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200 Thank yous

Posted Monday, September 30th, 2013

The thing I remember most about my first year as head coach is talking for hours on the phone with athletic director Doug Faulkner (if you know him at all you understand). He knew I was in way over my head and he wanted to make sure he helped me with every aspect of being a head coach. I fumbled my way through that season and several after, but I will never forget his investment and his desire to make me successful.

That’s kind of how its been for me my entire time at Greenville. From the beginning God has put amazing people in my path and its been an incredible ride. I remember the phone call I got from then head coach Pam Craig my sophomore year of college, she new I played for the men’s club team and had helped at the high school and she offered my the assistant coaching position. After her time as head coach I convinced Rick Mcpeak to take over the team, coaching with him was such a great experience. He taught me a lot about building a community and how to view all things we do as worship.

Once I took over as head coach I was immediately spoiled with Great assistants that poured countless hours into making the program what it is. Jamie, Heather, Megan, Meredith, Jill, Fin, Jenna, Bill, Anne, Suzanne, Ashley, Krystine, Ivan, and especially Dash who was with me for my 3 best years (Dash and I have 135 wins together). I can’t thank all of you enough for your contribution to this team and for all the great memories you helped make and the lives you have touched.

The culture we have developed at Greenville has attracted some amazing players who also just happen to be amazing people. Our “best kids” attract more “best kids” and the tradition continues. My life has truly been blessed by the players I have coached, I truly consider them my family and I would do anything for any one of them. Thank you all for teaching me so much and for giving your all to this program.

This 200th win belongs to Doug, the coaches that gave me a chance, all my assistants, and especially my players. I look forward to seeing who God puts in my path to help me reach my 400th win at GC.

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Experience breeds Empathy

Posted Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Some people are naturally empathetic and have the ability to truly put themselves in other’s shoes. I am always amazed at my wife’s gift of empathy; she can literally feel the emotions and experience the thoughts of other people no matter what it is they are going through. It gives her an amazing perspective on how to help people and how to relate to people. She can see all the angles and not approach other peoples problems through her own perspective, but approach it from the individual’s perspective. It allows her to come along side the person and work together through a solution.

Unfortunately, I am not naturally gifted in the way my wife is, but luckily I get to be married to her and get a little insight into what it means to be empathetic.

I think every coach goes through phases in their career, and we have to keep evolving as we get wiser (the word I am going to use instead of older). I started coaching collegiately as a sophomore in college and when I say I didn’t know anything about coaching, I am not exaggerating. I thought because I could hit a ball kind of hard on a girl’s net that I could be a good coach. As surprising as it was to me, that was not the case –weird, right? I loved volleyball and I loved the team concepts, but I really didn’t understand how to teach either one. I was there for me and wanted to feel like I was so valuable people would just get better because I was present. I think a lot of young coaches experience this — the feeling that I am here and that’s enough, if players don’t improve and our team isn’t successful then it’s the players’ fault not mine. I’ve tried to come up with a really clever name for that phase in my coaching career, “too cool for school,” “get over yourself,” “wow, you are awesome, idiot,” “nobody is impressed.”. None of those felt right, so I’ll move on.

After about three years (yes, I am a slow learner) I started to figure some things out, not many, but some. I realized that my skills had no value other than the ability to lead drills, which really isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things. I started to understand that teams are built by relationships and that athletes are developed by training not watching. I could see what needed to be done for us to improve, but I still didn’t know how to do those things. This phase I’ll call “ready to learn.”

Fast forward to the phase I am experiencing now. I skipped a few phases, but stick with me here.

This generation of players wants more than anything to be understood, to be heard from, and to be connected. I have learned that empathy allows me to approach each player differently and it gives me insight into how individuals are best coached. You can’t coach every player the same and without empathy you can’t understand what it is that each player needs. This isn’t easy and I fail at this all the time, but I appreciate its value and I work hard to see things through my players’ eyes. Luckily I am surrounded by an amazing group of people who have a natural ability to do this and it keeps me on my toes. When we strive to understand first and be understood second incredible things happen.
Mathew 7:12-“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

All of us want to be understood and to be heard, but first we have to understand and to listen. When you are around people who do their best to understand you and listen to you, there is an energy that follows, it motivates you and you will accomplish spectacular things. I have seen this principle applied first hand and when it happens it’s magical.

If you truly want to be a part of a team, a real team, then you have to have empathy for everyone involved.

Teams are built when EVERYONE understands, “It’s not all about me.”

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New Staff, Familiar Faces

Posted Thursday, August 9th, 2012

I have been blessed with a great coaching staff my entire career and the 2012 season will be no exception. Christy Dashiell will return for her third season as an assistant and we will be adding Suzanne Davis and Ivan Estevez to our staff.

Christy will train the middles this fall and continue to coordinate travel and handle other administrative duties.  She has been the backbone of this program for several years and we are fortunate to have her for another season.

Suzanne was recently hired as a full time professor at Greenville and her main responsibility with the team will be ball control and training the outside hitters. Suzanne served most recently as the head coach at Tuscola high school and she was the club director for Blaze Volleyball Club. Suzanne played volleyball at Greenville and graduated in 2000. I was an assistant coach while Suzanne played and her competitive nature and drive to succeed will be a huge asset to the team.

