When I write, I try not to insert myself too much into things. Sometimes it is unavoidable, but usually I figure if you’re reading this, you’ve used the internet to find out more about me and what I do.
So, on November 16, 2022, I was inducted into the NJCAA HOF. Below is the speech I was permitted to give at the pre-tournament banquet. I suppose it fits in with this from when I was forced to step down from Lincoln Land.
When I say it is all about the girls and the work they put in, I mean that. I didn’t score a point or lift a weight. I got to sit and watch and make pithy comments from time to time. To be clear–I’m aware by the time you read this, I am a Hall of Famer, but this is SOOOOOO a group award.
The blog photo is the ‘infamous’ plaque with the typo…I like having the photo of it–because of Brian Swenty’s comment: “Yeah, because there aren’t that many Ls in your coaching career!”
At the end of the speech, I’ve added some stuff that couldn’t be put in the speech.
And after that is the actual ’10 minute speech’ that went 20 minutes. I don’t regret that. The speech doesn’t quite match the text…little in life goes as we prepare for it.
If you are reading this, you already know I’m calm and cool 99% of the time…but if I get emotional, I do struggle a bit…so enjoy the amusing bit at the start where I was going to wipe my eye and…threw the microphone about fifteen feet off screen. Really.
THE WRITTEN VERSION OF THE SPEECH:
You know, there are 500 NJCAA programs and across all three divisions, only 44 advance as far as you here have made it. Congratulations but before you begin play tomorrow, take time to be thankful for this experience. There are thousands of athletes across sports who would love to enjoy, just once, the experience you are privileged to have this week—the speeches, the banquet, the photos, and the competition, so I hope some of this sticks with you, makes you think in some way.
For the coaches, Maybe this applies to you, maybe it doesn’t. You know if it does or does not. I am up here because I was successful winning matches but ultimately, the cause for me being here is the least important aspect of what I did as a coach. I truly don’t care about being remembered for that. I want to be remembered for elping young people gain confidence and leadership skills they could use throughout life and being a role model for them in terms of ethics and integrity.
I’m proud that over my 18 years in the NJCAA, my teams followed the rules in spirit AND letter, that we did not play in gray areas and take short cuts. Doug Glanville, former baseball player and ESPN analysis noted regarding cheating: “when you undermine fair competition, you celebrate something that has nothing to do with competition or excellence in sport.” Making concessions on your integrity is a slippery slope—once you’ve done it, what’s the harm in doing it again? And again? Besides—everyone else is doing it, right, NASCAR’s ‘if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’’?
Coaches—if you are in the gray areas, you CAN change, you CAN and SHOULD do things the right way. How you act sets an example—to other coaches and even more important to the young people you coach. Volleyball is sport, not life. There are dozens of things more important in the lives of your athletes—coaches often forget this for the sake of the scoreboard. Your job, your responsibility is to make athletics a positive wholistic experience for the young people in your program. What message do you send by breaking rules—starting practice on July 5th or changing player uniforms to confuse an opponent’s scouting report? If you play an injured athletes at risk of it worsening, why? If you regularly put your players in tears—is that coaching or are you really just a bully?
Coaches, you KNOW if you ARE doing things the right way. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice your integrity for the sake of the scoreboard because the example you set with your ethics WILL carry over to the next generation when your athletes become tomorrow’s coaches—because it’s absolutely tempting to start down the slippery slope.
For the athletes, there are three big things I told recruits and reaffirmed to my athletes once we reached August 1st. The first was already mentioned—we ain’t breaking rules, no exceptions. Rules are rules whether you are all-American or rarely get in a match. Honestly, we missed out on trips to Nationals in 2013 and 2019 because of it. You maintaining your personal integrity is important because YOU are influential role-models for younger athletes, the HS seniors who will be your teammates next year and the pre-teens who come to your games dreaming of being you in just a few short years.
The second thing I always noted—the people you practice with should become your friends, the people you remain in touch with years down the road. I hope this is true for you and your teammates, that the bonds of your friendship stay strong.
*2010 text message group
*Brenna/Sarah M unbroken snapchat streak going back to 2015
*Beka’s wedding—with the team present
These friendships are more valuable than anything else you will get out of your college years. I am thankful and privileged that my alumni consider me a friend now as well.
The third thing is an uncomfortable truth. At some point, volleyball will end. It may be sudden due to injury, it may be after you’ve squeezed out every possible year of eligibility, but it WILL end. Have a plan. When I was forced to step down, people worried what I’d do—but I told people who asked, “I have an exit plan.” Have. That. Plan. Work on it, revise it, write it down—just make sure you have it. It will make your eventual transition to ‘former athlete’ easier…because you are so very much more than just your job description as ‘volleyball player’.
With every set of guidelines I’ve given teams over the years, one thing has been at the top of each, the priorities I expect players to have. They are always the same:
1 – Family 2 – Academics 3 – Volleyball
Where I am proud, where I have a coaching legacy—so to speak—is with the players’ accomplishments, the work they put in outside of the gym because they took those guidelines to heart. At LLCC,
95% graduated with an associate’s
95% of those graduates picked up a B.A
27% of those went on for Master’s degrees
And of those grad students, 20% went on for or are currently in terminal degree programs like Vet Med school.
