Austin beach-volleyball pro and entrepreneur Andrea Nucete-Elliott aces her serve on the court and in business at her company TIYLife.
By Gretchen M. Sanders, Photo by Mpu Dinani
When Andrea Nucete-Elliott sweeps her mane into a ponytail, it stays put. After all, the professional beach-volleyball player can’t score points with her do falling down. She uses a hair tie even Hercules couldn’t break. And she should know; she designed the elastic band herself.
Nucete-Elliott, 28, is the CEO of TIYLife, which stands for “tie it yourself,” a business that makes customizable ponytail holders. She founded the venture last year with her husband, University of Texas women’s volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott.
“Jerritt got tired of his players redoing their hair every time it came loose or their ties broke,” Nucete-Elliott says. “He wanted a stronger product, and I developed it.”
TIYLife ties come in long strands coiled like dental floss. Wearers unravel the length they want, snip and tie a loop. The hair ties’ durability especially appeals to athletes. Even Olympic beach-volleyball legends April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings wear them. And Nucete-Elliott never spikes a ball without one.
The 5-foot-10-inch defender was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and grew
up in Naples, Italy, where she played professional indoor volleyball until age 22. When she moved to Texas in 2013 to live with her father, she had never touched a beach volleyball. Friends suggested she learn the game, which, unlike indoor volleyball, has a professional women’s league in the United States. Nucete-Elliott tackled the sport quickly.
Today, she travels the country playing pro tournaments with her partner, Juliann Faucette Johnson, a former UT volleyball player. The duo will compete in the Austin Open at Krieg Fields, which gets underway May 16.
Here’s how this former Miss Universe Italy finalist digs deep and keeps serving up winning matches.
THE A.M.: “I wake up around 6 a.m., say good morning to my husband and visualize how the day will look. Then I make coffee and we drink it together. Coffee is the glue.”
THE WORKOUT: “Beach volleyball is played on a smaller court in teams of two and has different rules than indoor volleyball. It’s harder to run in sand, so the way you set the ball and move on the court is different. You may face wind, rain or other external elements. During the offseason, from late September to early February, I lift weights about five times a week at Train 4 the Game in West Lake. I work on technical skills six days a week on my home court and do SoulCycle a few times per month. During the season, I lift weights three times a week, practice and travel for tournaments. I’ll fly out on a Wednesday after weights and play all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tournaments are usually double elimination and happen every week from March through September. Many are played out of state, in Seattle; New York City; Hermosa Beach, Calif.; and Chicago, with one in Hawaii.”
THE DIET: “When I moved to the United States, I gained weight from eating processed foods. I noticed I felt especially bad after eating meat, so I eliminated it. Now I eat according to my blood type, which means I consume mostly fish, veggies and pasta, plus dairy twice a month. I cook everything I eat. I like to make risotto with mushrooms, truffle and saffron, buy imported Parmesan cheese from Italy and have wine twice a week. I love pastries, and I can eat a whole bag of Sour Patches. If I want to be bad, I’ll eat fried pickles and french fries. I play better when I’m lean and agile.”
THE GEAR: “I play in a swimsuit when it’s hot and in yoga or compression pants when it’s cold. I wear a small bikini that I don’t have to adjust when I dive for a ball. Tight bottoms keep the sand out! My bikinis are usually handmade. I play barefoot, but I’ll wear sand socks if the sand is too hot or cold. I always wear sunglasses, sunscreen and a visor, plus a TIY hair tie. The tournament host provides our balls, which vary in size and are different from indoor volleyballs.”
THE MOTIVATION: “Volleyball provides an outlet for my competitive nature. I like the mental stimulation. Every point is different. I get tan, have fun and play among the best in the world.”
THE MINDSET: “It’s not over until it’s over.”
THE P.M.: “Bedtime is 10 p.m. I ask my husband about his day and tell him good night. He’ll ask if there’s anything he can do for me. We make sure we stay connected.”