When three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor decided to earn her master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration to prepare for her post-playing career, she chose Concordia University’s Master’s in Coaching and Athletic Administration (MCAA) program.
"Coaching has always been a passion of mine, and nowadays you need your master's degree," May-Treanor says. "Concordia had everything I was looking for."
May-Treanor is the most successful beach volleyball player in history, with 107 career wins. She and playing partner Kerri Walsh Jennings recently won an unprecedented third gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
And when she's not on the court, May-Treanor is most likely studying.
"I'm very happy with my experience at Concordia," she says. "The professors and everybody in the department give such good guidance. I felt that reading over the philosophy of the program, and especially of the University as a whole, that those traits would help coaches be better people, to act in certain manner. That's one of the reasons I felt this was the program for me. They send good, solid people into the community."
May-Treanor's inspiration to coach came from her parents, 1968 volleyball Olympian Butch May and Barbara May, a nationally-ranked tennis player. Both coached volleyball for many years and Misty grew up playing beach volleyball at the Santa Monica Pier. She was an indoor volleyball champion at Newport Harbor High School and CSU Long Beach, and switched to sand in 1999. She and then-teammate Holly McPeak competed in the 2000 Olympics.
But it was her partnership with Walsh that made them the face of beach volleyball worldwide. The duo won gold in Athens at the 2004 Olympics, repeated the feat in Beijing in 2008 and made an unexpectedly strong run in 2012 to capture gold in London.
"We've grown with each other, learning the game together," says May-Treanor. "It was special to win."
At the same time, beach volleyball, with its 2-person teams, places unique demands on each player.
"I'm very happy with my experience at Concordia...The professors and everybody in the department give such good guidance...They send good, solid people into the community."
"Not being part of a huge team, you have to stay motivated," May-Treanor says. "We're relying on each other to stay on the same page and get our work done. It's our career so we take it upon ourselves. We don't get fees or prize money just for showing up at a tournament. We have to earn it. I have to take care of my body and get my training in and make sure I'm the best I can be."
May-Treanor's Concordia education has fit perfectly into her busy schedule which often has her traveling to tournaments 24 weeks a year. She recalls logging onto the Concordia website while in Brazil, downloading her homework assignment and writing a paper on the plane.
"The professors work with you and understand that career people who have jobs are the ones taking these classes to further their education and get better positions in their place of employment," she says. "They make the workload appropriate."
Concordia's MCAA professors are practitioners who have proven experience in their fields. Concordia was one of the first universities in the nation to offer a master's degree in coaching and athletic administration, and it remains the only one to offer strong practical training with a foundation in ethics and character-building. In less than seven years the pioneering program has gone from 12 students to hundreds earning degrees on campus and online.
Still, May-Treanor was initially apprehensive about returning to school after seven years away.
"It was like, 'Do I know how to write a paper again?'" she says. "Suddenly I was back at it. School was exciting again. I appreciate school more this time around because you understand, 'This is going to get me to point B.' I want to coach and this is going to allow me to have a better resume with a master's degree. Each class is very interesting. I've learned things that enable me to adapt my style so when I go out and coach I can be a success. Each class helps you develop your thinking as a coach."
She points to classes such as Coaching Philosophy, Strength and Conditioning, and Ethics in Sports which offer practical preparation as well as a fundamental assessment of what good coaching looks like.
"It makes you ask, how do I want to be as a coach?" she says. "Because at the end of the day it's not about winning or losing. You want to leave a lasting footprint. All my coaches throughout my career have made the game so fun and taught so many lessons. That's what I hope to pass on to the next generation. I want to be the type of coach that kids respect, work hard for and hopefully inspire them to be a coach someday."
May-Treanor started M2 Volleyball Camps and Clinics to teach young athletes and coaches the skills and techniques to be the best athletes and coaches they can be. She also competed on Dancing With the Stars but sustained a potentially career-ending Achilles heel injury while practicing the foxtrot.
"I have come back from injuries before, but this was the worst," she says. "It was a year before I could run and jump. You have to learn how to walk again."
The injury hastened her intended transition from player to coach, but then she noticed her recovering leg was able to handle hard play.
"I was very surprised," she says. "I didn't think I'd really be back for this Olympics until I started playing at a higher level."
She and Walsh teamed up again and were soon ranked in the top three in the world. They headed to London as veterans defending their title against a proliferation of hungry teams from places like South America, China and Europe.
Before winning, May-Treanor decided this would be her last tournament, win or lose. She looks forward now to turning to family and coaching full-time.
"I want to coach indoor again. I miss the big team," she says. "The strategy and timing are a bit different. Beach players are more the mavericks, where indoor is more unified. But it's the same skill."
"I've been so happy with the program that I recommend it highly...You should look into this program, especially if you want to continue playing, because it works with your schedule. And I love the campus."
She also wants to spend time with family and friends, making up for countless weekends away at tournaments. She is married to Matt Treanor, a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And, of course, she looks forward to finishing her degree at Concordia University.
"I've been so happy with the program that I recommend it highly, especially to a lot of my colleagues who are players," she says. "I say, 'You should look into this program, especially if you want to continue playing, because it works with your schedule.' And I love the campus."