Kristen Batt competes in Siesta Key’s Dig the Beach event

Posted on 19 June 2013

Getting cut from the volleyball team as a seventh grader may be the best thing that ever happened to Kristen Batt.

The disappointment gave her motivation and determination to be better. Now she's a professional beach volleyball player showcasing her talent in the Dig the Beach series at Siesta Key this weekend. Play resumes at 8:45 a.m. today.

"It's nice to play in my home town," said Batt, who will spend the next few months traveling throughout Florida and across the country for tournaments.

Batt, and her partner Raquel Ferreira, were one of 372 teams signed up for the two-day tournament. Another 90 teams were on the waiting list.

"Beach volleyball is growing by leaps and bounds. We've surpassed California with events and demands of athletes."

"This is one of the largest — in number of teams — series in the country," said Steve Bishop, tour director and executive director of the Florida region of USA Volleyball. "Beach volleyball is growing by leaps and bounds. We've surpassed California with events and demands of athletes."

Batt first played beach volleyball on a whim when she was home from college. Before that, she led the Venice High School team to a state championship her senior year and earned a scholarship to University of Kentucky, where she started four years and was named the team's most valuable player.

"There is not much opportunity to do indoor volleyball unless you go overseas, so I started playing on sand tours and really loved it," Batt said.

In 2005, Batt had a knee injury that pushed her to get in better shape and train even harder. She began playing at the professional level two years later.

After losing her job in 2009, Batt turned her focus to the sport.

"I went from 78th in the country to third," said Batt, who has had a few partners over the years.

Batt is in her second season with Ferreira. The two practice about two hours every morning in St. Petersburg with their coach, Victor Carneiro. He left his family in Brazil in February to train the team for its beach volleyball season.

"This year feels so much easier. We've got a season under our belts and have worked through the growing pains," Batt said. "Communication is really important and you have to find a partner you work well with and can trust."

The team, sponsored by Rox Volleyball, has the potential to win $2,000 in this weekend's tournament. The winning men's professional team will receive $1,800.

"You need sponsors to make a living," said Batt, explaining that even then, it's not always enough. "Could I do just this? Probably not."

While Batt plans to continue playing professionally as long as she keeps winning and her body allows, she is keeping her options open for the future. She has a master's degree in counseling.

"Playing in the Olympics isn't necessarily my goal," said the 32-year-old who lost to gold medalists Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor in a 2008 single elimination tournament. "It's a huge commitment. You're overseas for months at a time. I'm trying to work toward different careers so when I'm done I'm not asking, 'What do I do now?'"

But volleyball is an integral part of Batt's life. She coaches at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School and founded Coastline Volleyball in Bradenton, which offers camps and club teams.

"The girls can use me as a role model," Batt said. "A lot of them have dreams of playing in college. With me going through that, they come to me for advice."

"She's good to learn from because she has a lot of experience," said Annie Montgomery, who played for Batt in high school and is on Florida State's beach volleyball team.

Bishop said that is one of the best things about the Dig the Beach series, which is open to children 7 and older.

"Kids can be better players by watching better players," he said. "With sports like football and basketball, kids can watch their heroes or idols. We're not on TV, so we bring the superstars to them live and up close."

The 40-court tournament resumes at 8:45 a.m. today at Siesta Key Beach. 

By Elizabeth Johnson | Herlad-Tribune - Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013

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Herald-Tribune Article | Kristen Batt Rox Profile | Siesta Key, FL | Dig the Beach | USA Volleyball |Coastline Volleyball | Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School 

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