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Team USA Beach Volleyball Star Taryn Kloth On Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Author:

Alexandra Engler

July 08, 2024

mbg Beauty Director

By Alexandra Engler

mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she’s held beauty roles at Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.

Image by mbg Creative / courtesy of source

July 08, 2024

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We love celebrating women on top of their game. In our new series Game On, we’re interviewing top athletes about their well-being routines—covering everything from nutrition that makes them feel strong to the moments that bring them joy.

As one-half of the beach volleyball superstar duo known as TKN, 27-year-old Taryn Kloth has dominated the world of beach volleyball since 2021. Alongside her partner Kristen Nuss, the 6-foot-4 athlete currently ranks second in the world. And the powerful pair clinched the first Olympic spot on Team USA with nearly three months left of the qualifying timeline. 

Essentially: These two are powerhouses. 

I was able to speak with Kloth recently about finding strength through her wellness routine—but also her journey to reignite the joy of playing sports after suffering from performance anxiety. 

mindbodygreen: How do you get ready for a match?

Taryn Kloth: So, Kristen and I have a routine down where we eat two hours before the match and then about an hour before we head over to the venue. While we get ready, we both share an AirPod, and we’re listening to the playlist, so we’re getting in the same mindset. 

Then as soon as you put your hat and your sunglasses on, you are in the zone, in the mode, and ready to go. 

mbg: what are your game-day essentials?

Kloth: I absolutely, 100% need my sunglasses. In fact, I could do without a hat. I could do without anything else. But I need my sunglasses. I wear a pair from Zenni Optical. We are very selective about the brands we use, but they’ve been great to work with because they’re so willing to take our feedback and make changes. They’re always like, How can we improve this for you to improve your performance?

And I also need my hydration. If you ever watch me play, I pull out four water bottles, and every single one of them has either salt, electrolytes, or something like that mixed in. 

So, hydration, sunglasses, hat, and a ponytail holder. And then I am ready to play.

Image by mbg Creative / Courtesy of Zenni Optical

mbg: How do you prioritize sleep—especially the night before a big event or game, when nerves might be high? 

Kloth: I’ve actually been working closely with my sports psych and dietitian and just kind of figuring out what I can do to improve my sleep before games. Because before—in the past—I could not sleep the night before. I would just be thinking about the match and I’d be playing it over in my head. I’d be playing scenarios like, “OK, I have to do this against one person and that against another person.” 

And it just wasn’t helping. 

So, what I’ve started to do is I always bring a book and my journal with me when I travel. I journal for only about five minutes, but it’s just about getting every single thought or worry out of my head. Once it’s written down, then it leaves my head. Then I start to read for about 30-45 minutes. 

I’ve actually been using some magnesium at the end of the day, which has also really helped me. 

mbg pov:

Magnesium is an essential mineral to the human body that has an important role in energy production, bone development, muscle contraction, and much more. It’s also vital for sleep health: It seems to help regulate our circadian rhythm—the internal clock that tells the body when to be awake and when to go to bed. It’s estimated that 43% of U.S. adults currently fail to meet their daily needs through diet alone. 

mbg: What meals help you feel your strongest? 

Kloth: Before I play, I love a nice balanced meal. For my carbs, I usually stick to potatoes and rice. I mean, I love pasta, but for some reason, it doesn’t do the same thing for me when I’m going to go play, so I don’t eat it before matches. For my proteins, I like to stick with chicken. I stay away from red meats right before I’m about to play. And lots of vegetables. I’m definitely high in carbs and proteins right before I’m about to go to sleep.

For day-to-day nutrition, I just make sure I get a lot of protein. Every morning, I start off with avocado toast or avocado English muffin because I find if I mix the fat with the carb with the protein, it keeps me full for the longest period of time.

mbg: What’s your recovery routine?

Kloth: I’ve actually been working on that a lot more this year. I do massages every other week. While we are at a tournament, we do flushes of our body and muscles using the Normatec compression boots every other day. Oh, and so much hydration. It’s unbelievable. I am just constantly drinking lots of water with electrolytes and Normatec-ing. 

mbg: What workouts do you do that have nothing to do with your sport?

