Sunday, June 7, 2015

Finding the Fire.....

"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."

— Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch

Many of us get into volleyball because it’s a passion. Like so many people in our sport, our parents played, our older brothers and sisters or our daughters wanted to play and so we learned the sport, sometimes from the ground up. But it was the passion this game holds that kept us there, wanting more, learning more.

Last month, two coaching clinics were cancelled because of a lack of attendees. Both featured heavy hitters in the college coaching ranks but as we heard more than once, “It was right after the club season ended and so many coaches were fried…”

Finding the passion of the sport is one thing, but how do we sustain it?

Chase Nuttal is a former boy’s player in the Region who also coaches and has a passion for beach volleyball. Noticing that there was a lack of events and opportunities for high level sand players in Phoenix, Chase followed his passion and started one. Like he did the very first tournament, Chase still wakes up pre dawn on tournament days and heads from his west valley home to the Tempe Beach Park where the courts are doled out on a first come, first serve order. He lays lines and sets up the courts and then usually plays the entire day. The participant list has grown substantially and the AZB tournaments are routinely now seeing 60-80 players per tournament. The website is a simple but layered and thought out way to get into the tournaments that Chase will admit, he makes little to no money on and he could care less. It is a passion, and Chase’s passion has made it possible for dozens of other players to follow theirs!

Last fall, Melissa Wolters, coach of the University of West Florida Argonauts came out to Arizona to see her brother after a difficult season in which she admits she didn’t even know if she wanted to coach anymore. She came to see her longtime friend Lisa Stuck coach her underdog Glendale Community College Gauchos in the NJCAA National Championship game. When the Gauchos came back from 0-2 and won the National Championship, Wolters came down from the stands to congratulate her friend with tears in her eyes. “This is great,” she kept saying. She admitted it reenergized her. She saw the possibilities; she found her passion through this exciting match.

Sometimes it IS a coaching clinic that gets your passion back. Listening to a coach you admire, watching a practice of a program you follow. Even a small thing like an e mail from a coach or mentor can re stoke the passion furnace. Two weeks ago, the Arizona Region was fortunate enough to get an interview with one of the great coaches our sport has ever known. Two time Olympic Gold Medal winning coach Marv Dunphy who has coached the Pepperdine Men’s team for the last 32 years, talked with the Region for almost 40 minutes about John Wooden, where the game was going and what he thought coaches should think about going forward. Dunphy is still as passionate about the game today as he was when he was a player in 1970-74. He continues to look for ways to improve, watches hours of tape, reads and talks to other coaches who do things better: all following in the footsteps of his mentor, Wooden, who was as passionate about basketball as Dunphy is volleyball.

One of Dunphy’s athletes on those Gold Medal teams was a guy named Karch. Karch is now the head coach of the USA Women’s National team and his aura beams with his passion for this game. He also was kind enough to give the Region a half an hour of his time to talk volleyball and coaching.

Joe Trinsey is currently the assistant coach of Dunphy’s Pepperdine program and is also a technical advisor for Karch’s USA Women’s National team. Trinsey is a numbers guy but his passion for the sport is palpable. He does clinics, talks to those who visit the National Team practices and despite working and talking volleyball sometimes 12-15 hours a day, he started the Volleycast, a podcast about volleyball for not just fans of the sport, but coaches as well. It’s a free flowing 40 minutes with his cohort at Pepperdine, assistant coach David West. The two banter, tell stories, explain philosophies and strategies, but listening to it, you can feel the passion Joe and Dave have for the sport. Trinsey is from a volleyball family and describes himself, somewhat proudly, as a “volleydork.” But Joe loves the sports and loves to give back. He’s even created his own app for coaches to use in charting matches. Volleydork or not, Trinsey’s passion is infectious.

People like this are all around us. In the coming weeks in this blog, you are going to read about a few people from across the Atlantic that have changed the lives of players and coaches around them with their passion.

In the meantime, if necessary, find something that will rekindle yours. What can you do to get re inspired? Who can you talk to, go watch? Listen to? They are out there, those people and things you may need. Most of all, you are a vessel for those athletes you coach: younger to older, first weeks playing or last weeks of a career. Those players deserve a coach that can show them the passion that they, as a coach, once got from someone.

And maybe, just maybe, you will be theirs!