San Francisco

Stanford Alum Karissa Cook Finds Perfect Blend of Playing, Coaching Pro Volleyball

Professional volleyball has returned to the Bay Area for a second straight year with the San Francisco Open, where a new generation of players is looking to be the next Kerri Walsh-Jennings.

One of those players is Stanford alum Karissa Cook. She and partner Katie Spieler were the top seeds in Thursday's qualifying draw.

"We call it bonus volleyball," Cook said. "Yeah, we're getting our money's worth today, hopefully make it. We missed being in the main draw by one point, so I think we're pretty motivated, pretty fired up."

The main draw is where the money is, though for Cook, competing on the pro volleyball circuit isn't her normal money-making day job. Two years after graduating from Stanford, she joined the staff of the beach volleyball team in 2015 as an assistant coach.

So how does she balance playing with coaching?

"I think it balances perfectly," she said. "So, our season gets done around May, and then we're just recruiting right now, so I'm either playing in tournaments or I'm watching tournaments, or I'm in and around volleyball every day. So it's kind of like this perfect blend."

While Cook played for the indoor team at Stanford, she finished her collegiate career playing one season of beach volleyball at Hawaii. But it's where she grew up that laid the foundation for what she's doing now.

"The awesome thing about Karissa is she grew up on the beach at Santa Cruz, so she's like the beachiest indoor player there is," Spieler said. "Everyone's like, 'You're not an indoor player' because she's got all the beach skills."

Little did Cook know at the time that those beach skills learned as a kid would provide her with the career she enjoys today.

"If you'd have told high school me that the path I'm on would have occurred and I'd get to hang out at Stanford this many years, especially in the volleyball community, I would have laughed and ran away," Cook said.

The San Francisco Open runs through Sunday. Admission is free.

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