What a great event, the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) Convention, a time when the extra large and extremely close volleyball family convenes for another reunion. Legendary coaches, presidents of companies, high school coaches, club coaches and AVCA hosts greet each other with warm smiles and hugs, reminiscing over recent season wins and recalling historic games. There is camaraderie, visionary meetings, lessons and of course fabulous competition found at the Women’s NCAA Semi-Finals and NCAA Final National Championship Volleyball Games.
The All-American athletes are spectacular, receiving their awards at the All-American luncheon, adorned in dresses, jewelry, pantsuits and pride as they receive their well deserved awards, while acknowledging their volleyball family. They thank parents for supporting them through Club Volleyball, traveling all over the regions for tournaments. Siblings are highlighted as mentors, competitors and encouragers who help them reach the pinnacle of the sport. Coaches and staff are praised for their dedication to improving the skills of players to become best of the best! Heartfelt thanks are given to teammates, the ladies who day in and day out, live, love, encourage and fight together for each point and win.
Athletes in Volleyball recognize the efforts reached through pursuing excellence, encouragement and working as team. With this being said, can we gloss over sibling rivalry? Not a chance. Let’s not forget that NCAA women athletes are competing to be the best in volleyball. They have a fierce desire to beat their opponents and win the favored NCAA National Championship Trophy. Along with the trophy comes respect from fellow competitors and bragging rights for years to come.
Three chance meetings during the AVCA brought encouragement, camaraderie, and respect, providing a glimpse at a few volleyball heroes’ and their genuine character. The first meeting took place in the lobby of the convention with Coach Carol Russo, legendary coach who played volleyball at the high school and collegiate level, then coached for 24 years and was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame in 2012. She told Rob Ebright, Sports Imports President about her retirement and how much she is enjoying life. With even a brief meeting, I imagine Coach Russo always feeling this way, infectious with energy and a positive outlook, enjoying her current status in life and looking forward to the future.
The next brush with volleyball greatness took place in the hotel elevator with modern volleyball super star Kerri Walsh. She was gracious, kind and humble as she heard appreciation for her dedication to volleyball including her attendance at the All-American luncheon, handing out awards and offering photographs with each of the players. The conversation came to a close with a mutual admiration for the Volleyball Family. Kerri stated, “I have been part of this Family for a long time and once you’re in, you’re in for life.”
Culminating the Volleyball Celeb experience was watching Coach Karch Kiraly of USA Volleyball lead a teaching session on Friday. Coach Kiraly was encouraging to the demonstrators, connected on a real level with the coaches who were poised at the edge of their seats, seated on the floor and jockeying for a viewing position among the crowd. Soon after the session, Karch graciously agreed to participate in the Sports Imports Set Right Challenge where 5 contestants competed in a setting contest with the winner receiving an iPad mini.
The competition was tough and the contestants were excited and also a bit nervous. This was a big crowd and Coach Kiraly would be setting the ball to the contestants. The competitors were to set the volleyball into the 10 foot tall Set Right from the setter position. The five contestants did their best and Coach Kiraly even allowed one player an additional chance, she got the ball in on the 6th try as the crowd cheered. The winner, Amy Patterson placed 4 out of 5 balls into the Set Right, only missing on the first try. Coach Kiraly offered photos with each contestant and then a group photo with the Sports Imports team and Doug Beal,USA Volleyball CEO. (see photos)
If you have never attended the AVCA, consider becoming a member of this infectious group. Competitive, loving, encouraging and humble players and coaches who enjoy the game and appreciate the valuable relationships gained through this outstanding volleyball family.