Beach volleyball veteran Binstock taking one more run at Olympics

Friday, January 16, 2015

Josh Binstock had his eye on Sam Schachter for some time, believing the rising young player might be the missing ingredient for Olympic success.

Beach volleyball can be a cutthroat business, and when the timing was right, Binstock made the call.

“Sam was on my radar because he won world championships as a junior,” Binstock said. “I don’t think anyone from Canada has ever done that before, so I knew he had the potential. I was just waiting until I thought he had the potential to turn that into the senior level.

“And then as soon as I saw it, I made the decision to – I guess ‘dump’ is the word – to end my partnership.”

Binstock and former partner Martin Reader finished 17th at the London Olympics and split after the Games. Binstock went on to play with two more partners before teaming up with Schachter.

“Then it became a running joke, ‘You can’t stick with anybody, you’re all over the place,’” Binstock said with a laugh.

“It’s tough, though, because you’re really good friends with the people here (in the sport),” he added. “It’s tough because it’s business but there is a personal element to it. You get over it, it’s nothing personal in terms of the friendship. It’s just a business decision and I thought my chances were best with him, so that’s how it happened.”

Binstock and Schachter teamed up just over a year ago, and have already found success on the international circuit, winning an FIVB World Tour event in Argentina in November – Canada’s first victory since John Child and Mark Heese stepped atop a podium back in 1996.

The two now have their sights set on qualifying for the Pan American Games in Toronto and then next year’s Olympics in Rio. Canada can only send one men’s and one women’s duo to each.

Schachter has never been to an Olympics. For Binstock, Rio is unfinished business.

“(Before competing in London) I thought, ‘Oh, I made the culmination of the epicness of what my sport is, which is the Olympics.’ I thought I’d be satisfied with that,” Binstock said. “But leaving London I definitely wasn’t. I told my parents, ‘You know what? I am going to go again.’ They were like, ‘What are you talking about? I thought you were actually going to get a real job.’ They’re super supportive because they know that I usually have a good instinct.”

Binstock told his parents to give him a year playing with Schachter and they would see the reason for his Olympic optimism. They see it now, he said.

Canada’s national men’s and women’s beach teams are in town this week for a camp. Sitting at the squad’s training facility just north of downtown Toronto, a stone’s throw from Toronto FC’s training grounds, Binstock and Schachter joked Thursday about their maturing relationship. If it resembles a marriage, it’s a happy one.

“You’re with each other travelling the world every day, eating, sleeping in the same room, so there’s not really alone time,” Binstock said. “So you really need to get along with your partner, or things off the court can start manifesting on the court.”

“We have other people on our support team that help facilitate these kinds of conversations, because when you first get together with somebody you want to make it all nice but sometimes stuff gets real, and you’ve got to make sure people don’t take the real stuff personally. It’s a maturing process … so being able to have those conversations really strengthen our friendship I guess.”

Schachter remembers the night Binstock called him on the phone to talk about teaming up.

“He said he was interested in playing with me, and I cheered,” Schachter said. “I’m pretty sure I gave a good jump … I think when I hung up I did a couple fist pumps.”

At 34, Binstock is 10 years older than Schachter. Binstock is also a chiropractor.

“My other career, chiropractic, I’m like the young guy and then with (the volleyball players) I’m the old guy, so I’m hanging with two extreme ages,” said Binstock. “It keeps me young, and I have to stay hip.”

Binstock and Schachter, who are both from Richmond Hill, Ont., complement each other well on the sand court. As the elder player, Binstock’s strengths are about strategy, making adjustments on the fly, and developing and implementing gameplans.

Growing up in the sport 10 years after Binstock, Schachter was able to capitalize on a beach volleyball coaching structure that wasn’t in place when Binstock was young.

“I grew up in the more structured development system, where I know a lot technically whereas Josh didn’t have that teaching when he was younger, so I can kind of contribute that way,” Schachter said. “It’s just different.”

Their stiffest competition for spots on the Pan Am Games and Olympic teams is Ben Saxton and Chaim Schalk.

“They’re a few spots ahead of us in the world rankings, but it should be between us,” Schachter said.

The two are optimistic, and point to their room for improvement.

“Usually teams play at least a quad, like four years beforehand, because that’s how long it takes to develop that (chemistry),” Binstock said. “Back when we first got together we were kind of underachieving for our standards, and then it was like we had an exponential growth, instead of just a consistent thing. So we’re definitely still learning with each other.”

Story by Lori Ewing for The Canadian Press as posted on Yahoo Sports.

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