Ivan has years of experience as a setter and will work with that position this fall. Coach Estevez and I played club volleyball together for several years and I am excited for the knowledge he will bring to our offense.

New Coaches Interview

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The Bus

Posted Saturday, March 31st, 2012

As I look back on 15 seasons of volleyball at GC it is easy for me to say that we have had several good years and I have honestly enjoyed all of them. There is however a distinct difference between the good years and the great years and that distinction comes down to who we have had guiding the team. Whether it was our seniors, our captains, the core (our leadership team), or the coaches, these were the determining factors between a good year and a great year. Even if we won more on certain years, they didn’t quite live up to the years that we had everyone on the same page and moving the same direction, everyone on the same bus.

It is so easy for me as a head coach to come up with a cookie cutter plan for the year and then just plug people into each role that has been predetermined by me. I have see that system work, but a team will never reach its full potential if you make the mistake of deciding where you are going before you decide on who will take you there. In his book Good to Great Jim Collins says great companies “got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.”

This reinforces to me that everything we do is about relationships and that is the driving force behind almost every endeavor, without solid, real relationships, the things we try to accomplish will seem empty. A great plan and great vision without great people is irrelevant.

This off-season I have spent more time than ever trying to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. We have lost and added at least one member to every important leadership role we have within our team and the pieces are all coming together perfectly. We have 1 new captain, 2 new core members, 2 new coaches, and we are still considering hiring a graduate assistant. The returning members to our leadership teams and coaching staff possess all the qualities that are essential to greatness: Loyalty, commitment, character, passion, and integrity. In addition to that our team will return stronger than ever and we are adding a freshman class that could prove to be one of the strongest classes in quite some time.

There is new life in our team and the excitement level is an all time high. The meetings with the core have been energizing and I am confident after each meeting that we have made excellent choices putting those players in those positions.

My job is not over, we still have one seat to fill, but I am confident that God will provide for us or present an alternative that would be an even better situation. As I get on the bus I still don’t know exactly where we are going, but I would go anywhere this bus takes me because of the people on it. Beep, Beep.

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Uncharted Territory

Posted Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

My first year as full time coach we compiled a record of 9-19. We had an amazing group of girls that year, but winning just wasn’t something we were going to do very much of.

After that year I promised myself to never have another losing season, I knew that losing makes for long years and if I wanted to really establish a program that built character and helped our players grow spiritually winning had to be a part of that in some capacity. My theory is simple-If we take care of the character piece and the spiritually growth piece then winning will be a byproduct of those 2 things. We recruit players who want to be a part of a program like that and I have found those type of players know how to win on and off the court.

Since that 9-19 season we had improved on our record and our success in the conference every year. We were the underdog for so many years as we fought our way to the top. Each victory over a team that we hadn’t beaten for several years pushed us closer and closer to the top until we finally were able to reach the pinnacle in 2010 when we won it all and had defeated every team in the conference and compiled a 26-6 record, the best in the history of the program.

We had arrived at our rightful place and in 2011 we were picked in the preseason poll to win the conference, an honor we had never received. It was uncharted territory for us and the expectation for us to repeat as conference champs started from day one.

We started the season just as we would any other, but you could feel the pressure from the start. It was a feeling we had never experienced and it was harder then ever to keep our eyes on what was really important. I never want this program to make winning the only measure of our success and I fear that is what happened to us this year. In the past our goal was always to improve on the previous year and to compete against the team directly ahead of us. This year we were competing with ourselves and the expectations that had been placed on us.

Keep in mind that we graduated 5 seniors in 2010 that included the 2007 newcomer of the year, 2nd all time kill leader, 2 first team all conference players, 3 captains, the 2 time Player of the year, and several members of the SLIAC all tournament team. Still with all of those losses we managed to set our sites on a repeat as conference champs.

We returned a tough lineup that included several players from the 2010 team, but when the only acceptable outcome is to repeat what has only been done one time in 50 seasons you set yourself up for failure. That is the only explanation as to why a 22-9 season could feel like a disappointment. We accomplished so much this season and reestablished ourselves as one of the top teams in our conference, but it still didn’t feel like enough because I allowed the team to lose sight of our vision.

At some point in the course of the 2011 campaign winning became the driving force and when winning takes priority everyone loses. That is not what we are about and that will not dictate our decisions or our actions. We understand that the glory is in our effort, our love for each other, and our ability to put others above ourselves. Winning is not the goal, it is a byproduct of creating a culture that has greater priorities.

I often tell the girls that I am greedy because I want it all; to glorify God in all we do, have a 3.5 team GPA, and win. Well, its time to find a way to have it all and stay at the top. I dropped the ball this season. I didn’t know how to be the top team. My experience has only been in the pursuit of the team ahead of us. When there is no one there you have to find different ways to motivate and challenge your team.

The hunt is on in 2012. It’s a new time for us and there will be a lot of new faces on our roster and potentially in our lineup. The focus of the team will not be on winning another championship. But don’t think for one minute that the things we choose to focus on won’t affect that very outcome. We will have process-based goals and we believe the processes that we perfect will take us where we want to go.

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