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UCLA beach volleyball graduate students launch podcast to uplift women, athletes

Graduate students Jaden Whitmarsh and Devon Newberry celebrate together. The two were partnered for the majority of the 2022 and 2023 season.(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sabrina Baker

April 28, 2024 11:09 a.m.

This post was updated April 28 at 10:24 p.m.

The realm of podcasts has been expanding for 20-plus years.

Recently, it grew once more, adding a Bruin-hosted show.

Her Playbook is a podcast focused on women in sports hosted by UCLA beach volleyball graduate students Devon Newberry and Jaden Whitmarsh. On March 6, the first episode was put on listening platforms.

Newberry said she listens to a lot of podcasts but never found one that talked about previously ignored topics, especially for young women, thus inspiring Her Playbook.

“My favorite ones are listening to people who inspire me and hearing about how athletes do what athletes do,” Newberry said. “A lot of things aren’t talked about because it’s not fun to talk about. … I never felt like I related to those people. … This was an opportunity to speak to all kinds of athletes while also uplifting and inspiring young women.”

Newberry and Whitmarsh were once those young female athletes that they are now hoping to inspire.

Almost eight years ago, Newberry announced her verbal commitment to UCLA on Instagram, and it’s been over five years since Whitmarsh first shared a picture of her in a Bruin uniform.

Even before those social media posts, the two athletes knew each other from the beach volleyball community.

“Devon and I have been friends since 14,” Whitmarsh said. “In summers we would play against each other, but it wasn’t until college that we started becoming really, really close.”

Whitmarsh is a grade above Newberry. The former joined the Bruins’ squad during the 2019 season, which she redshirted. Newberry joined the following season, which was cut short by COVID-19.

In June, Whitmarsh announced she would be returning for one more season of eligibility.

(Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)
Whitmarsh digs the ball to pass to her teammate. (Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

“I decided to come back for another year, my last year of eligibility,” Whitmarsh said. “Mainly because I wanted to finish out my college experience with my three best friends on the team who were the three in the class below me, who are Devon, Lexy (Denaburg) and Rileigh (Powers).”

With the extra year together on the same team, Newberry and Whitmarsh decided to pursue their dreams of making the podcast.

Both athletes finished their certificates of marketing in the winter and have since used the spring to focus on their sport and their podcast.

Nonetheless, Newberry said balancing athletics, work and life has been difficult.

“Especially since we started this podcast, I didn’t realize how many things are impacting my schedule,” Newberry said. “Prioritizing different things is really important to me. There’ll be some days where I have to go to bed at nine because I need to get up an hour earlier and work on the podcast in silence by myself so that I can go to dinner with my family that night.”

Although the podcast hosts are both beach volleyball athletes, their mission statement isn’t limited to just the sand – it’s “about athletes, by athletes, and for athletes.”

So far, the podcast has featured four other UCLA student-athletes: men’s volleyball’s Merrick McHenry, softball’s Maya Brady and the hosts’ teammates Powers and Denaburg.

Newberry said the UCLA athletic community has made connecting easy, especially for finding guests.

(Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)
Newberry reaches to touch the ball over the net.(Zimo Li/Daily Bruin)

“I could go to a different school, and they might have a great basketball program, but none of their other sports are talked about or highlighted,” Newberry said. “But when you come to a school like UCLA, I could pull someone from every single team, and not only does everybody have a story, but everybody is aware of who these people are.”

With seven episodes out, three of which feature their fellow UCLA athletes, Newberry and Whitmarsh have room to include more guests.

But the future of the podcast is set to go beyond current Bruins, including Whitmarsh and Newberry’s moms, as well as potential alumni guests.

“An episode that we’re really excited about is doing our moms, because our moms are just as invested, and they are just as close of friends as Jaden and I are,” Newberry said. “But also the past UCLA alums that come out of these programs are insane. Even people like Russell Westbrook – that’s a dream guest who I would love to hear about their time at UCLA.”

And the podcast isn’t just serving as a platform for Whitmarsh and Newberry to talk to fellow athletes.

The other four episodes have been freeform conversation between Whitmarsh and Newberry, not needing much preparation because of how well the duo knows each other.

In the past month and a half, the podcast has grown a solid following, with the Her Playbook Instagram amassing over 1,000 followers since its first post March 5.

In such a short time, they’ve already begun to hit their goal of reaching young women.

“My favorite part (of the podcast) is when I’ll check my phone, and I see that I just got a message from this girl living in Cincinnati, Ohio, and she’s saying how much she loved the episode and has a couple questions on my advice on how she should become DI,” Newberry said. “And then I get to turn to Jaden and be like, ‘Can you believe what we just did?’”

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Sabrina Baker | Sports contributor
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
Baker is currently a Sports contributor on the swim & dive beat.
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