While some might describe Kevin Hansen's extended summer in Orange County as being left behind, the U.S. national team veteran chooses to focus on a men's volleyball career that has taken him along for a long, meaningful ride.
Hansen, who is now third on the depth chart at setter, expects to be left off the 12-man Team USA roster for the Olympic Games in London that begin July 27. It would be a significant blow to the Corona del Mar High product, who was a backup on the gold medal-winning squad at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
But with 17 seasons in the sport, beginning as a seventh grader with the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club, continuing at Corona del Mar High and Stanford, now eight years with the national team, as well as numerous stops on a lucrative professional career in Europe, Hansen is determined to enjoy the last of his time on the court.
"I'm nearing the end of my career," Hansen said after a training session this week at USA Volleyball headquarters in Anaheim. "At this point, I'm playing it season-by-season and day-by-day. But I'm still loving the game. As far as the Olympics go, it's not looking good for me. They have two setters who are playing very well in Donald Suxho and Brian Thornton [a former UC Irvine All-American]. But I'm still working hard and there is a month left before the team leaves for London. Anything can happen and I've got to be ready to go if need be."
Hansen, who lives in Costa Mesa with his wife Sarah and one-year-old daughter Avery, said it would be very difficult to remain training in Anaheim while his teammates, many of whom are good friends, try to defend the gold medal on the sport's biggest stage.
"It was wonderful having that success in Beijing," Hansen said. "You can't get any better than that. I was obviously hoping to repeat and to be a big part of this team. But I'm happy for the guys and I'm not going to be immature about it. Obviously, it hurts, but everyone has adversity in their work that can mean missing out on things. But having reached that [Olympic] success makes it a lot easier if I have to miss out."
Hansen, 30, hasn't missed many chances to shine in a sport that played second fiddle to basketball in high school.
"I had no idea, to be honest," Hansen said of the grand scope his volleyball career would take on. "I was a basketball player first. When I played volleyball in high school, I did not even expect I would ever play in college. And when I was at Stanford, I never thought I'd play after college. I remember getting an email from the national team coach at the time, asking me to come out and train in Colorado Springs [then the program's headquarters]. I did, because I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation. It was completely unexpected."
Hansen, who has a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's in communications, plans to play a second winter season in Turkey, beginning in September. He played three seasons (2008-10) in the Russia Super League, considered among the best international circuits, and has also played professionally in France and Greece.
When not playing in Europe, where the season typically runs from September though April, Hansen trains with the national team. Since 2006, that has been in Anaheim.
With the national team, he has competed in the World Championship, the World Cup, the World League, the NORCECA Continental Championship, the Americas' Cup, the Pan American Games and the World University Games.
Quickness, intelligence, work ethic and leadership are all attributes that have made Hansen a valuable addition to his many teams. His willingness to do what is best for the team fuels him in his weekday workouts with a handful of other national team members not competing in the ongoing World League [last week in France and this weekend in Korea].
As a Diabetic, who has daily insulin injections, he has also been a role model to many athletes who aspire to manage the disease while playing sports.
"Winning an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of our sport," he said. "But I'm also inspired to do something in my next chapter. Like a lot of Olympic athletes, I'm determined and competitive. I want to maybe do something with the community or with my family that will make me just as proud.
"The unknown is scary for anyone. I want to combine my experience in sports with my degrees from Stanford and maybe parlay those things and find a niche in some market that I could fit into. I'm still capable of playing volleyball another four years. I guess I need to find that clarity about the direction I want to go in. I still have to figure that out."