FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (July 20, 2019) – After retiring from volleyball, Riley Salmon tried the corporate life.
The three-time Olympian who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games worked for Nike for a couple years and started a volleyball club in Houston. But he still wasn’t doing what he wanted to do.
Then he had a chat with his former coach on the U.S. Men’s National Team, Hugh McCutcheon.
“He suggested that I do what I want to do. He asked, ‘What is your passion?’” said Salmon, 43. “My passion is to work with men’s volleyball.”
He recently accepted a position as head men’s volleyball coach at the University of Jamestown, an NAIA school in North Dakota.
He is also at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships in Fort Lauderdale coaching a boys youth A1 team and taking a first step toward his coaching goals.
“I’d like to win a NAIA title,” he said. “Then eventually, I’d like to get to work with the U.S. Men’s Team. It’s going to take time obviously.”
Salmon is not the only Olympian who giving back to the sport of boys volleyball.
Two-time Olympian Sean Rooney (far right in photo), who won the gold medal in 2008, was at the Boys Junior National Championships in Dallas coaching for Team Rockstar 16-1 out of Southern California.
“After all the experiences I had in my playing career, I just wasn’t ready to let go of the game in any way,” said Rooney, 36, who got his first coaching experience as an assistant for his college coach, Marv Dunphy, at Pepperdine until his family had to move.
“The only time I had was to coach this club team. I didn’t know how I felt about it at first, but man, I ended up loving these kids.”
Rooney attended his first Junior National Championship when he was 16 and was impressed by how far the event has come.
“When I was here, it wasn’t nearly this elaborate with so many teams and divisions,” Rooney said. “It’s awesome to see that the sport I love and can’t get let go of has a future.”
Two-time Olympian Kevin Barnett comes at his involvement with boys volleyball from a different direction as he was in Dallas to support son Rees and his club team SCVC, which ended up winning the 17 Open Division title.
Barnett, 45, said it’s not always easy to watch his son play.
“It’s less stress at times,” he said. “It’s only stressful when it comes down to it and I have no control at all. That’s the hardest part.”
Barnett said boys volleyball is helped by the fact that men’s volleyball is readily available for viewing on the internet.
“These guys watch Volleyball Nations League,” Barnett said, gesturing to a team of 13-year-olds. “By the time you get to 17s, they know a lot of the National Team guys and have seen them play.”
Rooney and Salmon both said their players have been interested in hearing their Olympic stories.
“I’ve shared my story of how I got on the Olympic Team with two or three groups,” Salmon said. “It seems to be a little bit inspirational because I came from nothing and played junior college volleyball. I didn’t take a traditional path.”