Sykora Continues Transition to Coaching Role

By Bill Kauffman | Feb. 07, 2015, 8:16 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 7, 2015) – With a desire to share her knowledge of volleyball to the next generation of Olympic Games hopefuls, three-time U.S. Olympian Stacy Sykora continues her transition from elite international libero into a goal to be the best coach she can be.

Sykora was an elite libero within the international volleyball community, having played in three Olympic Games (2000, 2004 and 2008) for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She won a silver medal in her final Olympic Games after being the Best Digger in the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2010, Sykora was named USA Volleyball Female Indoor Athlete of the Year after garnering the FIVB World Championship Best Libero honors. Just months after being on top of the world at her position, Sykora’s playing career was prematurely ended in 2011 due to injuries suffered in a bus accident while playing professional club volleyball in Brazil.

Four years later, Sykora seeks to become the best coach she can be. She is attending the USA Volleyball High Performance Coaches’ Clinic at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The annual clinic has drawn 230 of the best coaches in the nation and around the world. The presenters include U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly and his staff, Argentina Men’s Coach Julio Velasco and France Men’s Coach Laurent Tillie.

“This clinic is teaching me so much,” Sykora said. “I have been a sponge here, writing down everything. My goal as a player was to be the best. That was always my goal. Now I have a different goal, I want to be the best coach.”

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Sykora has been part of the USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline since the summer of 2013. Earlier this year she was named an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team.

“Not only is Stacy one of the best liberos to ever play the game, but she bleeds red, white and blue,” said Tom Hogan, head coach for the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team. “She has experienced multiple World Championships and Olympics, and she will be a key asset in preparing the team for the international stage.”

Sykora feels she has numerous mentors to look up to as she continues to build upon her coaching resume, among those individuals include her past National Team coaches in Jamie Morrison, Hugh McCutcheon, Kevin Hambly and others like Carl McGown. However, she one coach in particular that she can relate to.

“I would say Karch Kiraly is my No. 1 mentor,” Sykora said. “He went from being one of the best players in the world winning gold to one of the best coaches in the world winning gold, and that is kind of where I want to go. Was I ever a gold medalist, no. But I think you can learn from a player turned coach. That is what I am. So I would say No. 1 on my mentor list is Karch Kiraly.”

As her coaching knowledge has grown in three years working in the High Performance pipeline, Sykora acknowledges the transition to player to coach is not easy.

“For me, being a player is completely different than being a coach,” Sykora said. “When I say completely different, what I mean is as a player you learn the game and know it well while playing on court. As a coach you have to teach the people on the court and teach to personalities.”

Sykora understands that her transfer of knowledge to other players in a coaching role is a matter of a continual learning process.

“When I was a player I had to learn from all the other liberos in the world to learn what to do and what not to do,” Sykora said. “I am doing that as we speak to improve as a coach. We not only have some of the best coaches from the nation here at the HP Coaches’ Clinic, but some of the best coaches from around the world. I am learning from some amazing people to become a better coach.”

Sykora’s introduction to coaching within High Performance gave her a different feeling than what she has now. She has grown into her role and understands the process continues to be a better coach.

“Coaching High Performance not only has helped me grow as a coach, I have also grown as a teacher of the game,” Sykora said. “I feel as though when I started coaching, I was an ‘ex-player’ who was sharing my experiences with the athletes. Now with a few years under my coaching belt and the mentoring I've received through HP, I am a coach that is teaching and coaching the game of volleyball. With High Performance, I am surrounded by some of the top coaches in the nation and in the world. I have had and I am still currently having, a wonderful learning experience. I continue to share my experiences, but I now cannot wait for the athletes to make memories with their experiences.”