At 16 years old, Brooke Golik faced one of the hardest choices in her life.
She was being urged by those close to her to commit to a Division-I school to play beach volleyball. Yet, what seemed like support made Golik more doubtful and anxious.
A few months prior, she accepted a scholarship to play soccer for Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. With that commitment, Golik was also making the choice to not play beach volleyball at the next level.
“I wanted to stay loyal to my word, it was something that I wasn’t willing to give up,” Golik said about earning a soccer scholarship.
Four years after stepping on the pitch as a freshman in Dallas, Golik jogged onto the sand as a graduate student to play beach volleyball for Cal Poly this past season.
“I knew that with patience and time, I would come back to this beautiful sport of beach volleyball, so now’s my time.”
In her four years in the Lone Star State, the defender started 50 of her 51 games. She logged over 3,000 minutes of playing time and scored back-to-back game-winners in 2019 versus the University of Houston and the University of Cincinnati.
During that time, she did not touch a volleyball.
After graduating from SMU in December 2021 with multiple All-Academic and All-Conference records, Golik shifted her focus to beach volleyball. She put her name in the transfer portal and always wanted to be a dual-sport athlete.
The first coach to reach out to her on the first day her name was in the portal was Cal Poly’s Todd Rogers. The Olympic gold medalist briefly recruited Golik in high school and remembered an exceptional athlete who had now created an impressive resume in soccer.
“[Golik’s] not going to suck energy away from the team, she’s going to be giving energy to the team, even if she’s not on the court,” Rogers said about re-recruiting the SMU graduate.
Rogers noticed the humility of Golik when she first joined Cal Poly for beach volleyball. In a team meeting early in the year, Golik cried as she told her new team she wanted to show respect and appreciation for everyone, whether they were playing or on the bench.
She did not make her desire to play both sports trump the importance of working as a team, senior beach volleyball teammate Kalee Graff said.
“I feel like it is so trusting, she has my back,” Graff said.
From the day she entered the portal until she officially committed in the spring of 2022, Rogers and Golik talked every week on Tuesdays at 1 p.m.
At the start of 2023, post-graduation, Golik moved back to Northridge, California and began training for beach volleyball five to six times a week while doing conditioning three to four times a week.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s very hard to give myself grace,” Golik said. “The comparison game in my mind was thinking, ‘oh you were so elite in high school can’t you just jump back into it like you did back then?’”
Golik quickly realized that you cannot.
“It’s completely reversed,” Rogers said about the game of soccer versus beach volleyball.
The feet-to-hands difference is a key change, but Rogers also mentioned how soccer is continuous and in beach volleyball, there are breaks every 15-20 seconds.
Golik would have to tell herself simple cues to use her body differently, like “don’t use your quad muscle, use your glute muscles.”
The transition taught Golik how to approach both sports and her life, regardless of what she is playing.
“I think [the transition] really allowed me to mature the mindset of every day is a small day of progress, whether that’s 20% difference in growth or that 0.001% of growth,” Golik said.
In the end, four years of soccer helped Golik once she started competing in beach volleyball.
“I would prepare how I think as a center back in soccer,” Golik said. “You have to know all of the strategy, you have to know the ins and outs and the purpose behind all the movements. In high school I really didn’t think about that, I just inherently went out to play for fun.”
Nonetheless, when she first stepped foot on the court the lack of experience was at the forefront of her mind.
“Coming in, I just saw myself as a freshman,” the 23-year-old said.
In a sense though, that feeling let Golik play free.
“You have nothing to lose, no biases,” Golik said. “I think that served me well coming in with a clear conscience.”
For Graff, she was not concerned with who Rogers was recruiting.
“My coach is a gold medal Olympian, I feel like I can trust who he is picking to come to my team,” Graff said.
Everybody quickly realized the decision was smart.
Golik found her spot at the No. 3 court with senior Delaney Peranich. The two were a team-best 21-9 together, beating out No. 1 TCU, No. 3 UCLA, No. 11 Long Beach State and No. 19 Pepperdine along the way.
On April 23, Cal Poly was tied 2-2 with championship favorite Hawaii in the conference tournament. The duo pushed out a come-from-behind victory to place themselves in the Big West Championship match.
Now, Golik’s season is over, but her playing career is not done. At the end of her undergraduate years, her mind was fixated on playing beach volleyball in college. However, upon reflection, she realized she has another year of eligibility left due to COVID-19.
This means that Golik will stick around San Luis Obispo and play soccer for the Mustangs in the fall.
“I feel like God put it on my heart to continue to play soccer with my COVID eligibility to see what connections, what impacts and what lives I can continue to touch within the same sport,” Golik said.
After soccer, she will work as a graduate assistant during the season for the beach volleyball team.
“I’m just grateful to be here,” Golik said. “I’m glad that I have this amazing athleticism and ability to do both of these sports.”
“I’m super happy that I found a place where I can do both and not be shamed or ridiculed for picking one over the other or having to divvy my time in a way that doesn’t necessarily pertain to what I want to do and what I hope to achieve.”