Thanks on Thanksgiving

Nov. 26, 2009, 12:11 p.m. (ET)

On this holiday, I wanted to take just a bit of time to give thanks to everyone in the volleyball family around the world. It has been a challenging November for my own family, as the young man we have been hosting since summer when his family had to move out of state to keep their jobs, an IB senior like my son, lost his father in a vehicle accident.  We got him to his family fast, then I caravanned classmates to the services out of state, and it put a new perspective on this year's tryout process and activities. 

So rather than just hang with my family, I wanted to take some time today to say thanks to those that come to mind in 2009, for what they are doing, or have done, to grow the game.  The size of our nation and sport leadership base means there is no way I can begin to name them all, but in case the randomness of life takes me away too, I wanted to mention some who make our task of growing the game more successful. There are names here few might know at the grassroots level,  but should and the guidebook and history section of our website reveal some of these names.  Teaching the history of our sport is important at the starting levels certainly,  so please join me in giving thanks to for what they have done over the years to bring the game to everyone...

I give thanks to....

my family first, for that is the focus of this day, for putting up with my travel, long hours at work, while doing their own tasks so well it made my job as a single dad so much easier, and for choosing not just volleyball, but other sports to expand my horizons and show me the promise of the next generation.

Michelle Goodall and Eric Hodgson and the other members of my Grassroots Commission, who give me balance, laughs and insights into helping the grubroots grow.

Mike Hulett, Bill Hamiter and Elliot Blake and ALL at UCO who have brought new levels of excellence and year round training to the version of the game played by the disabled.

Laura Ryan, Roger Neppl, Charlie Huebner, Jimi Flowers, Joe Walsh, Sonya Norris, and everyone at US Paralympics who guide this important part of the US Olympic Committee.

Santiago Restrepo and family, for sharing the journey of the amazing Javier and the spirit and strength he taught us all.

Helgi Thorsteinsson,  Angelo Squeo and the rest of the staff at the International Volleyball Federation. The work of the FIVB grows our game in 220 different nations, and gives every country the ideas, regulations, expertise and guidance to keep volleyball in the top tier of sport world wide.

Cristobal Marte, Nelson Ramirez and the NORCECA staff who do the work zonally to grow the sport, hosting clinics, competitions and administration support  for the over 40 nations in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

the other National Governing Bodies of sport, like US Swimming, and USA Rowing and 40 others, who share their ideas and best practices with USA Volleyball to make sure everyone involved in Olympic and Pan American Sport have the finest experience possible.

Patti and Stew McDole, who for over 40 years continue to unselfishly give back to our sport in so many ways, and who set the standard for how to bring the science of the game into summer camps in the midwest states that rippled into every state of the union.

Sandy Vivas, who took the Collegiate Volleyball Association to level of the American Volleyball Association,  and gave us all an association to belong to and which partners to grow the game in important ways.

Jim Coleman who impacted the sport from top to bottom, and whose legacy lives on in the material shared with our association since his passing.

Erica Hutchinson, Rick Miner, Jan Schnittger, Mike Moran, and other long time Olympic Family members at the OTC who do so much behind the scenes and in their own areas - even if no longer with the OTC, to make the USOC a better organization.

Jon Hastings and Don Patterson, who have spent nearly 30 years making sure volleyball has quality magazine content and important information, indoors and outdoors.

every member of the Armed Forces, every man and woman, who put their lives on the line, where action speaks louder than words. For those who have been injured and continue to serve or compete for America in different ways, I give additional appreciation more than mere words can express.  

Tom Jack, who helped put USA Volleyball on the web back in 1993, as one of the first sport organizations, and ensured the tradition of keeping USAV as the leader of the sport online and beyond.  

John Tawa, April Chapple, Mike Tully and others who use the information highway we know as the Internet to connect people, share ideas, and grow the game in ways only true collaboration can make happen.

Becky Howard, Al Monaco, Jerry Sherman, Bill Baird, Bob Bender, Bob Lindsay, Don Shondell, Wil Peck, Harold Friermood, E. Douglas Boyden, Viggo Nelson, George Fisher and Harry Wilson - for their  years of service as US Volleyball Association/USAV presidents.

Glen Davies, Tom Slaymaker, Jerry Sherman, Hank Van Arsdale - centered in the Heart of America, they led our grassroots growth at a time of limited funds and staff support, not to mention internationally including Glen refereeing Olympic Gold Medal matches in years that the USA teams did not qualify.

Janet Ragan, Mary Axthelm, Chad Tiechert and the hundreds of PE teachers of Wyoming, who take the time to learn how to bring the sport to kids living in the vast open spaces of our least populated state.

Dale Hoffman, who grew the game for years at the helm of the California Beach Volleyball Association, and now, despite living in Alaska, continues to do the same. In our second least populated state,  and the lowest in population density with less than one person per square mile.

