THE SMASH SISTERS Yikes! Spikes! Kim, Elaina, and Bev Oden are volleyball's best sister act

(FORTUNE Magazine) – THERE HAVE NEVER been three sisters better at playing volleyball than Kim, Elaina, and Bev Oden. Kim, 26, and Elaina, 23, are the starting middle blockers on the United States women's team. Bev, 19, is a star blocker and hitter at Stanford University in California. All three Odens have been named college player of the year at least once, and in 1992 all three might be playing together for the U.S. Olympic team. It would be the first time three sisters played on the same U.S. Olympic team! The Odens are built to play volleyball: They are tall and quick. Kim stands 6 ft. 3 in., Elaina is 6 ft. 1 in., and Bev is 6 ft. 2 in.. All three have long arms and big hands that help them block the ball or spike it. But when the Odens were growing up in Irvine, California, none of them wanted to play volleyball. Kim hated the idea. ''I wanted to climb trees and play Barbie with my friends,'' she says. Kim took up volleyball at the urging of her dad, Abraham Oden, who is a retired U.S. Marine Corps master sergeant. He thought Kim should play a sport to learn discipline and to keep busy. ''Kim wasn't that athletic, but she was very tall,'' recalls Mr. Oden. ''She didn't like softball or soccer, so I thought, 'Why not volleyball?' '' Kim started playing with the Orange County Volleyball Club at age 13, but she didn't like it. ''I wasn't good at it,'' she says. ''I got bruises on my arms from the ball. And I didn't know any of the players.'' After a while, Kim's arms stopped hurting and she made close friends on the team. She even started enjoying the sport! Elaina followed Kim into the game a few years later. ''I don't remember having a choice about playing volleyball,'' says Elaina. ''My dad said 'Play.' '' Both Kim and Elaina are happy that they took up volleyball, but as kids they did not like the pressure their dad put on them to play. Says Kim, ''I'm not so sure I would do the same thing with my kids.''

As the youngest Oden, Bev was often compared with her sisters -- and that put a different kind of pressure on her. ''Whenever I went to watch my sisters play, volleyball coaches would ask 'When are you going to start playing?' '' Bev says. ''I was not starting! I wanted to take my own footsteps.'' Bev played softball and soccer -- for a while. ''My sisters were always playing in tournaments and coming home with trophies,'' she says. ''In softball, when we won, we got one trophy for the whole year. They had seven or eight, one from each tournament they had won. I said, 'Wow! I want to try that!' '' Bev switched to volleyball at age 12 and has been playing ever since. Of the three sisters, Kim has achieved the most. She was named the country's top college player twice, in 1984 and 1985, by Volleyball Monthly magazine. She joined the national team full-time in 1987 and became its captain three months later. She was the top hitter at the 1988 Olympics and the top blocker at the 1990 world championships. Kim has a degree in public policy from Stanford. She likes to read the Bible and books about black history in her free time. Elaina is quiet, but she is a fierce competitor; some experts think that of the three sisters, she is the best player. Elaina led the University of the , Pacific to two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) volleyball championships, and in 1986 she was named Volleyball Monthly's college player of the year. Elaina studied sociology in college. These days -- when she is not playing volleyball -- she reads novels and stays up late watching movies on TV. Bev is often busy with books too -- schoolbooks. She is a sophomore at Stanford, studying psychology and other subjects. For her play on the volleyball court, she has twice been named to the All-America team, and in 1990 she was chosen NCAA Player of the Year.

If Bev takes a break from college to try out for the U.S. team before 1992, she, Kim, and Elaina could be united on the court at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Because of their age differences, the three Odens have never played on the same team! If they do, they'll surely be a smash!