Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh played Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes in the final of the beach volleyball event at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games
Torrance, USA, February 11, 2016 – Mike Dodd is no stranger when big events come around.
During his beach volleyball playing days, he and partner Tim Hovland were called "Big Game Hunters", known for their slow starts at the beginning of seasons. But as the summer wore on, the duo would ratchet up their games as the larger tournaments along the California coast loomed.
In 1996, with Mike Whitmarsh, Dodd discovered he had one more run in him and the two reached the Atlanta Olympics, where they marched to the final only to fall to compatriots Karch Kiraly and Kent Steffes.
During the USA Volleyball Open House on January 29, a kickoff function as the current players begin their qualification runs for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games, Dodd looked around the room and put the evening in perspective.
“It’s like the circle of life,” Dodd said. “You see the old players like Karch and Kent and myself and Sinjin (Smith), you see the contemporaries, Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, the young contemporaries like Tri Bourne. You see the real young players that are here just kind of soaking it all up. It’s really exciting to see how far it’s come in a relatively short period of time.”
After reaching the highest beach rating of triple-A at 16 years old, Dodd was a mainstay on the beach and he racked up 75 career titles. In a five year stretch from 1985-89, Dodd picked up 40 of his tournament crowns out of 107 events.
Six times, he won the Manhattan Beach Open, the oldest and most venerable tournament in the sport. That indeed was home sand for Dodd. But as the sport grew and became an Olympic event, Dodd pushed his body one more time to reach the newest pinnacle in the game.
“In ’96 I was older, 39, and I thought the Olympic dream might have passed me by and then we found out the Olympics were going to happen,” Dodd said. “We had a qualifier that Whitmarsh and I had to kill ourselves. It was the hardest tournament I ever played in but we made it out of that qualifier and played in the Trials and made it.
“For me it was just kind of the culmination of my career. For a lot of these young people it’s going to be kind of a springboard for their career. It doesn’t really matter where you are in life, whether you’re on the back side or the front side, the Olympics is something that you’ll never forget.”
Mike Dodd coached Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal
Dodd has also coached during his post-playing days – most notably Phil Dalhausser and Sean Rosenthal a couple of years ago. He has also been instrumental in the development of Italians Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo, who are expected to reach the Rio Games. These days, however, Dodd is more likely to be selling a house than serving a Mikasa ball.
But the sport never leaves him and he takes joy in seeing the next generation follow some of the trails Dodd and company blazed.
“As a player, we always want to be remembered as a great player or someone who really did something for the sport,” Dodd said. “When you win that Manhattan Open and get your name on the pier, you know that’s going to be around for awhile, your kids and maybe their kids can see it.
“Magnify that by 100 and that’s what it’s like being in the Olympics. When your name is on that plaque as an Olympian or as a medallist, it’ll be there forever and that’s something your family can have pride in and relate to and use for motivation or whatever for generations.”