Kristen Nuss Is Showing Her Height Is No Barrier To AVP Stardom
Kristen Nuss has officially put the volleyball world on notice. The former LSU beach volleyball star chased down shots far and wide while displaying an array of attacks en route to an AVP Atlanta championship victory with her partner Taryn Kloth. Their resounding victory over Olympians Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil put to bed any questions about Nuss’ ability to carry the offensive load at 5’6” among the best in the sport.
“It still hasn’t fully settled in,” Nuss said during a recent phone interview. “We have been putting in a ton of work and just have been grinding for the past about year and a half. I would say all that hard work just culminated to that one tournament. It was really pretty special and definitely will probably take a while for it to completely soak in.”
In the days following the AVP Atlanta win, Nuss experienced a flurry of media attention. It is something she is learning to manage as her prominence grows.
“There have been more opportunities and our social media kind of blew up after the event,” she said. “You just kind of have to know that is part of the job; you have to market your own self, especially at the beginning when you aren’t necessarily a big name in the sport.”
A Grassroots Approach To Promotion
While Nuss and her partner Kloth are building a team to better position themselves for sponsorship and branding opportunities, they have largely taken a grass roots approach to their marketing thus far. They are selling branded merchandise on their TKN Tandem Beach Volleyball website and have created a GoFundMe page to solicit financial support in their journey towards the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“At the beginning, beach volleyball is not the most lucrative sport,” she said. “You have to be at the top of the sport to make a decent amount of money, so we did at the beginning choose to do a GoFundMe just because we had so many people just in Louisiana, our families and friends, who [wanted to] help. … We just went there and made it easy for everyone.”
Growing Beach Volleyball In New Orleans
The New Orleans native has put the local beach volleyball community on her back, one she has seen grow tremendously since she started playing in high school. She noted how LSU’s increased visibility in the beach volleyball community has raised the level of interest to a point where local juniors tournaments now have upwards of 100 teams.
“I do contribute a lot to it to the success of the LSU Beach Volleyball program and just the success of collegiate beach volleyball,” she said. “I think a lot of these indoor players at the high school level are seeing the growth and just how fun the sport is and how there’s an opportunity to play it at the next level. … Just in Louisiana, I think LSU beach volleyball has really helped [set] the standard to grow the interest of the youth today, and that’s really, really exciting for me.”
Overcoming The Height Differential
In a sport that is dominated by taller players, Nuss has garnered much attention for her ability to side out, despite being only 5’6”. Teams often look at the 10” height difference between Nuss and her partner and assume she will be an easy target. That approach has only increased her motivation to prove everyone wrong throughout her career.
“I think it does provide a chip on my shoulder, especially when people don’t really know who I am or who we are,” she said. “They look across the court [and think] okay, we’re for sure gonna serve this girl. It is kind of fun to just go out there and make people regret that decision or prove them wrong. … It’s been really cool after this tournament [to see] how many people have reached out. Parents and even kids were like, ‘Wow, you have like really inspired me to train and just really pushing even though I’m only 5’6” or below.’ … You have to put in the extra work because obviously you can’t get away with some of the things that other people can; everything has to be perfect almost for you to score or do anything.”
Continuing A Major League Lineage
While Nuss is determined to let her play on the court silence the doubters, she also draws inspiration from another family member who spent his early career under great scrutiny as well. Nuss’ grandfather, Ralph “Putsy” Caballero, was only 16 when he debuted for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1944. As the youngest player in Phillies history, Caballero constantly had to prove he belonged. Nuss said she learned a lot about the power of hard work from conversations with her grandfather, who died in 2016.
“[I learned] obviously nothing is just handed to you; you really have to put in the work, and he obviously is someone who showed that,” she said. “Just the mentality of going out and playing, because again, he was pretty young, so obviously he had all these people who were probably like, ‘Oh no, he shouldn’t be here; he can’t do that.’ Just to go prove them wrong, that mentality of just proving people wrong and just going out there and playing the game. He for sure would have just absolutely loved all of it. … I definitely wish he was still here to see all this success.”