AT the height of experimenting with what different codes have to offer, Alisi Mataele-Kata seems satisfied with simply trying to find a niche in a sporting domain that doesn't only build character but also reveals it.
However, even that can sometimes feel quite challenging for Mataele-Kata who has no choice but to stand out because of her relatively "quite tall" stature.
An indoor volleyballer and netballer, the 16-year-old is about to embark on a different journey this weekend - the Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools Junior and Senior Beach Volleyball Tournament to be staged at the East Pier, Hardinge Rd, in Ahuriri, Napier, today.
"I've watched it on TV and I like it but I've never had the chance to try it out," says the year 12-bound Sacred Heart College pupil who is a Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay under-17 representative who competed at the age-group championship in Auckland last year.
"I'd like to give it a try because it's something I've never had a go at before," she says before forging an alliance with schoolmate Nadia Haywood to ensure the ball falls dead on the other side of the net.
The two-a-side tourney also is open to adults as well as a 4-a-side social grade for all.
But for Mataele-Kata wearing the traditionally daring skimpy bikini-type attire of females will never be an option.
"No, I'll never wear anything like that because I'm shy and I know my roots as a Poly girl," she says of a sport that has debated the merits of the discrepancy between tank-top wearing male and female dress codes in the sandpit courts.
Baptised a Roman Catholic, Mataele-Kata comes from a devout Methodist church-going Tongan family living in Flaxmere, Hastings, with parents Malia and Siousi.
Not surprisingly the teenager attributes many of her sporting qualities as a gift from god, including her school and Bay Hearts club netball stints in winter as a defender.
In indoor volleyball, Mataele-Kata assumes the mantle of post from where she can spike and hit.
"I love how you can smash the ball," she says but is learning from her coaches how to refine her skills and become more versatile as well as try the new position of setter.
The former Kimi Ora Community School pupil got her first taste of volleyball when she was 10, thanks to teacher Tima Timoti.
"I liked it but we couldn't do the rotation."
Mataele-Kata says at the primary school stage they adopted what is known as "the Poly [Polynesian] rotation" where children started in a circle and as soon as they touched the ball they had to move to another spot.
She doesn't want to make a choice between volleyball and netball and counts her blessings that the itineraries don't clash although trainings sessions have.
In that case Mataele-Kata has favoured volleyball. "Oh that's because volleyball training is a lot more fun."
The youngster is mindful of the need to exercise in an electronic era when it's tempting to simply plant oneself in a couch with addictive gadgets.
"When it comes to sport I act like I don't even have a phone," says Mataele-Kata who coaches her school team and also wears the captain's armband.
Her brother, Mau, 14, of Hastings Boys' High School, seems interested in volleyball after having seen her play.
"He is playing rugby and was playing a bit of soccer but he has stopped that now."
Volleyball HB operations manager Tony Barnett, a volunteer in the role since August but officially starting in December, says the beach format is in its infancy here because the sand quality isn't good.
The changing weather and dusty conditions tend to push people indoors but dress code isn't an issue.
"It's only on the international circuit that they have specific requirements. I don't know, even in our national series, if they have any particular requirements," says Barnett.
An indoor, six-a-side preseason tourney will be staged on two Wednesday nights of February 1 and 8 for pupils and adults.
On February 15 the junior and senior secondary schools' competition starts.
The big initiative is the Kiwi Volley for primary schoolchildren (year 3-8) embracing venues in Flaxmere College, Hastings Boys' High School, Rodney Green Centennial Events Centre and Pettigrew-Green Arena from February 7.
"It's a four-on-four game and they play it in a badminton court," says Barnett, adding at a venue such as PG Arena 72 children will be playing at once on nine courts.
"That's the advantage we have over most other sports in that all those kids are playing at once."