Teaching Beach Volleyball’s Next Generation
Local academy led by Lake Nona residents Phil and Jennifer Dalhausser
Beyond the playground at Boxi Park is a set of professional sand volleyball courts where Lake Nona residents and pro beach volleyball players Phil and Jennifer Dalhausser have been serving up weekly youth training and more.
At the Phil Dalhausser Beach Volleyball Academy, the couple coach classes designed for kids and teens of all skill levels and adult social leagues. They also offer one-on-one private training or small group sessions for athletes looking to take their game to the next level or students interested in collegiate scouting.
At home in Laureate Park, they stay active with their two young children and encourage them to explore all sports.
As a UCF business graduate and Olympic Gold medalist, Phil has a vision to build a beach volleyball community in Lake Nona. He and Jennifer both started with indoor volleyball later in life but made the switch to beach volleyball after just one practice. With the academy in Lake Nona, they hope to inspire younger generations to kick up some sand and dive in to beach volleyball.
In this Q&A, the duo shares their passion for the sport, how they landed in Lake Nona, and what’s next for the academy.
Q. What led you to Lake Nona and how did the community inspire you to launch the academy here?
Phill: We were living in Los Angeles looking for places to buy near the beach but couldn’t bring ourselves to buy a million-dollar fixer upper. One day, Jenn said let’s look in Orlando.
Jennifer: Some of Phil’s UCF buddies are still here and one is married to a realtor, so we met up and drove around town and fell in love with Laureate Park and the Lake Nona community.
Phil: We love that everything in Lake Nona is based around wellness and health and sports. With two beach volleyball courts right down the street at Boxi Park, we thought – why not bring our passion for beach volleyball here?
Q. When did you discover beach volleyball? What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jennifer: I think beach volleyball is a sport that once you play, you’re hooked. I love the vibe, the energy, the lifestyle around it. I played soccer in middle school and started with indoor volleyball as a freshman in high school.
The kids in our academy now are playing at 10 years old! I was a little late to the game but after the first practice I fell in love and stuck with it through high school and college. I wanted to be an athletic trainer when I grew up and after college, I wasn’t done playing and transitioned to beach volleyball. Beach volleyball made my indoor game one hundred times better! I was quicker, stronger, moved easier, and jumped higher.
Phil: I had a late start too. I wanted to be a baseball player or a pharmacist when I grew up. I played baseball through junior year of high school. My high school had indoor volleyball and the coach was bugging me to play for three years until I finally decided to try out my senior year. Like Jenn, I was hooked after that first practice. My coach was a beach volleyball player, so he brought our team out to practice on the beach a couple times and I loved it.
After playing beach through college at UCF, I told my parents I wanted to become a professional beach volleyball player. They laughed but were supportive when I told them I had a plan to give myself until I turned 25 to make it. My dad kept a tally of every cent they loaned me along the way to winning my first professional tournament at exactly 25. He immediately reminded me that I had a balance due. Jokes aside, they are so supportive and were there for me when I won gold at the 2008 Olympics.
Q. Tell us about the greatest life lessons you’ve learned in beach volleyball.
Phill: With sports, you can learn so many life lessons like leadership and following directions. The biggest lesson I like to teach is being in the moment, being present. I always joke with our kids when we’re playing around that we’re not thinking about our next TikTok, we’re thinking about our next pass.
Jennifer: Another thing we like to teach is trust in the process. In everything you do, there will be steps you have to take to be successful. A lot of our kids come from indoor volleyball and expect to be perfect right away and tend to give up a little quicker. We tell them it’s okay to make mistakes and trust that those mistakes help you learn.
Q. What is your favorite skill to teach and the one you worked the hardest to master?
Phil: My favorite skill would have to be passing because it’s the most important part of the game. We spend a lot of time on it and it’s really cool to see how much our kids improve after just a few weeks in our camps.
Passing was always one of the weaker parts of my game. I’m always one of the taller guys on the floor, so I’ve gotten a lot of rep setting. But, having really long legs makes it harder to move around in the sand which makes it a lot harder to pass.
Jennifer: Without the first pass, you got nothing. Passing and defense came naturally for me, but setting was a lot harder. Just walking in the sand can be difficult, so learning how to move in it takes practice and patience, especially coming from indoor volleyball.
Q. What is your vision for the future of volleyball and the academy in Lake Nona?
Phil: I want to build a beach volleyball community for junior players around here and slowly turn it into the East Coast headquarters for beach volleyball. Everyone goes out to Los Angeles to play if they want to go pro. The problem is the cost of living is so expensive and beach players don’t make much money starting out. With the academy in Lake Nona, we can offer players the option to work and play.
Jennifer: We’d love to have more courts and host tournaments in Lake Nona. You can only practice for so long before you want to test your skills in a competitive way.