Kloth: My little sister teaches hot yoga, so I love going to her classes. I want to support her because I just think that she is like the coolest person ever.

I love walks. I absolutely love going on walks if I’m stressed or anything’s going on. I’m just like, I’m going to go for a walk and it’s just, it’s going to be better. 

I think pickleball is just an absolute blast right now. But we are just on pause from all other sports at the moment.

And then I do miss indoor volleyball sometimes too. 

mbg: Something that sets elite athletes apart is their resilience, right? Top athletes have to be able to push themselves and rebound after tough moments. How do you build resilience?

Kloth: I have Kristen, my teammate. Part of being resilient is pulling the attention away from yourself. You focus on the other people involved and think, I’m not just doing this for me, or If I skip this workout, it’s not just affecting me, or If I don’t play well, it’s not just affecting me. As soon as you make it about somebody else, building resilience becomes a lot easier—especially when that person is your best friend, your sister, your teammate. Making it about others is the reason why it is so much easier to go to workouts and to go to practices.

mbg: Speaking of teammates, I’ve been asking a lot of athletes about what makes a good teammate and how they show up for their teammates. Beach volleyball is unique because you have one teammate, so I’m especially curious about your answer!

Kloth: It’s really important to show vulnerability and honesty with your teammate. Because the truth is sometimes you don’t want to show up and you have to say that to them. You have to be honest. And those aren’t fun things to say. Nobody wants to be weak, especially in the sports world. You never want to claim that you can’t do something. Or you feel as though you can’t do something. Because we all want to win and we want to be the best. 

But it’s OK to be vulnerable. That’s when we [my teammate Kristen and I] have gotten closer—those moments when one of us is sharing, Hey, I’m so unbelievably nervous right now, and I need your help. That creates a different type of bond. 

I’m so lucky to have that with Kristen. We’ve been building that for the last four years that we’ve been playing together. We also live together; our families get along great; we go to each other’s holidays and birthdays. We’re very, very lucky to have that bond, both on and off the court. 

mbg: Playing sports professionally has that unique challenge in that it’s something you love and is a dream career probably since you were a kid—but it’s also a high-pressure job that can be stressful. In what moments do you find that childlike joy again? 

Kloth: That was actually my goal for this year because I was having so much performance anxiety. We—my coach, Kirsten, and me—and I expressed to them how I was feeling. I was just like, “If I play bad, I’m letting you two down. And that absolutely crushes me. And then for days I don’t sleep because I’m just so worried that they’re going to be mad at me.” Kristen asked, “Well, have you ever been mad at me if I ruined the game?” And of course, the answer to that is absolutely not. Because I know she tried her hardest. She said, “Well, the same goes for you.” 

So, I’ve been trying to pull myself out of that space when I’m feeling that way. I try and take a moment to realize where I am and get myself out of the game. 

So, for example, when I’m playing in Switzerland, in the middle of the game as we’re switching sides or something, Kristen and I have been working on acknowledging that We’re playing beach volleyball in the Swiss Alps and have USA on our chest. 

It’s just taking it into perspective. These are things that we wished for and wanted to have so badly, and we need to be present and enjoy it instead of being anxious about it because that’s going to ruin the moment.

So, finding that joy, yeah, that’s something I’ve been working on. 

mbg: What advice do you have for girls or young women playing volleyball?

Kloth: I want you to absolutely love it. And if you find yourself not absolutely loving it, ask yourself why and what are those reasons? Spend time actually digging into it instead of just covering it up. 

Because that’s what I did for a while, and I just couldn’t get past it. So then I decided I want to have fun again. I want to have fun again. And it really is just you deciding that you want to go and have fun again because it is a sport.

The other thing I would say is that these things are scary. It is very terrifying to take off on a journey where you don’t know where it’s going to actually end. So, it’s really important to have your goals not be based on something else. 

For example, you can’t think I’m only going to be happy if I win. No, it has to be, I will be happy if I do X, Y, and Z because I can control X, Y, and Z. I can’t control if the other team is just going to play the best game of their life and still beat me even though I played well. So, making your goals based off things you can’t control will leave you sad every single time. 

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