Getting to Gold

Volleyball star Dain Blanton attracts more Blacks to the sport

Jet Magazine

Dain Blanton can leap, he's quick on his feet and he has a powerful slam. He's no NBA star. Blanton rules the courts in beach volleyball.

Blanton, 26, is the only Black player on the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) tour. In his fourth pro season, he is ranked fifth and is one of the most popular players. Last year, he became the first Black to win a major tournament. Hermosa Beach, CA, was the biggest tournament and awarded the most prize money in the sport's history.

Blanton is a pioneer. His powerful play has earned him instant respect, and his popularity draws a more diverse audience to the volleyball scene.

Blanton is OK with being the only Black on the tour for now. One of his goals is to increase the number of Blacks involved in the sport, especially youths. Through the Dain Blanton Inner-City Youth Program, Blanton exposes youths to his sport and shows them there are sports other than basketball.

In major cities where he competes, Blanton conducts clinics where he talks to youths about setting goals, peer pressure and getting a good education, and he gives pointers on the game. They are also invited to see the Laguna Beach, CA, native compete.

"If I can introduce the sport, they can see this is cool," Blanton tells Jet. "I wish more African-Americans played, and if I can interest a couple of kids, it's worth it."

His talent and good looks have opened other doors. The handsome athlete has signed a modeling contract with the Ford agency, and he's a sought-after endorser. Blanton says these aid him in increasing the visibility of his sport. "If I can draw more different types of people, it's important for them to use me."

Blanton adds that his lifestyle is great. "What you do for work is stay in shape. It's at the beach, outside and it has a lot of flexibility. It beats a desk job any day."