Randy Stoklos, the godfather of beach volleyball and a five-time world champion, said if Australian Olympic hopefuls Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solar were to take anything out of his career, it was to be bold, to play beautifully and to ensure they stand out from the rest.
Stoklos, a Californian who appeared in 1980s movies Side-Out and Better off Dead, is said to have made $2 million during his playing career that included 123 victories, and he received lucrative offers to endorse products all because he and playing partner Christopher St John Smith dared to be different.
They wore pink garments to attract television audiences and unleashed a style that bordered on violent because they attacked the ball. He also played knowing his father, a Pole who spent time in a German concentration camp during World War II, feared his boy, who attended UCLA, would grow up to be lazy by spending too much time at the beach.
Stoklos, 55, travels the world commentating at events such as the Asian Championships being staged at Manly over Easter.
He said the likes of Laird and Artacho del Solar, the world's under-23 champions, were in the same boat as their opponents by competing in a sport where they need to be noticed.
Life's a beach: Randy Stoklos (left) with Australian Olympic hopefuls Nikki Laird and Mariafe Artacho del Solarat on Manly beach. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
"The most common question I'm asked is, how did I get noticed? And I really don't have an answer," he said.
"I think it was the style of the volleyball we played, we went for every ball. If the ball dropped or was on the net we tried to keep it in and force our opponents to make the mistake. It was the No.1 style, but then there was the personality of St John Smith and myself as individuals. Everyone says it is a bit of star quality, but I didn't come into this sport thinking I needed to be a star. I just needed to be a volleyball player and I worked hard at my craft.
"It came to me, though and I got a lot of coverage and with that I gained endorsements and that made life a little bit easier, but we would mingle with the crowd. We stayed after any event to sign autographs, we had photographs taken with all the people and that was important because it allowed them to see we were like them.
"I wore pink and all those other bright colours because I wanted TV to see me. I figured if I was brighter than everyone else they'd stay with me. You have to have confidence to wear something like that, and I thought if that's what it takes to turn someone's eye and make them see the sport in a different way then it was awesome for me."
As Laird and Artacho del Solar, who took up the sport while attending Killara High School on Sydney's north shore, fought their way through to Saturday night's quarter-finals of a tournament involving teams from Japan, China, New Zealand, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Fiji, Stoklos warned a true champion athlete needed more than colour and hype.
"Champions stand out because they're honed athletes, they're ready to compete, and compete at a high level and lay it out on the line," Stoklos said. "The people, the crowd, they sense that and understand that and it is what you truly want out of sport."