and I definitely felt that,” Ross said. “You can coach and lead in a way that makes the experience great for the athletes and have success.
“It doesn’t have to be demanding and transactional and outcome oriented.”
Her academic pursuits are not the only changes in her life. Ross also plans to marry former Long Beach State volleyball standout Josh Riley, now a firefighter, perhaps early next fall. 
Career-wise, Ross envisions eventually becoming an athletic director somewhere, but she will remain connected to beach volleyball.
“I love the culture,” she said. “I love the challenge the sport presents and how much room there is to grow and be creative. I just like being around the people. 
“I like being involved with USA Volleyball. And I want to help the next generation of professional beach volleyball players … the people who are going to be medal contenders for the U.S. in the future.”


Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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