Four and half years ago, when I decided to chase the dream of becoming a college volleyball coach, I believed that I had what it would take to be successful in helping to teach/lead college women in the sport of volleyball. My years as an athletic trainer gave me the ability to break down any athletic movement and then explain/teach the most efficient way to complete it. I had spent nine years coaching volleyball at the club level, and was supremely confident in my grasp of team tactics, motivation, and the best of being on a team - sharing the fun. HOWEVER, what my seemingly (at least in my small brain) vast experience did NOT provide me is the ability to see beyond the court; and there is lots beyond the 18m x 9m area of the court. Literally, I did not know what I didn't know.
Travel: I am sure most people had the experience when growing up of the 'family vacation'. Mom, dad, and the kids pile into the family truckster, and off you go on an adventure. In my role as assistant coach, one of my duties (and one of the "I didn't know...") is planning our road trips. Hotel rooms, meals, itineraries, for 20 or so people. Navigating the maze of determining arrival times for itineraries with bus drivers who don't always know their way, selecting good roommates - not always the best idea to put to people competing for the same position in the same hotel room (which I have done, but only once...) - and dealing with the nebulous world of hotel reservations, has been altogether maddening and enjoyable. On a trip to Valparaiso we somehow ended up in a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, because our driver thought he had a "shortcut" to avoid traffic? On another occasion, it took us almost 45 minutes to reach Loyola University from the interstate - a distance of approximately 10-15 miles - because we couldn't find the one viaduct that would accommodate our 12-foot bus. I recently told our student manager that we would make millions when he developed a unified hotel reservation system (notice how WE are going to make millions on something HE develops, the best college coaches are good recruiters). No matter how early I make hotel reservations, or how many times I call to confirm, when the team arrives, the front desk staff will periodically have no idea who we are; and I can assure you after many hours crammed and contorted on a bus the last thing anyone wants to do is wait in a lobby. Of course, when this does happen eyes are on yours truly.
Chick Flicks: We are very fortunate that all our buses come with TV monitors and dvd players. After many years of team travel like this, I have learned to judge distance by number of movies. Indianapolis = 3 movies and a nap; Chicago = 1 movie and 2 episodes of Friends. One of the perks of traveling with college age women is the variety of romantic comedies and dramas I get to enjoy in their movie selections. Granted, these genres of film might be a bit formulaic - boy from the wrong side of the tracks meets girl (there is instant connection), but forces conspire to keep them apart. Yet through hard work, tears, decent pop music/passable choreography, and bad acting and dialog, their love prevails and they are together in the end. I have learned to enjoy these movies (when in Rome, perhaps...) but I think I enjoy listening to the reactions of the team even more. We all know how the movie is going to end, yet the players (at least those engaged in the movie...) seem gratified when the fated final union on film takes place.
Being from Mars - whoever wrote the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus could never had been more accurate - I constantly marvel at how the girls on the team interact with each other, and how so completely different those interactions are from me and my teammates when I was in college. I am amazed at the times when, while I KNOW we are both speaking English as taught in American schools, there is lack of understanding for what the other is trying to convey or more specifically what I am trying to convey. I am mystified by the players' ability to hold multiple thoughts almost simultaneously, when my very small male brain is barely capable of holding one for more than about 45 seconds.
At once exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, rewarding, confusing, challenging...my experiences as a college volleyball coach have been, and continue to be better than I could have dreamed. Through the bad romantic movies (maybe I am a bit jaded because I haven't found an Eva Mendes like Will Smith did in Hitch; granted, I am no Will Smith), the bus rides to eternity, the Courtyard-Holiday INN-Comfort Inn-Marriott-Doubletree (great cookies!), not having the rooms ready/can't get the billing straight episodes, I have learned what I didn't know; because now I know, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I am blessed to be one of those people who doesn't have a job to go to every morning, I have a life to live everyday as the Assistant Women's Volleyball Coach of the Green Bay Volleyball Team!