Volleyball athlete’s fitness is 7-day-a-week commitment

Matt Olson plays beach volleyball at the Moonlight Beach volleyball courts in Encinitas.
Matt Olson plays beach volleyball at the Moonlight Beach volleyball courts in Encinitas.
(Hayne Palmour IV / U-T)

Subject: Matt Olson

Age: 38

Residence: Encinitas

The family lore is that Olson and his brother had volleyballs in their cribs as infants. Their dad and mom played beach volleyball at the time — in fact, still do— so Matt and his younger brother had to share crib space with the family obsession.

“I don’t know how true that is,” says Olson. “But we played early on.”

Olson grew up in Cardiff and spent a good chunk of his life at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas watching the adults play, then took up the game himself. He played the indoor game at La Costa Canyon High and Grossmont College before eventually playing volleyball for the University of Arizona’s men’s program (helping them win a couple of national club championships), all while still playing the beach game. He then played a decade on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, winning a pair of tournaments and finishing in the top five 34 times.

Today, he and his wife, Lindsey — whom he met while she played volleyball at Arizona — have 6- and 4-year-old daughters they hope will someday play the game, too. They’ll certainly be exposed to it. Olson plays a couple of days each week and is the founder and executive director of Wave Beach Volleyball in Del Mar. Lindsey plays even more often. Volleyball is in their DNA.

Though Olson no longer plays on the pro tour, he keeps himself in shape and continues to play for a couple of reasons. First, he wants to be ready in case he feels the need of trying a comeback. Second, as the head of a beach volleyball club that helps groom young athletes for the college game — beach volleyball is now an NCAA sport — he wants to be able to walk the walk.

Matt Olson played for a decade on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. At 38, he's no longer a volleyball pro, but still plays several days a week,
(Hayne Palmour IV / U-T)

He says the kids are watching him every moment, so he wants to be able to demonstrate techniques and let them know he can back up what he’s saying. Plus, he wants to be a role model for fitness and health.

“I’ve noticed if I take even a couple of weeks off (playing), that touch leaves,” he says.

To stay fit, he practices “opportunistic training.” That means fitting in exercise or a workout between the Wave Beach practice sessions, his office hours, answering emails, helping older athletes with their college recruiting, taking care of his daughters and family time. If an hour or two of opportunity opens up, he exercises.

Fitness regimen

There is no normal week, but generally over a seven-day period, Olson — who still looks fit enough to play on tour at a lean 6-foot-2 — will play two to three times (doubles or 4-on-4). He’ll do sprints in the sand or longer beach runs. He walks around his neighborhood, does pushups (“probably too many”) and some yoga poses. Over this past winter, he went to his local YMCA gym two to three times per week.

And, there is surfing. He learned how to surf early (his wife also surfs) and competed from age 12 to 17. He gets into the waves a few times each week. If the sets aren’t good, he’ll do some long paddles.

“Bottom line, definitely I do something every day,” he says.

Keep on truckin’

Until a few months ago, Olson wanted a new truck. His Toyota 4Runner had plenty of miles, and its age showed. Then he realized it’s probably perfect for his needs. He keeps his surfboard, volleyball equipment and some weights in the back so he’s ready for action at any moment.

“My kids can trash it,” he says, smiling. “I run a beach volleyball club, so let’s face it, I’ve got sand everywhere. ... I’ve got a car that runs great and I don’t care if it gets beat up.”


He admits he hasn’t always loved vegetables, but he does now, in part because of his wife’s influence. His diet is rich in veggies and fruits. Often, he’ll reach into a bag of spinach and wolf down a handful of the green stuff “Popeye style.” Snacks often are sugar snap peas and baby carrots. Lately, he has cut bread and tortillas from his diet, and feels better.

He follows his mom’s example of eating a balanced diet. He also remembers advice from his AVP Tour days, when he was told his body was like a sports car. The mantra: “Fuel yourself like a Ferrari, not like a VW bug.”

Williams is a San Diego freelance writer.