Like the players, the coaches at the 2018 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships are being evaluated and developed throughout the 10 days in Tulsa.
There are 60 coaches working with USA teams within the USAV High Performance program.
Who are they? At this level they’ve been active doing HP tryouts for years. They’ve done multiple programs. If everything lines up and they look like a good coach to represent USA, they are brought in. Newer coaches are paired with more experienced staffs. This allows for new people to join the program and be developed as coaches at the same time.
“This is our charge,” said Heath Hoke, USAV Director of High Performance. “Keep raising the bar, have a steady flow of coaches who are ready for our youth and junior national teams, the college national teams and then ultimately the senior national team.”
So, there is development within the coaching staffs, but there are also mentors to help all coaches.
“This is our third year of the mentor program,” Hoke said. “We bring in senior, respected, well-established coaches of the game to actually work with the coaches. We have the one environment that is safe to have someone over your shoulder who can say, ‘Hey, try this. Take this risk.’ It’s a learning environment. In any other regular season – club, college, high school – they have success on the line.
- Ken Shibuya, associate head coach for the Stanford University’s men’s program
- Cecile Reynaud, former long-time head coach at Florida State University
- Aldis Berzins, 1984 U.S. Olympic gold medalist; 1996 U.S. Olympic women’s assistant coach
“The optimum is being mentored and having the coach right there with you,” Hoke continued. “We have this one protected environment where we can create an opportunity for coaches to get outside of their comfort zone and take some risks.”
The USA and region teams have amazing coaching staffs, but imagine if you’re a kid coming to Tulsa and you look up and find an Olympic superstar giving you direction.
Jeff Nygaard and Danielle Scott-Arruda are coaching USA squads in Tulsa.
Nygaard is a three-time U.S. Olympian, a middle blocker for the U.S. Men’s team in 1996 and 2000, who then switched over to beach, partnering with Dain Blanton, at the 2004 Olympic Games. Now he is the head coach at the University of Southern California. Scott-Arruda played in five straight Olympic Games (1996-2012), earning silver medals in 2008 and 2012. Two legends on the court.
HP is like a box of chocolates; you never know who you’re going to get as a coach.
In fact, John Speraw, the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team, was an assistant coach at the youth and junior levels in High Performance. But the perfect illustration of the Path to the Podium for coaches is Erin Virtue.
“Erin Virtue has worked tryouts. She was an assistant coach at this program (HPCs), has coached the Youth National Team and Junior National Team and is now one of the assistant coaches this quad of the Women’s National Team, so there’s a path,” Hoke said.
Virtue has spent 11 seasons coaching in the High Performance program, mentoring athletes in the Select (U16), Youth (U18) and Junior (U20) age groups. She served as head coach of the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team that captured silver at the 2016 NORCECA U18 Continental Championship. In the spring of 2017, she joined Karch Kiraly’s staff. She is also an associate head coach at Northwestern University.
She started out playing volleyball as a setter.
“I can remember, very clearly, the first time I put on a USA jersey as a player … it was May 2004 and I had made the USA Collegiate National Team. I was selected as a captain by my coaches John Cook, Lee Maes and Paula Weishoff. It was such a proud moment for me to represent USA and one that I won’t soon forget,” she said in a Q&A with the mgoblue.com.
“It is an absolute honor to work with USAV High Performance and to represent our country through USA Volleyball,” she said. “It is my passion to coach the game that I love and I will forever be grateful for opportunity to work with such talented athletes in the USAV High Performance Pipeline.”