Alix Klineman is an accomplished professional indoor volleyball player, but made the transition to beach volleyball in 2017 and partnered up with April Ross to form Team USA's top pairing for the women's tournament in Tokyo. Klineman and Ross won silver at the 2019 Beach Volleyball World Championships and are hoping to win even more at the Summer Olympics.
As part of our preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we found out about Alix Klineman:
Tell us about your family.
We are a family of five. There's my father, Mike, who has always been my biggest supporter in sports and is a huge sports fan. He had a long career in education, first working at USC in the business school as the assistant dean for over 20 years. After, he worked as a counselor at Santa Monica College. He is now retired. My mom, Kathie, is the glue of our family. She's extremely selfless and nurturing and is a great cook. She is who I learned my love of food and cooking from.
I have an older brother, Max. He was the first child to start playing volleyball, and I only started playing when I was accidentally included at his beach volleyball camp as a 6-year-old. We grew up playing outside on the street together, and he's the one I really fell in love with volleyball with. He was a setter and played at UC Santa Barbara. Now, he has two kids and works as a sales rep for several clothing companies. Lastly, my sister, Maddy, is the youngest sibling and was also a volleyball player. She earned a scholarship to UCLA and now works at the company Box Fox.
Where does your family come from?
My dad is from Upstate New York and my mom is from West Covina, CA.
Parent influence on athletic career?
My dad was very instrumental in my athletic career. He has always been a big sports fan, and as a kid I was forced to at least try every sport. As a result, I played volleyball, basketball and soccer for several years. My dad was my coach several years for AYSO basketball, and I grew up playing one-on-one basketball against him on our walk street. We also were avid Lakers fans together and used to watch every game together. It was my dad's dream for me to play basketball in college, but he has gotten over this heartbreak and is now a huge supporter of my volleyball career.
My mom has a much more cautious personality, and is always very concerned for my well-being. She worries about my health, how I'm managing my injuries, and is always making sure I'm not too beat up. When I need to get my mind off volleyball, I turn to my mom to spend some time away from the sport.
How has your hometown shaped who you are today?
I often say I'm a product of my environment. Manhattan Beach is a volleyball mecca, and when people ask why or how I got into volleyball, I tell them, "Well, I grew up in Manhattan Beach." I used to take where I grew up for granted, but I have traveled extensively through volleyball, and now that I finally get to live and train at home, I realize just how lucky I am.
Where else have you lived?
I lived and played three years in Italy and two years in Brazil when I was a professional indoor volleyball player. I am still close with many of my old teammates, and take vacations there in my free time.
How much time do you train? How much do you sleep?
About four hours (practice and weights, not including physical therapy). I sleep about eight or nine hours per night.
Typical training day?
Wake up at 6:15, leave for practice at 7:15, arrive at practice at 8:30, warm up at 8:30 to start practice at 9:00. Practice usually goes from 9:00-11:00. I'll grab some lunch nearby in Corona Del Mar (my favorite spot is Bear Flag Fish Co.), and then I start the commute to our USA Volleyball facility in Torrance, California. On a typical day, I'll arrive around 1:00. There, I'll get treatment, do physical therapy and lift weights. I'll finish there around 4:00/5:00. After that, I head home, make some dinner and watch video of that day's practice. I usually crash pretty early (around 10:00pm) and get ready to do it all again the next day.
What's your favorite workout?
I have started to enjoy going to yoga as a form of cross training.
What's the most grueling workout you've ever done?
An intense beach volleyball practice. Our assistant coach, Fiapo, is Brazilian and is known to run us through some pretty intense practices.
Earliest memory of volleyball?
The earliest memory I have of the sport is playing on my first club team when I was 8 years old. I can remember coming up with pregame cheers, sitting on the bench, even keeping score for our own match (I was the youngest and always sat on the bench). I also remember staying after practice one day to work on my serve with Tim Hovland, because I was the last player on my team to be able to overhand serve.
Specific breakthrough moment?
Getting second place at World Championships, I think I realized that we had just taken a huge step towards qualifying for the Olympics. I felt like I was realizing my dreams.
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
I grew up really enjoying gymnastics and figure skating. I enjoyed watching beach volleyball a lot as well. I always dreamed of playing in the Olympics. To me it is the ultimate accomplishment, the highest achievement in sports. Around college I began to realistically dream and aim for the Olympics. Before that I'm not sure I ever really thought I was capable of making it to the Olympics.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Over dinner with a few friends and couple glasses of wine.
What would you be doing if not an athlete?
Something with food.
What is on your bucket list?
Traveling to Greece, buying a house in Italy.
Advice you'd give a young player?
Don't take no for an answer, work hard and prove people wrong.