Andrew Getting, former Peace Corp volunteer who guides so much of Sport Court's outreach and development, and who works to connect and better enable leaders in every sport.

Rick Swan, Joe Harmon, Jeff Gonyea who keep doing all the right things for kids of all ages in USAV's hometown of Colorado Springs,  making the Volleyball Shack turn into the Big House and maximize their seven courts in novel ways all can benefit from.

Wendy Sapp and her family for all they do to make my own Rocky Mountain RVA run effectively and keep growing the game.

Kay Rogness and the Front Range Volleyball Club staff and families, who work year round to make the Colorado Crossroads the best qualifier possible, and guiding a club to annual excellence.

Hugh McCutcheon and Karch Kiraly, for taking on the challenge of bringing home a gold medal for our women's side of volleyball, after so much success in the men's side. They will bring more of the science of our sport to the top levels and strengthen an already strong pipeline.

Lang Ping, who has been my "sister" since 1985 when she first came to share our home, and my life in ways I can never repay her, and who quietly and powerfully returned our women's team to the medal stand under the magnifying glass of 1.3 billion countrymen. 

Carl McGown, who along with his Gold Medal Coaching clinic program staff, continue to push the limits and grow the knowledge of coaches around the nation. I look forward to returning to work alongside Carl in 2010, doing my small part to add to everyone's expertise at all levels.

Byron Shewman and everyone in the Starlings USA organization. The thousands of kids who might not have a chance to make volleyball their sport, from Navajo reservations to the inner cities of our country, have that chance due to Byron's unending  perseverance and compassion for those less fortunate.  Despite personal tragedies in this last year, Byron continued to do the right thing and be a role model for all who care about our game.

the Volleyball Festival Staff and the Promise of Good Sports crew - where, under the leadership of Dave and Bernice Epperson, the families of volleyball can strengthen and find the real meaning of why we all do this sport.

Gary Colberg who, along with the multi-faceted Joe Sharpless, created our first Jr. Olympic Volleyball Championships over 30 years ago. Then Gary rose to a new need and created collegiate club opportunities over the last 25 years for men and women, while Joe guided Special Olympics International in how to make volleyball, in both regular and unified forms, one of the biggest and best parts of their World Games.

John Knetzgar for his unending leadership and technical direction of the USA Deaflympic volleyball national teams in the Far East this year, and every year as the indoor and beach teams excel in international competition. Remember; if you have a deaf volleyball player, or know of one playing, him or her know of the US Deaf Sports Federation and to let John know of this possible USA National team player.

John Kessel, Hugo Award winning science fiction writer from North Carolina, for putting up with confused volleyball people who think I somehow find time to write amazing stories of the future

April Henrich, Sean McCann and Peter Vint and others in the Sport Science department of the USOC, who have spent years working to give our sport the newest ideas in the science of our game.

Bill Briner, who in leading our Sports Medicine and Performance Commission, has help other great sport leaders like Darlene Kluka and Ken Kontor to improve and grow their vehicles for sharing the science of our sport  in other ways. 

Karen Johnson, who led Diversity Commission for years and years and provided an invaluable voice to the growth of our game on all levels

Terry Pettit for his continuing role in teaching us all the right thing to do and gathering experts outside our sport to make us all better.

the Positive Coaching Alliance, led by Jim Thompson, which works tirelessly to make coaches, parents and athletes honor the game and understand each sport's ROOTS.

the leadership and vision of Doug Beal as not only my mentor over the decades and boss for the last few years, but for taking on the challenge of being the CEO of USA Volleyball. There are many reasons we won the historic 5 medals in Beijing, and it began with the people he brought together 25 years ago for his gold medal, and continues with those he guides and connects to this day all around the world.

each and every one of our 40 Regional Commissioners, and their boards and other volunteers, who have been growing the game since USVBA was created in 1928. As these leaders stand on the shoulders of those who helped grow the game over those eight decades, we have an opportunity to grow in new areas and ways, with the first increase in membership fee funding in a decade. I find it interesting, in that my son wants to go to out of state to school in California to play volleyball, but with the 38% percent increase for next year, making the University of California system's  total increase in tuition since 1999 at a mind-boggling 300%, that no longer appears a viable option.  What we can to together with the new funding will take our sport much higher at the grassroots level.  If you have thoughts on what do best do with these new monies next year, let me know.

the USAV Staff, who bring life, friendship, creative leadership and joy to the place too many just know as "The National Office." 

Each and every one of you reading this... For caring enough to learn and grow, while understanding the responsibilities and opportunities to be a teacher of athletes who wish to play this lifetime sport.  May you never be an athlete's last coach, no matter what their age...

Happy Thanksgiving to all.