In recent weeks, the calendars of the NCAA women's beach volleyball season have finally been made official, which will begin at the end of February. Among the universities that will be starting, Florida International University , will make its debut on March 4th at the Jacksonville Invitational. So this week we bring you an interview with FIU Head Beach Volleyball coach, Rita Buck-Crockett (1957, San Antonio, Texas).
In recent years her roster has always been enriched by Italian athletes who have contributed to the success of the program (Bianchin, Frasca, Mancinelli, and Bianchi). But it is certainly not only known for this! Rita, in addition to being an Olympic silver medalist in Los Angeles 1984, played for many years in the Italian indoor championship (1988-1993). Favorite of the Roman and Matera fans, Rita was nicknamed "Rocket" for her jumping ability and her speed. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, she was one of the best outside hitter in the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Leading FIU's beach volleyball program for several years, she was also elected "AVCA Coach of the Year" in 2015.
You recently decided to coach exclusively beach volleyball. Do you miss coaching indoor volleyball?
The love I have for indoor volleyball is not quantifiable, but I needed to dedicate more time to my family and granddaughter. Also I can finally focus all my energies on beach volleyball. The NCAA championship becomes more and more exciting and competitive every year, and for this it requires all my energy and attention.
Your impressions of this year's team.
It is definitely a young and inexperienced team. I don't want to go too far with the predictions. What I can say is that we have great physicality and great potential. It is a team that must be seen in perspective, but this year too we can have our say against the best teams.
What do you think of this year's championship? Will Covid still represent a big problem?
This year will be a less limited championship than in other Covid years. Most of our athletes have either the third dose or have already contracted and defeated the virus. We will try to savor 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 harmony I had while coaching the All-American Bianchin-Frasca duo pushed me to insist on other Italians, who are certainly not disappointing my expectations (Bianchi and Mancinelli). Not only I can communicate with them in Italian, a language that I love very much, but I also understand their customs, culture, and more importantly, the mentality they assume on the court.
What do you miss about Italy?
I really miss the warmth of the audience. Every time I entered the stadium, the fans welcomed us as if we were all part of a family. I still remember the smells, 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 then I cultivated friendships that occupy a special place in my heart, especially the one with Consuelo Mangifesta, a great person both on and off the court.