Redondo Beach, California, USA, June 20, 2020 - A year ago today, Tri Bourne was prepping here for the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg along with helping his wife prepare for the arrival of the couple's first child in September.
Twelve months later, Bourne and his wife Gabby are tending to daughter Naia while the seven-season veteran prepares to juggle his beach volleyball career as both a player and administrator after being elected last month to the board of directors for USA Volleyball.
"It’s an honour to be selected for the USA Volleyball board of directors," said Bourne, who turns 31 today at his mainland home in southern California. "I was interested in the position because I’d like to learn more about our sport and have a larger impact beyond playing. I’m looking forward to learning a lot and gaining a closer relationship with the other board members and my fellow athletes."
With his last competitive appearance in mid-March at an FIVB World Tour event in Qatar with Trevor Crabb, Bourne said he would rather be "at home in Hawai'i, but the travel restrictions have made that difficult. I have been working out a lot in the gym that I built in my garage.
Bourne added that he feels he has “been able to stay in great shape and lucky to have access to private courts where I can play a little bit. I’ve also had the opportunity to watch more film and study the game from a defender's perspective, which is something I still feel like I have a lot to learn about."
But he also likes "spending most of my time watching my daughter grow up. Becoming a parent has been a huge adjustment but it’s been a blessing to have the opportunity to be home during her first year."
As he and Crabb are the United States’ second-ranked team on the Olympic qualification list for Tokyo, Bourne said “it’s definitely a silver lining for me to be at home with Gabby and Naia. I was planning on being away a lot during the season, so to be here to see her learn how to crawl, wave, clap, etc. has been amazing. Those small things are important to me right now.”
Due to a chronic inflammatory muscle disease called dermatomyositis, Bourne missed over two years of play on the FIVB World Tour after finishing third with John Hyden at the 2016 mid-September World Tour Finals in Toronto.
Bronze medal winners at the 2016 FIVB World Tour Finals - Tri Bourne (left) and John Hyden
When he resumed play with Crabb as his new partner at the end of September 2018 at an FIVB event in Qinzhou, China, the American pair captured the gold medal by winning five of six matches. The Americans avenged a pool play setback in Qinzhou to Taras Myskiv and Valeriy Samoday 2-0 (21-17, 21-17) by defeating the Russians in the finals 2-0 (21-18, 21-9).
Gold medal winners in China are Tri Bourne (left) and Trevor Crabb
“I definitely think that the time I was forced to spend away from beach volleyball in 2017 has prepared me well for this time in 2020,” said Bourne. “I feel like I was well prepared to find the positives and take advantage of this time off rather than dwell on the negatives of not being able to play and compete for a living.”
Bourne and Crabb are ranked 11th on the FIVB men’s provisional Olympic ranking list with 6,360 points for their best 12 finishes. Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb are the top American team in the Tokyo rankings with 6,680 points for the No. 8 spot overall.
Lurking in the third USA spot are Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena, fifth-place finishers at the Rio 2016 Olympics where the Americans were eliminated by eventual gold medal winners Alison Cerutti and Bruno Schmidt of Brazil in a three-set quarterfinal match. Dalhausser and Lucena have 5,840 points but have played in only 11 qualifying events to date.
Tri Bourne (right) hitting against American rival Phil Dalhausser
“It’s really difficult to wrap our brains around the fact that the qualification will be extended for another year,” said Bourne. “We are a young team which is still working out the kinks of split blocking. In our minds this extra time is something that we can use to our advantage. I enjoy taking some time to study the game via film because I feel like I am seeing things differently now. Only time will tell!”
In addition to a gold medal finish in their first FIVB World Tour event together in China, Bourne and Trevor Crabb posted an impressive fourth-place finish at the 2019 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg where all three of their loses were to the teams that finished on the podium.
While the FIVB World Tour is on break due to the coronavirus, Bourne is also spending “significant amount of time working on my podcast (SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter). It is the most listened to volleyball podcast in the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden according to a podcast tracker called Chartable. We release episodes every Wednesday with a new influential guest from the Volleyball world.”