31 academic all-Americans
80 academic all-conference
43 alumni now coaching, college-club-high school, including 13 who have spent time as college coaches (ranging from D1 assistant to D3 head coach)
I’m indebted to them for their work forever.
Don’t worry—we’re starting down the homestretch now.
Thank you to John Masterson and Allen County—Randy Weber, Todd Francis. Allen County is a special place to teach and coach. Mr. Masterson gave me my chance to be a college coach. The support I received was wonderful—and it was great seeing a college president come to nearly every volleyball match. The world needs more administrators like him.
Thank you to Ron Riggle for hiring me at Lincoln Land. I know there was pressure to hire someone based on gender and you stood up for who you thought was the better coach for building the program. Thank you for the support in both good and interesting times.
Thank you to every last one of the athletes who played for me. I remember you all but I think they’d throw food at me if I listed you all and your accomplishments in life.
And I’ll make a comment here for the NJCAA—please put Kiersten Anderson in the HOF. She’s an exemplar of the two-year experience. 2x all-National Tourney, 2x all-American, 2x Final Four—on to NAIA as an all-American and all-tourney selection, graduating early and playing in two Beach Final Fours with a national title. Oh, and academic all-American four times.
Thank you to Stephanie Leonard and Joe Reuben. Thank you to Kelly Wajda who played then came back to help coach us to Nationals 10 years ago this week. Thank you to Laura Payne who played then coached—and recruited the key players who led us to Nationals in 2015.
Thank you to Kallie Sinkus who coached in those two final fours, then left to rebuild a HS program, leading it to an undefeated season in 2020 while increasing the kids in that program from 12 to 60. Thank you to Will Clawson who helped with the third consecutive Final Four team.
Thank you also to Morgan Hauser for nominating me for this honor. It means a lot to know I made that much of a difference for someone who played for me.
Thank you to Dave Pieart for bouncing ideas around for teaching and coaching for more than a quarter century. I am honored you consider me a friend and I love you like a brother.
An extra thank you here—when I was forced to step away, though I’d been around a long time, there was only one coach in our region who reached out to see how I was doing—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Mary Frahm from Heartland—thank you for your compassion and decency. It is easy to talk about empathy and caring, but few walk the walk
Thank you to my son Erick—for being level-headed, a constant reminder that there is more to life than sports.
Thank you to my son Michael—your work ethic is amazing and I love that as a college student, you manage being a student AND athlete successfully—and that on top of track and field, you are restarting a men’s club team at your school.
Thank you to my daughter, Brigitte, the volleyball coach. I’m glad you were there when I lost my temper at that ref—aren’t you glad you showed up that day, first time in your life you’ve seen me yell! Your teaching skill with young athletes is amazing.
And last, the most important—thank you to Julie, my wife. Thank you for the emotional support last fall when college coaching got chopped off. Volleyball came into my life on March 6, 1990. You came into it March 14. For 32 years, you have put up with me coming home frustrated, you have put up with late night returns from roadtrips, my inability to be at your own professional functions, all the myriad things spouses deal with when married to a coach. Actually, let’s just be honest—thank you for just putting up with me.
So ladies, good luck this week. Play hard and make sure to have fun.. MENTION TIME UNTIL TOURNEY START
The list of players…(I could give you the HS players I’ve been privileged to coach, too…)
The athletes who made this possible, listed once only/the last year I coached them…with three exceptions.
Allen 2004: Kylie, Ashley W., Holley, Nickey, Vanessa, Jini B., Shanan
Allen 2005: Ashleigh R., Melissa, Ashley Wi., Bailey, Ronnie, Clarissa, Tasia, Kaley–and Todd as ass’t coach
LLCC 2006: Lindsey, Bana, Melanie, Krista, Maris, Casey, Megan
2007: Kelly, Anna, Lauren, Amber, Cassie, Sarah
2008: Kate, Courtney, Lauren M., Britani
2009: Caitlyn, Megan O., Megan S. Amy, Nicky, Maggie, Ocie –Steph/Jesse as ass’t coaches
2010: Megan V., Laura, Brittany, Brooke, Beka, Shauni, Carrie, Becky
2011: Sammy, Abby, Katie, Megan, Mary, Paige
2012: Hollie, Haley, Emily, Jazz, Sarah, Dusty –Kelly as ass’t coach
2013: Lindsey, Kinzie, Kayla, Morgan H., Taylor, Mish, Jordan, Morgan C.
2014: Sammie, Andrea, Tessa, Hannah M., Britanny –Laura as ass’t coach
2015: Brenna, Taylor W., Hannah O, Brooke, Tiffany, Claire
2016: Syd, Talesha, Sarah M., Kendall, Izzy, Michelle, Summer, Kaley –Kallie as ass’t
2017: Kiersten, Kaylee, Brooke S., Addie, Brea, Sabria, Michaela, Bailey –Will as ass’t.
2018: Maree, Bob, Olivia, Kiley, Erika
2019: Jakya, Ashley M., Taylor, Molly
2020-21: Mary, Kate, Julia, Madison, Annika, Natalie, Kennedy, Sami, Josie, Emily V., Macey, Isabella H, Isabella W., Kylie M., Ray, Abby L., Makenna (moshing the group I had to give up due to COVID in with the COVID spring season) –Kaylee as ass’t, then taking on the role of ‘interim’