Jen and I are in Berlin this week and just finished playing in the Grand Slam here. I definitely love this tournament, but this time it signifies the end of an era. It was the first tournament with someone other than Jeffrey “Jefe, It’s a 10” Conover as our coach. And before you think we fired him, (we’d never!) I will tell you he got a job offer he couldn’t refuse with the new and improved AVP (avp.com- check it out if you haven’t already!), so he’s off to bigger and better things… i.e. not living off of prize money. Though I am super happy for him I’m definitely going to miss him. Not just because of his talents as a coach, but even more so for everything he added to the Krossy team dynamic for all these years.
If you don’t know the story of how we ended up working with Jeff, here’s the short version. We needed a coach asap, saw him on the beach one day and said “Hey, what’s up?… Wanna coach us?” and he said “Sure, why not.” He ran us through some practices and then we threw him in the deep end. Our first event together was the FIVB World Tour event in Brasilia where I think we made it to the finals eventually losing to Brazil…. that’s when we knew this thing might actually work. Next up was a little tournament called World Championships in Stavanger, Norway, one of the most remote places we travel to, and, for frame of reference, I’m pretty sure Jeff had to order his first passport right before we took him to Brazil. Whatever magic the three of us thought we might have was solidified in Norway when we avenged our loss in Brasilia and won the World Championships. That was 2009.
For the next five years we went through some ups and downs as a team, but Jeff was always in it 100%. He went above and beyond on and off the court. In hindsight he might be able to list “team therapist” in his job description. If I was super down on how I played he’d always help me find the positive, he’d (at least pretend to) understand my complaints and gripes that naturally occur when you’re with the same people 24/7 on the road. To know he understood how I was feeling just helped, to have someone you trust enough to vent to was really an asset to me. He always pumped me up whether I thought I deserved it or not and I’m sure he did the same for Jen. He took his job seriously and worked really hard, but I think a big part of the reason we succeeded together was because he is such a great person as well.
It wasn’t all work and no play, we had a lot of fun too. We traveled the world together and got to do some pretty cool things in the process. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder than when we had our feet cleaned by bacteria eating fish in Thailand, where we also took scooters and explored all around the island of Phuket, dumping rain or shine. We celebrated many birthdays, but one of Jeff’s was especially memorable when we all dressed up in a Mexican 80’s night theme and went to Sharkeez in Huntington Beach. Laughing AT each other was another cherished pastime and one of our favorites was when Jeff got owned by a chair (the back legs slowly caved in and he just kept sinking backwards until he was laying on the ground) in Marseille while holding a gyro and proclaiming “Touché France, touché”. We pogoed dusk til dawn, at maybe the best party any of us had ever been to, at the original costume party in Klagenfurt, Austria (Jeff dressed up as a ball boy). We all lived through and made plenty of fun of his medieval bob hair cut he showed up with in Gstaad, Switzerland.
There are too many memories to recount here but some other notable ones include zip lining in Puerto Vallarta, the sobering tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, the many many hours spent in European dance clubs, the seemingly endless “That’s what she said” jokes at my expense, the unanswered pizza eating contest challenge (I would still win), epic ACE games, countless great conversations, and much much more I can’t recall right now, but will look back on with fondness for the rest of my life.
The ultimate experience, however, was going to the Olympics and I’m so extremely happy that we all got to do that together. That’s what we came together for in the first place and to fight so hard for four years (up to that point) and see all of our hard work come to fruition made the journey just that more meaningful and successful. Our Olympic medal is something that will bind us together for the rest of our lives and that’s something I will always be thankful for.
So I guess the only thing left to say is thanks Jefe for everything you brought to our team, it wouldn’t have been nearly the same without you!