Skip to main content

In recent weeks, the calendars of the NCAA women’s beach volleyball season, which will begin at the end of February, have finally been made official. Among the universities that will be at the start, Florida International University, will make its debut on March 4 at the Jacksonville Invitational. This week we offer you an interview with FIU’s Head Beach Volleyball coach, Rita Buck-Crockett (1957, San Antonio, Texas).

In recent years, its roster has always been enriched by Italian athletes who have contributed to the success of the program (Bianchin, Frasca, Mancinelli, and Bianchi). But that’s not all she is known for! Rita, in addition to being an Olympic silver medalist in Los Angeles 1984, played for many years in the Italian indoor championship (1988-1993). A darling of Roman and Matera fans, Rita has been nicknamed “Rocket” for her jumping ability and speed. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, she was one of the best bands in the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Leading FIU’s beach volleyball program for several years, she was also voted “AVCA Coach of the Year” in 2015.

You recently decided to coach beach volleyball exclusively. Do you miss coaching indoor volleyball?

My love for indoor volleyball is unquantifiable, but I needed to spend more time with my family and granddaughter. In addition, I can finally focus all my energy on beach volleyball. The NCAA championship is getting more and more exciting and competitive every year, and for this reason it requires all my energy and attention.

Your impressions of this year’s team.

It’s definitely a young and inexperienced team. I don’t want to get too far ahead of predictions. What I can say is that we have great physicality and great potential. It’s a team that needs to be put into perspective, but again this year we can have our say against the best teams.

What do you think of this year’s championship? Will Covid still be a major impediment?

This year it will be a less limited championship than the other Covid years. Most of our athletes have the third dose or have already contracted and defeated the virus. We will try to taste normality again, but always respecting the rules that are rightly imposed on us by the various bodies. The training environment is serene and there is an air of healthy competitiveness.

In recent years you have always strongly wanted Italians on your roster…

In many ways I feel Italian. The understanding I had coaching the All-American duo Bianchin-Frasca pushed me to insist on other Italians, who are certainly not disappointing my expectations (Bianchi and Mancinelli). Not only can I communicate with them in Italian, a language I love very much, but I also understand their customs, customs, and most importantly the mentality they take on the pitch.

What do you miss about Italy?

I really miss the warmth of the audience. Every time I entered the arena, the fans welcomed us as if we were all part of a family. I still remember the scents, the voices, and the sunsets of Rome. But even more I miss the surreal atmosphere of Matera, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. In Italy I have cultivated friendships that hold a special place in my heart, especially the one with Consuelo Mangifesta, a great person both on and off the pitch.