Mission possible: Anaya Evans and her gold medal mentality
31st July 2020
Anaya Evans, 21, is one of England's most promising beach volleyball athletes. The 173cm split blocker/defender has been a devoted student to the sport from an early age and showed her potential last year when she made history for England on the FIVB World Tour. Anaya, who comes from Croyde Bay, knows exactly what she wants, whether that's on the American college circuit or on the world stage with partner Ellie Austin, and is determined to do everything within her power to make it happen.
How did you get into beach volleyball?
When I was seven years old, I started playing a basic version of volleyball called ‘VolleySport’ at Georgeham Primary School. Denise Austin ran and coached volleyball at a club before school and it was through meeting Denise there and practising with her that I decided to try beach volleyball.
I instantly fell in love with the sport; it ignited a passion within me, and my love has continued to grow as I practised and competed in both indoor and beach volleyball contests. I have now been playing for 14 years.
Can you recall your England debut?
I was 13 when I represented England as an indoor and beach volleyball athlete for the first time. I made my debut on the international beach scene at an invitational in Austria in which my dad, Mike Evans, coached and managed my team. My indoor debut was at a NEVZA tournament at the National Volleyball Centre, Kettering.
Thinking about your playing style, what do you bring to the game?
My playing style is unique, and I always like to bring the best version of myself to the game or practise. Having played for such a long time, I have consistent ball control and a high volleyball IQ, allowing me to perform when I play and make it fun for my partner by running fast, unusual plays.
As an athletic and explosive athlete, I pride myself on these aspects of my game. My mental ability is also one of my strongest features and I always strive for more in every aspect of my life: I aim for gold medal excellence every day.
…and what do you look for in the people you play with?
There are various traits that I like to have in a partner. It is very important to me that my partner is 100% committed to our goals and is continuously striving for their own personal best and the team’s best. I like my partners to be open and honest in communication and to be able to hold themselves and others accountable.
On the court I like my partner to have great ball control and be consistent physically and emotionally. I look for partners who love the game and want to enjoy playing. Typically, I go for partners who are more relaxed and can keep calm on court but enjoy and stay present in each moment. Ellie Austin, my English partner, has all of these amazing attributes and many more which complement my needs and the teams.
What has been your proudest moment representing England as a beach volleyball athlete?
My proudest moment in beach volleyball was beating the Italian team to progress onto the semi finals of mine and Ellie’s first FIVB World Tour 1 Star competition on Ios Island in 2019. Although we went on to win the bronze medal at the tournament, the quarter final win was my proudest memory as we really came together as a team and I loved every moment of the game. To share that unforgettable, successful time with Ellie is something I am immensely grateful for.
What are you most likely to be doing if you are not playing volleyball?
Usually, I am either at practise, conditioning, doing recovery work or working out! Aside from that I love to read sport-related books and enjoy journaling about my personal development and what I am learning.
You can always catch me in the sun, whether it is at the beach, by the pool or hiking. I’m addicted to peanut butter, so you’ll usually find that close by too!
I am extremely grateful for all the amazing people I have been blessed to have in my life, so when I’m not concentrating on volleyball, I love spending time with my family, friends and boyfriend.
There are obviously ups and downs in sport, what keeps you motivated?
This is something that I have been focusing on a lot lately. Although I have never had issues with being under motivated – it’s normally the opposite and I’m being told to slow down or rest! But my motivation is born from my whys. Why do I want to be doing what I am? These are my whys:
- I want to be the best version of myself.
- I love to be challenged and believe that with the challenge and difficulties or grinding, comes exponential growth and development for yourself and those you surround yourself with.
- I want to be an All American, a Commonwealth Gold medalist, a World Champion, an Olympic gold medalist.
- I want to be able to be financially stable in my life and provide for my loved ones.
- I want to be able to leave an impactful and positive legacy behind which develops and grows the sport.
- I want to be able to help the people I love and the ones who have supported me so that they can succeed at their own goals.
- And, overall, I LOVE IT. I love the game and the grind and the rewards and the hardships. It may be difficult at times from the perspective of others but to me it is the most amazing life and I love every moment.
Do you have a volleyball role model?
I have multiple volleyball role models, including Kerri Walsh, Misty May, Laura Ludwig and, outside of volleyball, Michael Jordan. They all hold themselves to the highest standards in their own eyes and are the driving force behind their success.
What are your sporting ambitions for the future?
My sporting ambitions are to become the best player and person I can possibly be. I am striving to become national champions with my team at Grand Canyon University, Arizona, as well as become a recognized All American and volleyball player in America.
My ambitions for my national team, Ellie and I, is to become Commonwealth, Olympic and World Tour gold medalists. We want to take our team to the world stage, compete at the best level and be successful.
What is the best piece of advice you could give to younger players?
The best piece of advice that I could give to young players is that no dream is ever too big. Commit to it fully regardless of what others may think. Your story has not yet been written, so there is no right or wrong, only movement and action which will take you closer to your goals.
Strive for gold medal excellence every day and your gold medal, whatever that may be, will always be one step closer to you. Own it, live it, love it.