For Kristin Klein, volleyball is no day at the beach.
Tall, blond and athletic, she very well could have been one of the California surfer girls immortalized by the Beach Boys in the 1960s.
But Klein, a Santa Monica, Calif., native, will have no time to work on her tan this year. She will be too busy training and playing with the U.S. women's volleyball team in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"Coach [Terry] Liskeyvch doesn't want any team members playing beach volleyball," said Klein, "He wants to condition us to playing indoors. It's an entirely different game."
Klein, 24, is one of 18 women competing for the 12 Olympic berths. The paring process is in the first stage this month with the team making a five-city tour against Canada that concludes at Baltimore Arena tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Liskeyvch has six holdovers from the 1992 team that earned a bronze medal in Barcelona, Spain, making the competition for the remaining roster spots that much tougher.
A four-time All-American at Stanford, Klein finds herself vying for a reserve striker's position.
"Right now, Coach Liskeyvch is experimenting with a lot of different lineups," she said. "He's trying people at different positions, hoping to put something solid together in the next six months."
In last year's World Championships and Grand Prix events, the American women found themselves still looking up to traditional powers China, Cuba, Russia and Japan, indicating how much work has to be done between now and the Olympics.
And it is why Klein and her teammates find playing volleyball has become a full-time job, with the pay scale depending on how valuable each player is perceived by the USA Volleyball Association. Klein supplements her income by playing weekends for the Utah Predators in a professional league, while also getting time to spend with her boyfriend, Utah Jazz forward Adam Keefe, another Stanford alumnus.
But most of Klein's time is spent in a daily regimen with the team at its San Diego training headquarters.
"I start my typical day by getting up at 7 in the morning and heading for Balboa Park. By 8, I'm in the gym, doing running and stretching exercises and volleyball drills. Then, till 12, we play simulated games.
"In the afternoons, we spend three days a week lifting weights. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we do sprints and jump training, watch videos and hold team meetings. Our whole day is well-organized."
At Stanford, where Orioles stars Mike Mussina and Jeffrey Hammonds were classmates, Klein set career volleyball records with 1,909 kills and 1,456 digs. After graduation she joined Team Forster on the Bud Light four-player beach tour, winning all-league honors in 1994.
"It's a real big jump from college to the international level," she said. "Everyone can jump and slam the ball. It's just a lot more competitive."
One of her strongest supporters is her father, Bob Klein, who played tight end for the Los Angeles Rams and San Diego Chargers.
"I really don't remember too much about how he played. I was only 8 or 9 years old. But I remember the Chargers' fight song, and, of course, this year, that was all I heard on the radio."
Now Bob Klein will have a chance to cheer for his daughter.
"I'll probably be playing volleyball for another five or 10 years," she said, "but next year will be special, playing the Olympics in the United States and being supported by your family and friends. I'm just going to have to dig a little harder."