High ambitions ... beach volleyball. Photo: Getty Images
KERRI POTTHARST is preparing to lead an aggressive push for change in Australian beach volleyball in a bid to revive it from a ''limping sport'' into a gold medal-winning one.
And in her new position as president of the 10-member Australian Beach Volleyball Commission, which has been set up to assess, recommend and push for new initiatives to Volleyball Australia, the 2000 Olympic champion realises that may mean ruffling some old and dusty feathers. The commission represents many stakeholders - including players, organisers and sponsors.
Pottharst, who helped turn the sport into one of the most popular in the Olympic program for Australians when she and Natalie Cook won the gold medal at the 2000 Games on Bondi beach, sees her future ''in picking up a very limping sport after the  Olympics''.
At last year's Games in London, the Australian beach volleyball team followed-up four successful Olympic campaigns with its worst performance, and was ranked 17th. At Thursday's launch of the National Beach Volleyball series, which starts at Cronulla with the first of six tournaments from Friday to Sunday, she was not alone in concern. As Volleyball Australia director Craig Carracher, who is also the driving force behind the 2013 series, said: ''What you have seen in 2012 is our worst performance in the Olympics - 17th.''
Carracher also believes that the national series will play its role resurrecting the sport, despite its dispute with Manly Council that saw this weekend's round moved to Cronulla. The switch to Cronulla came after the organisers refused to pay Manly Council new daily fees they feel are excessive, but they hope for renegotiation in time to host a second Sydney round. ''We expect to have to pay fees. We just ask they not be the most expensive,'' Carracher said.
Pottharst, meanwhile, expects some clashes of opinion when she drafts her proposed changes, but is not afraid to take anybody head-on so long as it is for the betterment of the sport. ''There will be [clashes]. I am not afraid of having a clash with anybody if I believe it is going to be right for the sport,'' she said, adding that - in her favour - is that she is independent. ''I don't have any hidden agendas. I'm not saying that this is what we should do because I have some reason it benefits me … All the decisions I make will be decisions to benefit the sport.
''I am not going to be afraid of bringing anything up and going hard on a point that might actually upset some people who are in positions now that maybe shouldn't be there.
''We have had the same national program. We have had the same coaching staff now for many, many years. I think it is time for a change.''
Pottharst believes that too many players have left the sport. However, she also believes that there is an onus on the athletes to become tougher in mind. ''We've lost a lot of players in the last few years that I think should still be around and should be up there on top of the world now who have dropped off for different reasons,'' she said. ''But motivation and getting these players inspired and excited is just as much a part of training them on the sand … and also getting them to fight for it as well.
''Once you create an institute program or a program where players are told when to arrive, what to do at the gym, this is when we are leaving, this is when we are going overseas, here is your ticket … you don't have to do anything, you just roll up. It all becomes a little bit easy.
''I think some of the younger players have got used to having everything.''
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