Pavan and Humana-Paredes – Talking with the World Champions
LAUSANNE, Switzerland, February 22, 2020 - In the first of a
series of articles on the world champions, Canadian defender
Melissa Humana-Paredes speaks about winning the FIVB Beach
Volleyball World Championships in Hamburg in 2019, when her
partnership with Sarah Pavan turned a corner on the road to
"Honestly, at the point where I was in my career four years ago,
I probably wouldn’t have predicted this. I acknowledged that we
definitely had the potential to get to the highest level, but I
think our development as a team and my development as an
athlete, surprised me, and continues to surprise me! Mostly with
how quickly we gelled and how quickly we began fine-tuning our
game. Four years ago I was just stoked to be given the
opportunity to play with Sarah. I had a lot I wanted to prove
but I wasn't sure how I was going to rise to the occasion."
Over the past four years the team have won five times on the
FIVB World Tour, they won gold at the Commonwealth Games and the
World Championships and for Melissa it has been made up of lots
of little but important details on the mental and technical side
of the game. She credits the team's coach, Scott Davenport who
Humana-Paredes says "is a very technical coach who sees things
other people don’t".
"I have improved on lots of little technical details but I think
more importantly I have improved how I approach each skill
mentally. I was, probably still am, definitely more of a "feel"
& "flow" player. I was taught the importance of fundamentals at
a young age, but since working with Scott he's really hammered
in technical details that have made things more efficient and
effective. Everything from arm swing mechanics to avoid shoulder
injury to passing/digging mechanics that give me more range. It
wasn't just about breaking habits but about being mindful of
when I resort to them."
The world champions first played together at the World Tour
Finals in 2016, something Melissa describes as "a bit of a
mess". But it didn’t take long for the team and Melissa herself
to see some results that in turn built an inner belief within
the team. A silver at the Rio 4-star in 2017 was their first
competition with a full preseason behind them, where making the
finals against Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda 'Duda' Lisboa gave
them confidence to go on and win their first major event in
Porec at a 5-star tournament.
Since then, the Canadians have seemed to have a knack of winning
on the big occasion winning in Porec. They have also won in
Vienna, Hamburg and Gstaad. Alongside all of the wins, they
were also awarded the FIVB Most Outstanding Team, something that
Melissa mentioned on her on Instagram account confirming that
"mastering the team is the most important part of this journey"
when asked to go into more detail.
"I think it started with failure and losses honestly. When
things are good, they're good and it's hard to see room for
improvement or feel the urgency of change. It's when things are
more difficult that you have to look in the mirror, individually
and as a team, to realise the potential for growth. My first
moment of realisation and our first real team chat was at the
NORCECA Finals in the Dominican Republic where we severely
under-performed (and it was the first Olympic qualification
event no less!). We hashed it out and it made us stronger, which
I'm grateful for. We look to our sports psychologist, Lee, to
help us manage and guide our relationship through the good and
the bad. When it comes to the partnership, you can't do it
alone. But after three years of working on it, I can say I'm so
grateful for our losses because they've taught us so much about
And on playing with Sarah, she also feels she has learnt a lot
and is very thankful for their journey, relationship and Sarah's
guidance and making her the player she is now.
"I've learned how to see the game differently with more of a
strategic lens. But I've learned how to approach my love of the
game also through the lens of a professional and view it as a
profession; it bears more weight when you change your perception
from "amateur" athlete to "professional athlete". Playing with
Sarah has taught me how to mature and grow through the sport,
which has also naturally transferred to my life outside sport as
well. How to be self-sufficient, confident, steady, responsible,
how to communicate and be a part of a functioning and successful
team. I feel like I've grown up under her eye and I'm grateful
for these experiences with her."
The team are working on their focus in training and consistency
as they feel that will be huge, as well as managing potential
distractions, which means they are looking within their team to
stay grounded. They are also looking at preparing their season
to manage their load and body fatigue as they feel that will be
key factors heading into Tokyo. At the same time, they have to
earn a living by playing the sport.
"Our seasons are long and often have back-to-back stretches, so
we want to make sure we're fresh for Tokyo. But at the same time
this is our job so we need to find a balance of earning a living
as well as peaking at the right time. Tricky business!"
2019 saw 10 different winners from 13 of the FIVB's major events
and although Canada won the big one, who will win in Tokyo is
very much to be decided.
"Heading in as world champs, it's easy to pick us as the
favourites. But I think there are many teams in the Top 10 that
could also be selected as favourites in their own right as well.
It's deep competition on tour and the only thing we can do is
just compare ourselves to ourselves and focus on what we can do
better, because that's all that we can control. But the field is
deep and anyone can beat anyone.
That's the beauty of sport in general, but especially beach
volleyball. Anything can happen!"
At the World Championships in Hamburg, the team beat the USA’s
Alix Klineman and April Ross in a thrilling final when the
Canadians won 2-0 (23-21, 23-21). When asking Melissa to
elaborate on that experience and how it will help prepare her
for the events ahead, it is clear that becoming a world champion
takes a little while to get used to.
"It was all a whirlwind. Heading into the World Championships
was interesting because we weren't coming off of our best
performances. We were still fine-tuning to put it nicely, so our
confidence wasn't probably where people think it was. And even
once the tournament started, it was a grind all throughout pool
play and into the playoffs. None of it came easy, we fought for
every point and every game.
There were a couple of times when we almost lost the game, but
we didn't let it happen and I think it was that resilience that
led us to the title. I think the winning feelings we felt have
made us hungrier and more focused heading into Tokyo. At the
same time, I think winning put winning into perspective - if
that makes sense. I'm very much making an effort to soak in
every moment and not just the moment of success, because life
goes on after you win or your lose, which we quickly realised