Goal: Paris 2024 Gold Medal
Traci Callahan is breaking the mold.
In a sport where the average defender on the top 25 teams in the world stands 5 foot-9 and a half,, Callahan stands 6-foot-2. She plays not with the delicate touch of most defenders, placing shots here, dropping them there, but with power, strength.
In a sport that once had its female athletes compete in swimsuit competitions between matches, Callahan is espousing a different form of beauty, where strength and athleticism, power and functionality, is the new sexy.
The new mold.
She hasn’t always been this way, of course. She isn’t just breaking the mold long established by the sport, but one created by herself, too. There was a point where Callahan fit into the traditional role of a 6-foot-2 beach volleyball player. She blocked. Played less of a speed, controlled game, and one that was more within the realms of what was expected of her. Little flash. Little sizzle.
Within the mold.
That all changed in the most unexpected of places: A three-week backpacking trip through Spain. It was in 2015 when Callahan reached the crossroads of her career. A rough loss to one of the most dominant teams in the sport’s history, April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings, left her wondering: Was this game still her future? Could she play it at the top level? Or was she always going to be rolled over by the elite, the blessed few?
Long a lover of all things outdoors, Callahan took to a popular backpacking route in Spain for a sort of walking meditation. It was across the world, while hiking hundreds of miles, with no headphones, no distractions, just herself and the road, that it occurred to Callahan that maybe she had been going about it all wrong.
Maybe she wasn’t supposed to do what everyone else was doing. Maybe she was supposed to zig where others suggested she zag. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to do what she had been told a 6-foot-2 athlete should do.
Maybe she should break the mold.
Here she is now, Callahan, two years into her beach volleyball revival as the tallest defender in the world, matched only by Ross and China’s Xinxin Wang, two years into breaking the mold. She has qualified in every professional tournament she’s played as the tallest, strongest defender on the AVP and FIVB tours. She has set new career highs, with four consecutive top-10 finishes in the 2020 season. Her only losses in the truncated 2020 AVP season included an Olympian on the other side of the net.
It is her goal to become one.
It is her goal to become not just an Olympian in the 2024 Paris Games, but an example. An example that, with the proper dedication, work ethic, and supportive team around you, you can take your abilities to a level never seen before.
It is her goal to not just shine on the court, but to be an example off it.
It is her goal to break the mold.