Former Blugold hitting sand after getting league off ground

By August 4, 2014Press

Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014 11:40 pm | Updated: 11:43 pm, Fri Aug 1, 2014.

By Jesse O’Brien Leader-Telegram staff

National Volleyball League chief financial officer and co-founder Molly Menard has to be careful sometimes when she’s in a meeting.

If she moves too suddenly or absentmindedly scratches her head, a stream of beach sand may come spilling out onto the table.

Such is a consequence of the Eau Claire native’s other full-time job as a professional beach volleyball player for the league she helped found.

“It’s like I’m in college again, showering after practice to go to class, or nowadays a meeting,” said Menard, a former Blugolds volleyball and women’s basketball player. “I think in college I had a little more time for a social life.”

After graduating from UW-Eau Claire in 2006 with a degree in business finance, Menard moved to Indianapolis, where about four years ago, she met pro beach volleyball player Albert Hannemann, who was putting on a kids clinic at the courts Menard played at recreationally.

Menard told Hannemann she was interested in beginning her own professional career, and Hannemann explained to her how the Association of Volleyball Professionals was going bankrupt, and he was looking to start his own league.

Menard offered her expertise in finance to help Hannemann get the league off the ground under one condition — that the 18-year beach volleyball veteran would help her train for the first season.

A month later, Menard moved to California and in late 2010, the NVL was born with Hannemann and player-executive Menard at the helm.

“In his time playing in the AVP, (Hannemann) got to see a lot of what worked and didn’t work,” Menard said. “And we’ve applied a lot of what did work to our business now.”

In addition to serving her dual roles for the NVL, Menard returns to Eau Claire once or twice every month to fulfill her duties as a board member for Menards, founded by her father John Menard Jr.

When working from home — whether it’s in regards to the NVL or Menards — Molly Menard typically will do so while stretching out on a yoga mat to help get in shape for her more athletically demanding third career.

Currently, Menard is ranked 16th among women on the Pro Beach tour, with the next tournament coming up Aug. 15 in Milwaukee.

She’s come a long way from where she started out. Menard recalled playing poorly in one of her first pro events and receiving some much-needed advice from one of her biggest fans — her brother, NASCAR driver Paul Menard.

“We were driving back from Malibu and he was probably the only one who could console me at the time,” Molly said. “He’s had the highs and the lows in his career, and he knows how those things can go.”

In the middle of its fourth season, the future looks bright for the NVL. In her role as CFO, Menard has created a sustainable pro tour, and with Hannemann’s background as a player and her involvement in the league as a player, helmed an organization that has a strong understanding of suiting the needs of its athletes.

“The number one thing is to find something that you’re passionate about and to do that,” Menard said. “And it’s very clear, I’m fortunate to have found that.”

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