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TOUR de BEACH : A Van Nuys Refugee of Arie's Army, Linda Chisholm Returns to the Sand on a Fledgling Pro Volleyball Circuit

August 21, 1986|GARY KLEIN | Times Staff Writer

The Beach Boys did it with their music, Corky Carroll did it with his surfboard and Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello did it with their movies.

They set trends that influenced the way people played on the beaches of Southern California.

Linda Chisholm of Van Nuys doesn't sing, surf or play beach-blanket bingo, but she, too, is revolutionizing the way people play on the beach.

Chisholm, 28, is one of the top players on the women's professional beach volleyball tour, which has made stops on the Florida and California coasts--as well as on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Tanned and blonde, the former Olympian epitomizes the California Girl image.

But Chisholm is hardly typical. At 6-2, she stands above other beach volleyball players because of her ability to hit down and block at the net--something that had rarely been done by women in the set-and-spike beach game.

Her height has been a major factor in her rapid devolpment as a beach player. The transition from the gym to the beach, difficult for many players, has been easy for Chisholm.

"On the sand, she's hitting without a block," said Nina Mathies, who is arguably the best player on the tour. "She's learned a lot. She's had the advantage of playing with some good partners."

One of her partners was Kathy Gregory, a four-time U.S. Volleyball Assn. Player of the Year and the all-time winningest beach player.

"Linda has brought a whole new dimension to beach volleyball," said Gregory, who at the age of 40 continues to rank among the top five players on the beach. "Before she was one-dimensional as a hitter. Now she sets, hits, blocks and plays the whole court."

Chisholm, who lives with her parents around the corner from Birmingham High, was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic volleyball team that won the silver medal. Chisholm spent two years training with the team, enduring eight-hour workouts six days a week under the tutelage of Coach Arie Selinger.

"I remember calling my parents at home a lot and crying," Chisholm said of her time under the hard-driving coach. "Physically, you reached a peak where you were in the best shape you could be. But mentally, you were like a yo-yo.

"We wanted to win the gold medal more than anything, but the team couldn't wait to get the Olympics over with. We had a calendar to count down the days."

On Aug. 7, 1984, Chisholm made her only appearance in the Games when she replaced the late Flo Hyman in the championship game against China. Chisholm served twice for the Americans before being replaced.

That was it.

Two years for two serves.

"There was a lot of sacrifice, but in the end, the whole experience was worth it," Chisholm said. "Just sitting on the bench in the arena and hearing the crowd chant was indescribable.

"My attitude has changed a little since playing for the national team. I can laugh now, have a good time and play for fun. In some ways, that's a good idea because with Arie, it was volleyball 24 hours a day."

Chisholm, who didn't start playing volleyball until her senior year at Birmingham, played at College of the Canyons and Pepperdine before joining the U.S. team.

Chisholm and most of her teammates were disappointed that the career opportunities they envisioned would accompany a medal-winning performance never materialized.

"We all thought we could get coaching jobs pretty easily, but it didn't work out that way," said Chisholm.

Many of the players went to Europe or Japan to play for club teams. Chisholm went to Italy, where players earn up to $25,000 to represent a company--without jeopardizing their amateur status. Chisholm's deal included use of a car and a beach apartment during the season, which runs from September to April.

The Italian coaches were much less demanding than Selinger, Chisholm said. A scheduled three-hour practice would usually last less than an hour, she said. But some things--like the weather--were not negotiable.

"I woke up one morning and there was snow on the beach," Chisholm said. "I had to buy a fur coat because it was so cold."

She enjoys herself more on the beaches of Southern California--even during the intense heat of August and September.

Chisholm, who was introduced to the beach game in the summer before her junior year at Pepperdine, joined the women's professional tour this summer. Her previous experience in the sand eased her transition from the indoor to the outdoor game.

"Linda is one of the rare girls who kind of learned how to play outdoors first," said Gregory, who coaches the women's volleyball team at UC Santa Barbara. "To learn to play on the sand is twice as hard as playing indoors. You come out and you can pound the ball, but you can't move with any kind of quickness or stamina until you get your sand legs."

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