Passion, Burnout and Teaching

Jan. 26, 2009, 12:24 p.m. (ET)

I just watched a very powerful ESPN Outside the Lines story on a very special athlete, Elena Della Donne. I strongly urge all Junior Olympic volleyball directors and coaches to watch it, as well as read the story. It has three important threads woven together – burn out, passion and being a teacher.

The short of it is that Elena was known as the female LeBron James.  She signed with UConn and this past summer walked away from the program and the sport of basketball, as she was burned out. Donne is now playing volleyball for Bonnie Kenney at theUniversity of Delaware and made the Patriot League all-rookie team.

The line that hit me most was this - "Now that I play volleyball, I know how it feels to have a passion for your sport," she says. "Before, I just thought, 'Maybe everyone's faking it because this is horrible.'"

If you can catch the replay on ESPN, it is a MUST watch.  A written version about 10 minutes of the interview can be seen at, by clicking here. I feel it is a must watch.

Meanwhile, on the subject of passion, today is day three of the Boys' Youth Holiday camp and the Girls' Select camp here at the OTC in Colorado Springs.

 The gym is filled with future stars playing with great passion - and yet now I wonder if any of the kids are faking it the way Elena had to... I have watched a couple of practices and the passion Elena found in volleyball is seen clearly on courts 7, 8, and 9.

Court seven is hallowed ground as it is where the USA Women's Paralympic teams of 2004 and 2008 trained en route to their bronze then silver medals. I can still hear the passion of that talented team when I walk in to watch the kids.

Ron Larsen, with the Beijing Gold medal memories still near, starts another cycle of helping grow the next generation of the best USA players we can develop, with a strong staff. Char and her crew are doing the same with even younger “select” (14 and under) aged kids. Six are from Hawaii, said a mom I was talking to in the gym last nite, and others are East Coasters. It seems we have the nation covered.

I will head over today and take some pictures to post on the site this week.

Thanks to all the coaches for giving their holiday time up for the kids, and to the parents for the same. Happy new year everyone!


The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On December 29, 2008Trisha McPherson wrote

prior to writing off this - could you define what "growing the game" is to you? I have read with interest on your travels and reading...nothing much on what I would consider growing to people who are not already touched by volley. What is the marketing plan, the strategy. To should have done a stand up interview with ESPN during Omaha talking to people who were tuned in but not connected. I didn't see a single USAVB PSA over the weekend telling people how to be involved...and even that is probably preaching to the choir. What you are talking about here would more properly be positioned in education...which is part of growth of people...but not what people are looking for here. What is the growth plan for people outside the sport?

On January 02, 2009Chuck Rey wrote

Here's the story:

On January 02, 2009Chuck Rey wrote

Here's the story:

On January 06, 2009John Kessel wrote

Trish - Thanks for your comments - As most of the core ideas are shared on the free CDs USAV gives away, and in core articles, fewer new specific to growing the game ideas are being found, but since the new website has many resources hard to find or not yet posted, your point is quite valid. If anyone reading wants to email me directly, I will send along the latest version of the Growing the Game full article, about 6 pages of ideas. In the meantime, I can pull out sections and post them as blog stories, and will do that. Chuck, the current OTL article is seen as a full screen at Thanks you two for the thoughts and Happy New Year.


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