Lori Okimura - "What is USA Volleyball?"

By Lori Okimura | May 26, 2016, 2:51 p.m. (ET)

USA Volleyball Board Chair Lori Okimura (far right), with USA Volleyball Secretary General Kerry Klostermann, USA Volleyball Senior Manager International Programs and Executive Operations Carla Hall and USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal

Below is USA Volleyball Board Chair Lori Okimura's welcome address presented at the Dorothy C. Boyce Annual Recognition and Awards Banquet held May 25 in Orlando.

Good evening and welcome everyone. I’m Lori Okimura, and it’s great to be back with you all for the 71st Annual Boyce Banquet here in Orlando.

First off, I want to thank our friends at the Florida Region of USA Volleyball for their hospitality this week for our annual meetings. They held a wonderful social Sunday evening at the Hickory Point beach volleyball venue and we appreciate their support this week. I'd also like to say thank you to the staff at USA Volleyball who have been working behind the scenes to keep things organized for us to do great work together – especially everyone who has set the stage so beautifully tonight for us to honor some of our greatest icons.

I want to thank our team of USA Volleyball partners who support our efforts year-round, and especially our sponsors for tonight from Molten USA. And MIZUNO USA, outfitters of every Olympic medal winning team in the history of USA Volleyball. We thank you for your continued support.

Since taking on the duties of chairman of the Board at USA Volleyball two years ago, I’ve spent a great deal of time digging deeper into the many areas of our national governing body of beach, indoor and sitting volleyball by attending as many events & activities within our 40 Regional Volleyball Associations, including junior qualifiers & high performance tryouts, and traveling on my own alongside our senior national teams to support their efforts towards Rio Olympic and Paralympic Qualification.

My investment has been a valuable way for me to see what is really going on…where our efforts are working… and where we have to improve. In any corporation, understanding your core business by evaluating your performance can be one of the most valuable tools to achieve greater success. USA Volleyball will reach the next level in our business strategy by working to improve the areas where we are vulnerable. This work is already underway.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize some of my fellow Board Members who volunteer their time to help mind the business of USA Volleyball behind the scenes. Our athlete directors are Olympic gold medalists, Todd Rogers and Gabe Gardner, Olympic silver medalists, April Ross and Tayyiba Haneef-Park, and Paralympian Brent Rasmussen. Our independent directors are Bill Barnum, Ashley Dombkowski and Ken Shropshire. Our Regional Volleyball Association directors are Ken Cain and John Hughes. Our junior director is Andy Reitinger. Our Officials director is Sue Mailhot. Our High Performance director is Kristin Fasbender. Our coaching director is Cecile Reynaud. And my fellow beach director is Jeff Conover.

In making the rounds, I’m often asked 'What is USA Volleyball?… What makes USA Volleyball different?' Questions like these always make me think about the juniors I meet along the way as well as our national team athletes. I met a young woman named Shreya Mantha at the Big South Qualifier in Atlanta. Shreya is a freshman in high school, honors student, devoted daughter and she happens to be the CEO of her own non-profit foundation, the Foundation for Girls. She is an advocate and life coach for young girls victimized by human trafficking, a global problem affecting young girls and women. She’s fighting discrimination, she’s raising money and awareness for her cause, and she’s taking action. She’s also studying for finals, learning to drive and going to volleyball practice three times a week. Shreya is USA Volleyball.

I encourage you all to read a terrific article published recently about our men’s national team superstar Matt Anderson. In this article, Matt gives us a real look inside a complex and compassionate man dealing with some real-life issues, and he just happens to be one of the greatest volleyball players in the world. His life involves volleyball, but is about so much more than that. His life is about family. Matt is USA Volleyball.

Shortly after the Sydney Olympics, I got a call from Misty May-Treanor saying she and Kerri Walsh Jennings were teaming up. Who could have imagined what would happen next? And as Kerri and April qualified for Rio last week in Cincinnati - with yet another gold medal - I couldn’t help but think about the time I put a qualifier medal around 17-year old Kerri’s neck at a junior qualifier, or seeing Misty as an eighth grader scramble my club team at regionals. Misty, Kerri & April are USA VOLLEYBALL.

The USA Women’s Sitting Team won the gold medal this year at the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup. When they weren’t sneaking over to the Hello Kitty World next to our hotel, I had a chance to learn more about these amazing women off the court and hear their stories. What a thrill it was to see our Paralympic silver medalists Katie Holloway, Lora Webster, Heather Erickson and others on the court beating China for the first time ever. These women work behind the scenes to advocate for Paralympic athletes, expose people to sitting volleyball and promote the team with their own social media accounts so people can follow them and support their efforts. Katie, Lora and Heather are USA VOLLEYBALL.

And in what was described by all as one of the most enjoyable ways to celebrate the 100 days countdown to Rio, many of our current national team athletes and indoor and beach Olympians gathered in Southern California and lapsed into a Brazilian BBQ food coma before enjoying a special performance of the Broadway cast of Cinderella. Nathan Trodahl of the USA Volleyball Foundation arranged this unique event and a special opportunity to meet and talk with the cast after the show. The similarities between their cast and our teams in preparing for performances and competitions gave us all a unique insight and inspiration. I want to thank the USA Volleyball Foundation, and new chair, Olympian Sarah Noreiga Sulentor, for supporting the creation of a USAV Alumni Association to bring athletes, coaches and officials of TEAM USA past, present and future back together. This association will be an important part of our history, and will help us shape our future. Sarah and Nathan are USA VOLLEYBALL.

And as I look around this room, I see the faces of some of our greatest icons being honored tonight. I see our regional commissioners, officials, coaches, past leadership and long-time staff like Carla Hall and Kerry Klostermann whom I met at USA Volleyball 29-years ago. Carla and Kerry are USA Volleyball.

So when asked 'What is USA Volleyball… What makes USA Volleyball different,' my answer is clear - When you become part of USA Volleyball, you become part of Team USA, comprised of some of the most dynamic, inspirational and competitively successful people in the sports world - on the court, in the sand, and behind the scenes. Our collective passion to GIVE BACK, NOT TAKE, is what makes us different.

And in this Olympic and Paralympic year, where we have now qualified teams in every discipline, our competitive excellence on the Road to Rio is fueled by people behind the scenes like our CEO Doug Beal. Doug has been one of the single greatest contributors responsible for our competitive excellence, particularly for our indoor national teams. Throughout his 46-year career as a player, coach, and CEO, Doug represented USA Volleyball at the highest levels at the Olympics, FIVB, NORCECA, and has advocated for all disciplines of volleyball through his long-standing working relationship with the USOC. From coaching the USA Men to Olympic Gold in 1984 to overseeing the development of USA Volleyball into one of the strongest among national governing bodies in the USOC family, Doug has committed his life to our sport in many ways. He has been the face of USA Volleyball as CEO, and as a coach & administrator played a vital role. On behalf of the USA Volleyball Board of Directors, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Doug for his long-standing service to the company, and his life-long dedication to the sport of volleyball. And as we celebrate his retirement this year, we wish him well as he sets out to continue his influence in volleyball in new and exciting ways.

And before we hit the four-hour mark tonight, I want to thank all of you for the roles you play and the important work you do. Thank you for representing USA Volleyball everyday. Thank you for your efforts.

This is one of the most challenging, yet exciting times for USA Volleyball. This is a time of significant growth and a time for change. And most of all, THIS is a time filled with endless possibilities.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of the evening.