Making an Investment

By Lori Okimura | Sept. 12, 2017, 8:51 p.m. (ET)

The U.S. Men opened play in the FIVB World Grand Champions Cup before a sold out crowd in Nagoya's Nippon Gaishi Arena against a young, developing Team Japan, led by an old friend of USA Volleyball. Yuichi Nakagaichi, a legendary Japanese volleyball Olympian, is now the head coach of Team Japan as they begin their preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. "Gaichi" is a friend to many within USA Volleyball, and there is a great respect for the task he has ahead of him to prepare a young team for their home Olympics.

John Speraw (third from left) and Yuichi Nakagaichi (third from right) in a pose with the other coaches leading teams at the FIVB Men's World Grand Champions Cup

The Japan Men's National Team coaching staff led by Yuichi Nakagaichi

Japan's situation is similar to many countries who find themselves with new faces on the court after decades of experienced veterans taking center stage. John Speraw, USA head coach, spoke about how teams like the USA have made a multi-year investment developing new players in looking ahead to the future. We often refer to it as our "pipeline" in USAV-lingo. As the national governing body of beach, indoor and sitting volleyball, we take great pride in our responsibility to maintain the competitive excellence that has made USA Volleyball a worldwide leader. We have our past, present and future national team players, coaches and staff to thank for that.

Speraw's words spoke true, especially tonight. When I first joined the Board of USA Volleyball, Matt Anderson was the youngest player on the men's national team and a rookie still seeking his first Olympic Games. He is now one of the greatest players in the world, an icon in our global volleyball community. An Olympic bronze medalist, and a valuable part of USA Volleyball's future. I was glad to hear he took some time off earlier this season. He and the other Olympians really invested a lot of their physical and emotional selves in the Rio Olympic quad and they deserve a break. They will do the same for Tokyo. His return to the court in the USAV Cup series with Brazil in August was spectacular. Against Japan here in Nagoya, Matt and many others showed people what they are capable of doing when everyone is rested and healthy.

Max Holt is another of our Rio Olympians returning to the national team. He's so solid in everything he does. He served up a big ace in the Japan match. Then he took a deep breath, went back to the service line very calmly and ripped another ace back-to-back. He was serving aces all night, when he wasn't blocking Japan's attack. Speaking of blocking, Aaron Russell had a massive MONSTER BLOCK tonight that hit the floor so hard I think it's still ricocheting up into the ceiling. And no matter how many times I see him do it, it's always exciting to see Erik Shoji digging balls left and right showing why he really is the best libero in the world. But the dig of the night came from MIDDLE BLOCKER David Smith in a long rally that started with his serve.

These guys do all the work. John is right when he says it's an investment. Back at USA Volleyball national team headquarters in Southern California, and at our national office in Colorado Springs, there is another team of hard working folks keeping the lights on and the pipeline flowing. USA Volleyball continues to make a huge investment in the development of not just the national teams, but the investment in producing high quality events, supporting the 40 Regional Volleyball Associations within the national governing body, and the investment in helping to "Grow the Game" beyond our borders.

When we invest in our people, we strengthen our sport. When we invest in other national federations and help them achieve success, that success yields benefits for us as well. It is all part of a process, a long-range plan.

During my visit to Japan, I have had the honor to meet with the FIVB President, Dr. Ary Graca, about the long-range plans for USA Volleyball under the direction of our new CEO, Jamie Davis. A major priority is our investment in a U.S.-based professional league. We will also focus on hosting more international events for beach, indoor and sitting volleyball. The reason why we do this is because of night's like tonight as the investment pays off. If we make the investment financially, physically and emotionally, we will achieve competitive excellence we seek. The players, coaches and staff make a lot of sacrifices throughout the year in order to do what they do. Perhaps the biggest investment made is the personal one. I can attest to that.

Next up for Team USAV at the FIVB Grand Champions Cup is Iran, who won a tight five-set marathon match against Italy on day one. Stay tuned.