Quite a few years ago, I coached volleyball at a high school in Australia. Most of the athletes I coached don’t play any more, but a few do. One who does is Angela Crewe, who now plays beach volleyball in Australia. Angela is ranked #13 in the Nation, and is generally acknowledged to be the best player in her home state of Victoria – last season being crowned the MVP for the Victorian Women’s tour.
With Malice (Don): Angela, thanks for doing this interview.
Angela Crewe: No problem…
WM: Ok, I understand that you’re now a doctor?
AC: Yes, of osteopathy, not a general practitioner.
WM: What does that involve?
AC: Osteopathy is manual medicine, we use our hands, treat people with injuries… we help the body to heal itself. No pharmaceutical prescriptions or that sort of thing.
WM: How does that fit in with training & playing beach volleyball at such an elite level?
AC: It actually fits in perfectly because of my job I can get by working half days so it allows me to train pretty much full time, which was what I wanted when I was looking at a career when I was deciding what to do at university. Work fits me perfectly.
WM: Let’s backtrack a bit… as a teenager, you were a pretty good indoor volleyball player (even captaining a State junior team). Why did you switch over to Beach?
AC: I guess when high school finished, and I had a car, I had a bit more freedom – I became more interested in it. I’d been playing indoor for 9 years, and things weren’t changing – it was always the same old thing. Beach has a very demanding fitness aspect which I was drawn to. The sand, the elements outside, it really suited me – being a more all-round player. I found it to be more challenging (than indoor). Two players, the partnership dynamic’s pretty exacting at times. I just like being on the beach and being outside. Put that all together, and I fell in love with it.
WM: Fantastic. So, you’re bit of a fitness buff are you?
AC: Some people might say that, I don’t know if I’d go that far. But when I train, I feel good, so I train more… I do a lot of different styles of training. I’ve done a lot of fight-training, for hand and foot speed, I enjoy that. I do a lot of physical training that pushes me when I think I’ve got nothing left. Then a lot of skills training, repetitions, trying to perfect things. I’m a bit of a perfectionist I guess. A lot of training… sometimes I think I like training more than I like playing!
WM: You played a lot of the indoor game growing up – far more than beach volleyball. Do you see this as a benefit or detriment to being an adult playing on the sand?
AC: A bit of both really. I coach myself now – and indoor definitely gives you the skill base, which is important, but I feel that if I had started beach earlier I might’ve gotten to where I want to be quicker. I’ve got some girls that I coach, and I feel that they would benefit from indoor – the repetitions, the technique. They do complement each other, but if I try to play both now, they affect each other – timing’s different.
WM: I remember one of your first games as a junior indoor player, and you were sitting on the bench against a powerful Monbulk lineup. It was the end of the game & I asked you to sub in – you said ‘no’, because they were too scary. I guess it’s safe to say you’re far more tenacious now?
AC: Are you kidding? [laughter] Hell yeah… I can only remember sitting on the bench and being cranky (because I was on the bench!), I can’t remember being scared! [laughter] Oh my god… no, now I thrive on the competition, I love it. That challenge of training so hard and testing yourself against the best. Often those are my best games too. I definitely wouldn’t be saying “no” now!
WM: Do you play any indoor at all?
AC: No… last time I played was about two years ago, and it was only with friends – they had a lot of injuries on their team and one of my friends begged me to come and sit on the bench so they didn’t get a fine. I ended up playing for about a month, training to get my skills worked all out. It was fun, but I didn’t feel a need to play indoor again – too many people on the court! Too many people for me to have to cooperate with! I got a bit bored on court, so back to the beach as soon as I could! Doing that tho’, I found my current beach partner – Lauren Spark. I’ve been playing with her for two years. She was an indoor player, and she’s improving so fast…
WM: Tell us a little about Lauren – why did you choose her?
AC: Well, at the time I wanted a particular coach, and she was only prepared to coach a team. I’d always trained myself. I could never find a playing partner who shared my motivation, so I often played with different people. I guess it was a really good thing that this coach forced me to consider the partnership within beach volleyball – one of the most important aspects of beach: communication, chemistry with your partner. I was looking for someone who could block, channel the ball, and was quick. Big and quick is difficult to find, so when you see someone who has that – they stand out. I had a few people I was looking at to play with. Lauren was playing at a quite elite level of indoor, and she was yelling for the ball, she had passion – she wanted the ball. She was blonde, and looked like she’d suit the beach! [laughter] I asked her – I asked a few girls – and I had a little training trial/session with a few people who wanted to play.
WM: Wow, so you auditioned people to play with you?
AC: [laughter] I did! I did… and look, it was the best thing I’ve ever done. There aren’t many girls playing that tall within Victoria, and the first session we had, she just touched every ball hit… her timing was a little out, but she had fire. She had pretty good hands, so she could set. So we kept going… initially she was more focused on indoor. I went overseas to play with another girl, she saw me doing that and when sponsorship became available, Lauren could see that if everything went according to plan then it wouldn’t cost a lot. One thing lead to another, and we made a commitment for a season. Our first tournament together was trying to qualify for the National Pro Tour… and we got a wild card entry. Her first season was on the National Tour, Lauren was thrown in the deep end! It was a tough year – very up and down. But the next year, Lauren quit indoor, and decided that the beach was what she wanted to do. The following year, we did a lot better. One of the important groups for us are the people at the Beachcomber Cafe (St Kilda, Melbourne) [editor’s note: link added for the Beachcomber Cafe]. They’ve been sponsoring us for a while, and it really, really helps. They’re great. I really appreciate what they’ve been able to do for us.
WM: Why did she choose to play with you? What are your strengths?
AC: Oh … ummm… we complement each other. My skills complement hers, and hers mine. I’m very organized, very particular, I book all our flights and that sort of thing, and she’s very laid back. A bit of yin and yang, I guess, going there… If you have two people that want to organize, it doesn’t work. [pause] I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak, but… [laughter] I think our relationship works. Lauren brings me down to earth. She’s more relaxed. We might be playing people I regard highly, I might be a bit concerned – it’s hard for me to be laid back. But it doesn’t affect her, I admire her for that. We balance each other really well. It’s a pretty special partnership.
WM: Your current ranking in Australia is 13th correct?
WM: Do you have plans to get into the top 10?
AC: Yeah definitely. It’s been a goal of mine for more than 3 years. I haven’t had the lead-up and partnership that I’ve wanted, I do now. I’d love to be making finals in Australia. I did have aspirations to play on the world circuit, but my priorities have changed somewhat over the last couple of years. I went overseas and supported a friend (who plays for Australia) who’s playing over there. I got a taste of it, of how things work when you play internationally. I just decided that my practice (osteopathy) is really important to me. And the competition here in Australia… I’m far from conquering that, so I’m kinda happy to focus on that. If I get the opportunity to play in Asia, then that’s great. And Lauren has pretty much the same mindset… err… did I answer the question?
WM: Absolutely… so any plans to come to Japan? Some of the tournaments are fairly lucrative…
AC: [laughter] Wouldn’t say no! We beat a Japanese team in Thailand … great skills, well drilled. They did really well in the next event – I think they got a third place… I’d love to come to Japan.
WM: I’ll keep an eye out for some tournaments Angela [laughter]… OK, last question: give me three words that accurately describe Angela Crewe.
AC: Ohhh… Passionate… motivated… [pause]… [laughter]… I don’t know… doctor! [laughter]
WC: A passionate, motivated doctor! Fantastic… Angela, thanks so much for your time.
AC: Ok, thanks!