LIA Young knows all about reaching for the sky.
Young earning her
wings in volleyball
Raised in her family's aviation business, Young is a certified mechanic and also has her pilot's license. Now, the 26-year-old is testing her wings on the pro beach doubles circuit.
Young and partner Dianne Shoemaker just missed making the main draw at the Oldsmobile Alero Beach Volleyball series, an Olympic qualifying tournament, earlier this month at Huntington Beach, Calif. It has only made her more determined to reach her ultimate goal -- qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in Greece.
"I feel pretty good about how the tournament went," said Young, a 1990 graduate of Mid-Pacific who played collegiately at Santa Clara. "Dianne and I are both inexperienced, but it gave me a lot of confidence that we won two matches.
Like so many pro beach prospects from Hawaii, Young is caught between a rock and an island at least 2,500 miles removed from most of the major events.
Trying to dig up sponsors is a real task. Local companies don't see the value of putting their logo on a player competing on the mainland; mainland companies don't want someone from Hawaii with limited visibility.
"It's tough," said Young, who is sponsored by Hawaiian Wireless, X-cel and Hobie Eyewear. "The travel costs are the big thing. . . . You have to do well or you're going to be in debt," she said.
The 5-6 Young was relied upon for her ball-control skills at Santa Clara, helping the Broncos to WCC titles and NCAA berths her junior and senior years.
Height is not as much of an issue on the beach as it is in the indoor game. Ball-control skills and defensive quickness are very much assets.
YOUNG doesn't understand why it's so difficult to market younger players like herself.
"I think the tour needs young, fresh faces," she said. "It's time for a new generation. For players like myself, it's just a matter of gaining the experience.
"And how hard is it to market athletic women in bikinis?"
It wasn't hard for one of Young's mentors, former Wahine Karrie Trieschman Poppinga, who ended up in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue segment on beach volleyball. Before giving birth to daughter Avery last month, Poppinga, a touring beach pro, trained with Young.
"Karrie really helped me," said Young. "I think I've learned a lot about myself. I can do it. It's just a matter of plugging away."
But it will have to be on the mainland. The national pro beach doubles tour has bypassed Hawaii the past few years -- with the exception of the final women's event on Kauai -- mostly because of difficulty in obtaining beach sites.
"There's a huge playing community here but not the funds or the sponsors," said Young. "It's too bad the plans for having a beach volleyball facility at the Natatorium fell through. It would have been a fantastic volleyball site."
Young knows it's a longshot to make the tour and make money. But she has beaten the odds before -- she estimates that women make up eight percent of all certified aircraft mechanics.
"Everyone I work with is male, from the customers to the other mechanics," she said. "I was raised on the runway and have been around greasy men all my life. People walk in thinking I'm the secretary. When I ask them, 'Can I help you?' I really can help them."
Young is hoping for a little help from sponsors.
"What I need is for Gulfstream (jets) to sponsor me," she joked. "I could fly myself to events.
"But seriously I'm just excited to be able to be living a dream that I thought was unattainable a year ago. I've got a lot more to learn and I've got a lot more to give to the sport."
Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.