A couple of years ago, Brian Swenty, a teacher/volleyball coach working in Vilseck Germany, was talking with me about the importance of helping US kids living in Europe with volleyball. They don’t get seen well enough to get scholarships at one level, but they also cannot afford to attend an “American” volleyball camp on their parents’ military income level – over $1,000 just to get stateside, let alone the hundreds of dollars for a room and board camp.
Our solution was to bring the “American camp” to Europe, and I offered to do the first one, just for the cost of expenses. That August, some 180 kids got their US resident camp, for six days and three sessions a day, using indoor and outdoor training venues at a cost of under $200 per player. Plus, they each got a camp shirt and a volleyball to take home for that price. If you want to learn more about that great event, here it is. Since then Riley Salmon, 2008 USA Olympic men’s team gold medalist joined USAV staffers Andy Pai and Denise Sheldon to do the second year. Brian is now working hard on year three and if you are in Germany in August, come on by!
So at my Hall of Fame Induction speech at the AVCA Convention this past December, I mentioned many people, including Brian, much to his surprise. The thing is, he is the kind of member of our volleyball family who is working to make a difference in the world, not just locally. You see, during that camp we discussed the need of a Facebook group that would allow volleyball coaches from around the world to collaborate and share best practices. Brian went forward and made it so – a closed group titled Volleyball Coaches and Trainers (VCT) with the founding statement you can see on the main page stating: “This is a forum where Volleyball Coaches and Trainers from around the world can discuss our profession openly and honestly, growing the game together.”
We have adjusted the VCT thread flow to put Videos, Blogs/my Grow the Game Together blog, and Photos into their own parts, under the PHOTO section and improve the dialoguing. While first starting this blog, another coach I have had the pleasure of working repeatedly with at Starlings USA National Conventions, David Cordes, posted to VCT. His words say better than I ever could why I suggest that others of you who read my blog should consider signing up to join the over 3,800 coaches already collaborating. I will include comments from others that followed David’s post which, if you weren’t convinced already (after all, it is free!), give other reasons to join the group. Thanks Brian for making this group a reality and for making a difference. Here is David’s post:
I love this group. It has provided me the opportunity to share ideas, processes, thoughts, opinions, passions, and intimately held beliefs of what is right with other people who are just as passionate about their beliefs as I am. And most of them are people that under normal circumstances that I would never have the opportunity to meet, compete against, coach with or share philosophies with.
As long as everyone remembers that - like the athletes we coach- we each come to where we are from different backgrounds and different experiences. Just as our paths to get where we are were different, our goals and where we are all heading are just as diverse.
I am a small town volunteer coach, who got nagged into coaching years ago by my 11 year old daughter. My paying job as a mechanical engineer/computer scientist is about a far from coaching as you can get. After coaching middle school for several years I started a volleyball club in our small remote town years ago because there were several girls who wanted to play more than just school ball and the nearest club was over 100 miles away and I could not stand the thought of those families driving all that distance just so their kids could play volleyball.
While I would love the opportunity to try coaching at the elite club or college level that would require me to leave home, my paying job and all the things I love about raising my family in a small town. So I accept that my coaching opportunities will always be limited to what I can do in this small town.
But even though my opportunities to coach are limited by the circumstances that I have chosen to live in. That doesn't mean that the kind of coach I can be has to be limited. Just as with the books I have read, the videos I have watched, coaching classes and clinics I have attended through the years I feel that there is something that can be learned from everyone who posts on this site.
From some I have gained support or confirmation that I am doing things the "right way". From others I have learned a "new way" or new ideas. And from others I have learned about ways or ideas that I will never accept or practice. Not because they are wrong or bad, but because they do not fit my situation or my philosophy. These too are valuable lessons because it is easy to say "That is wrong I will never do that." But when you ask yourself "Why is that wrong?" you force an introspection on yourself to further examine and justify to yourself your own thoughts and beliefs.
I love that unlike so much of the internet - there are no trolls here. Everyone who has posted an opinion or an idea here is simply offering what they accept in their circumstance as a positive belief. I welcome the views and ideas that are different than my own. I will read them, consider them, learn from them and maybe even question or refute them. But I will do so in order learn - either a new or improved way for me to think and act. Or to further confirm for myself that what I am already doing is the "right way" for me and my players.
Thank you Brian Swenty for getting this started and keeping it going and giving me the opportunity to connect with, share with and learn from so many similar and different dedicated coaches.
Here are a few comments:
Brian Swenty You captured my sentiments perfectly David. Thank you so much for your contributions and for sharing your feelings. It is very rewarding for me.
Jennifer Schutte Rodic David, I totally agree. I was never a volleyball player so I had to educate myself on everything I've learned. The AVCA has been great but this group is my best way to ask for specific advice and get new ideas. Even if all the ideas don't apply directly they still spark new thoughts and new ideas for me. Similar to you I'm just a volunteer coach with a day job as a chemical engineer. But my passion for teaching and for volleyball is as big as anyone's. And I still have a lot to learn! This is a great forum to learn from the experience of others. Thanks Brian!!
Brian Swenty With all of my new engineering friends, I feel smarter already. ;). Both of my parents went to Purdue. Does that count for something?
Dan Mickle Great post David
Ray Villanueva thank you for this letter and great post..^5
David Cordes Brian where you (or your parents) went to school doesn't matter. Its what you learn while there, and what you continue to learn, and do, after you leave that counts.
Jennifer - John Dunning the head women's coach at Stanford University had never played volleyball before accepting his first position as a high school volleyball coach.
Ray Villanueva was just about to say about john d.....he was a math teacher at fremont high school and he fell in love with the sport and he was successful at pacific as well...
Susan Jeske Thank you and I second all that you have said. It is such a great feeling to have a place where there is no drama and we can freely share ideas and philosophies! Thank you for inviting me to join this group and Thank you Brian Swenty for starting us and keeping it alive!
Maureen Tuala Beautiful David. I've lived in Ridgecrest before so I know exactly what you are talking about when you say your small town. How great for those kids to have you as a volunteer with such dedication. All the best to you and your teams. btw I'm in San Diego now but I'm moving to Victorville area this summer. If I find a Coaching position up there maybe we might run into each other.
So if you have read this far, you are a coach who is willing to read to learn – so consider heading over to the site here. Who knows, maybe you will even get me to approve your request, for it is a closed group. Of course in the interests of growing the game together, you know you are pre-approved, for you read my blog!
In closing, I just taught 400 Girl Scouts ages 6-16, sitting volleyball Sunday afternoon at the OTC on the same court our USA women train on. In a four hour period – teaching 10 groups of 40 - we used the USAV P&G netband, to get 80 feet of net, vs. the set up single net with 18 feet. What else did we do in 20 min per group? How about:
So that was my Sunday, hope yours was as much fun and thanks for coaching. Let us know below how we can help you grow the game, together.