DJ Klasnic resides the volleyball dream — after which some

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HERMOSA BEACH, CALIFORNIA — DJ Klasnic laughs by the pleasant jabs.

“You guys at all times make enjoyable of me for being the oldest school participant,” says the 28-year-old Serbian who, sure, continues to be in school, finding out pc science and competing for the Westcliff College males’s seaside volleyball staff. It was fairly a steal for Westcliff coach Fernando Sabla when Klasnic moved from Florida to California. A roster sometimes crammed with indoor converts and seaside rookies now had a bona fide skilled anchoring its courtroom one. Not that Klasnic landed at Westcliff as a result of it was essentially his dream to take action. It was totally on the whim of Klasnic’s girlfriend, Marine Kinna, who had dedicated to complete her personal profession at LMU, in Santa Monica.

Then, as he was dwelling it, he realized it was one among his many goals in spite of everything.

“She requested if I needed to return to California. I’ve by no means considered it. That is new and dangerous however it’s a fantastic factor for my profession,” Klasnic recalled on SANDCAST: Seashore Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter. “Issues have been nice with Marine and I used to be prepared for the danger, a brand new journey.”

It was one among plenty of right-place-at-the-right-time moments for Klasnic. The one purpose he was in Florida to fulfill Kinna within the first place? Years prior, the Serbian girls’s staff was practising in Florida and requested if he may wish to come practice. Sounded ok to him. He informed his mother and father he was making the transfer from Serbia to Florida. Their response? A mixture of confusion and bemused curiosity.

Klasnic didn’t even know the place in Florida he was going.

“It’ll be good for my profession,” he informed them, nonetheless with none concept what metropolis he’d ultimately land in, “and I’m going.”

That call touched off a string of occasions Klasnic can solely shrug and describe as luck, ignoring, in an endearing sense, the truth that luck tends to seek out those that put themselves in place to be discovered by it. Few would think about shifting from Serbia to an unknown metropolis in Florida, to coach for a profession that doesn’t exist in Serbia, just because they have been invited to take action. But Klasnic, fueled by each ambition and naivete, did precisely that.

It’s an uncommon aspiration, for a Serbian to turn out to be a world-class skilled seaside volleyball participant. Earlier than Klasnic turned skilled, a Serbian staff had by no means received an FIVB medal. Solely a pair of brothers, Nemanja and Nikola Vucic, had ever carved out the distinctive path that’s making a dwelling — or considerably of a dwelling — enjoying the game. Klasnic adopted them intently.

“For me it was ‘Wow’ it was so cool,” Klasnic stated. “I believed it was by no means going to occur.”

Which helps clarify why he purchased the flight to the USA, sight unseen. Didn’t know the place he was going or who he may meet alongside the way in which, solely that it was within the correct common route: West. All of a sudden, the gamers he had grown up watching on YouTube and wherever else he may discover AVP highlights have been standing throughout him on the opposite aspect of the web. He wasn’t simply collaborating, both, a helpful follow pawn. He was beating them. Rather a lot. In his first 14 tournaments in Florida, from 2018-2020, his worst end was third.

Folks seen.

Piotr Marciniak, a longtime skilled and fellow European — Marciniak competed for Poland and was one of many prime gamers on the NVL Tour — let Klasnic crash at his home and play protection for him. Ricardo Santos, one of many biggest blockers within the recreation’s historical past, a person with a gold medal round his neck, did the identical. So did Phil Dalhausser.

“The door opened,” Klasnic stated, and even now, he can hardly imagine it. Who was he, a child from japanese Europe, to be coaching and competing with the best gamers within the recreation, guys he had grown up idolizing and watching on TV?

“It was a dream even assembly Phil. At one level in Orlando, I didn’t have a spot to sleep and Phil stated you’ll be able to sleep at my home and I’m like ‘OK, I’m sleeping at a gold medalist’s home’ and identical with Ricardo. Residing the dream,” Klasnic stated. “I don’t understand how I ended up right here. It’s a must to be fortunate to reach this sport. It’s a must to be fortunate sufficient to return from a small nation to right here. You may’t simply resolve you’re going to California, you gotta discover your method, step-by-step. There was a street in entrance of me and I used to be simply strolling, following the trail, and if it really works, it really works.”

DJ Klasnic
DJ Klasnic lays out/Mark Rigney picture

He has stayed the trail, and it has rewarded him in variety. This yr, after making an attempt to get the right inexperienced card that might enable him to compete on the AVP for half a decade, he was alas cleared to play. He made his first foremost attract New Orleans with Brian Miller, ending seventh. A month later, in Huntington Seashore, he took one other top-10. In Chicago, he shocked Manhattan Seashore Open champs Taylor Crabb and Taylor Sander after which took Dalhausser and Avery Drost to a few units. In Laguna Seashore two weeks in the past, he completed third.

“I devoted all the things to that and I actually tried to work alternative ways and enhance my recreation and the logistics to play AVP and I’m excited to stay my dream,” Klasnic stated. “One thing that I used to be dreaming, I’m nonetheless dreaming however I’m dwelling it now. I can’t imagine I’m enjoying with the highest gamers and having nice companions. I’m not watching, I’m going there to win. That is for me an opportunity to stay that skilled seaside volleyball life and compete with the most effective.

“Profitable my first medal on the World Tour in 2017, it was ‘Wow, I can do that.’ Profitable gold with Lazar [in 2022], ‘Wow we are able to do that.’ Going to AVP and qualifying, ‘Wow I can do that as effectively.’ All of it finally makes you greater.”

Some may think about it a step down, to make the semifinals of an AVP, to go toe-to-toe with Dalhausser after upending the Manhattan Seashore Open winners — after which return to school, competing with and towards largely uncooked seaside gamers. Klasnic loves all of it, each step of this winding and fantastic journey.

“After I was younger, I used to be considering I might like to play school within the US. It could be the most effective time of my life,” he stated. “However I needed to stay the seaside volleyball dream. After a pair years, I received the chance to stay each goals on the identical time. Go stay the school life, compete towards different schools, examine within the US, have the staff and meet individuals and create friendships and a the identical time play seaside volleyball. Once more, fortunate sufficient.”

Westcliff is 5-1 this season, with the AVCA Nationwide Championships scheduled for Nov. 4 in Huntsville, Alabama. Does Klasnic, a bona fide skilled each on the Volleyball World Seashore Professional Tour and the AVP, who has criss-crossed the globe and is nearing 30, discover it humorous that he’s teammates with youngsters? In fact. Will that damper his enthusiasm? Not within the least.

“I’m simply so excited to guide that staff as a captain,” he stated. “I used to be introduced right here as an skilled participant to show the opposite guys and lead the staff. I’m attempting day by day to be that instance, the way in which I work out, the way in which I follow, to point out them that that is the way in which.”

The best way of the itinerant Serbian: Strolling the unknown path, step-by-step, main to at least one dream after one other.

“My objective in seaside volleyball is to see how far I can go. Is that Future, Problem, Elite? Medals? Not medals? AVP? Win an AVP?” he stated. “That objective drives me: How far can I’m going? As soon as I begin going backwards and begin making worse outcomes, then possibly it’s time for one thing else. So long as there’s one thing in entrance of us, I’m so excited.

“I’m 28 and I’m simply getting began.”



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