On this week's Inspiring Athletes series, we are excited to introduce you to Kelly Claes, professional beach volleyball athlete. The 6'2"standout has been a well known force and presence in the volleyball world since the day she stepped out onto the court. She always knew she would become a professional athlete at the ripe old age of 8 years old! And I'm sure her 8 year old self would be so proud of how much she has accomplished today! After her outstanding career at USC ('17), she set off to start her professional beach volleyball career. Since graduating, her career has taken off tremendously and she is now in the running to be one of the teams to represent the USA in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. Her accolades would easily take up the full page. But to put it simply, her determination and grit is unmatched by others, which makes her an incredible athlete and human. Kelly's recruiting journey is very unique and I am so excited to be able to share it with you all!
Please welcome Kelly Claes!
Tell us a little bit about your college recruiting process.
I was recruited very young. My freshman year in high school I had a handful of colleges offering full rides to set for their indoor teams. My sophomore year I verbally committed to play indoor at Long Beach State. I felt a connection with the coaches, campus, and atmosphere from the get go. Looking back, I don’t think it was a smart decision committing so early. I was so young and still figuring out what I wanted. My junior year the coaches at Long Beach suggested that I try out beach volleyball. I tried out for the USA Beach High Performance Team and made their travel squad. I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Porto, Portugal for the U19 World Championships and came home with a bronze medal. When I got back to the states a few beach coaches approached me about switching to beach from indoor exclusively. After a lot of discussions with my parents and praying, I decided to switch and play beach full time at USC.
What led you to become a professional beach volleyball athlete?
I knew at a very young age (probably around 8) I wanted to be a professional athlete. Competition and athleticism give me life — the physical and mental push, the thrill of winning, working toward something bigger than myself. There was never the question of if I would be a professional athlete, it was which sport?
What was the most challenging part about the recruiting process?
For me, making that final decision was the toughest part about college recruitment. Thankfully, I have amazingly supportive parents who helped me make the best decision. The best piece of advice I could give about the recruiting process is sit down before you start looking at schools and figure out what your wants and goals are. Not just ‘how good is their team’ or ‘how good are their academics’ ... dive in deeper. What is the team culture? What kind of values do the coaches, team, and school have? What is their mission?
How was it making the transition from indoor to beach?
My biggest piece of advice when making this transition is to get as much experience as you can; and play up when possible. I always tried to seek out people to compete against so I’d be the ‘worst one’ on the court. I lost a lot and learned even more.
Two fun facts for you guys! I’m a Christian and I’m a geek. :) I’m obsessed with video games, cosplaying, D&D, cartoons, and anime. And my favorite Bible verse is Romans
8:28 - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Favorite books and/or podcasts?
Anything Berne Brown touches. And my favorite podcast is The Adventure Zone (A D&D podcast!).