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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Volleyball Coaching Life-The Volleyball Coaching Family

Earlier this week something happened within the world of collegiate volleyball coaching that was significant. Everyone knows or have heard tidbits of what happened, but I will briefly describe what happened in a nutshell.

A recruiting service owner send out an email to all of the Division I coaches, there were over 350 people on that list. In this email the recruiting service owner joked on the profile of one of his customers, a 16-year-old recruit that had paid his company. The joke was not particularly overt or funny, but it was racist and extremely offensive, especially to Asian Americans. Of which I am one.

What would possess a middle-aged businessman to send something like that out to all the potential or present customers for his service is beyond me. It is risky, especially given what is going on in society today, and more importantly, it revealed his ignorance, privilege, and lack of character.

What I do want to talk about is the response of the Division 1 head coaches that were on the email list. I saw some of the emails responses from those coaches, and they were directed bluntly and honestly at the recruiting service owner. They were unconstrained and honest in their response. Many mocked him, many put their foot down by declaring: we don't want to deal with somebody like you anymore, so they cancelled their subscription. Many coaches pointed out the fact that he had written he unfunny little joke on the profile of a 16-year-old girl whom he is representing, and as leaders in the sport, we should set a much better example, be a better role model than what was represented by the comment. We should always strive to do better.

The first response that I had read came from a coach who I know and I respect. He is a coach of a highly placed team in the collegiate ranks. He is at the top of his profession and he didn't need to step up and say the things he did but I am glad that he did because knowing him, he felt like he needed to step up to his own moral standards. He was unequivocal in his condemnation of this man's comments. He demonstrated his leadership at that critical moment. He knew that he was exposing himself to all the other head coaches in the Division 1ranks.  He chose to make a statement, he took a step forward and did not just stand in place, and he told the world of collegiate volleyball coaching that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

It was a very bold move in my estimation because this was not a preplanned, professionally produced video or a well-crafted written statement coming from the keyboards of some well-oiled publicity machine. The was not a calculated statement on black lives matter, filtered and edited by the legal sharks and intentionally tuned to not offend anyone, to deliberately leave no skin in the game. This was a visceral and genuine reaction. He very clearly told the man: you should not have gone there. Even though he did not threaten to punitively punish those recruits who had signed up with this company, he did clearly state that the relationship has changed for the worst, if not been destroyed. To make that statement took a fortitude that most people in this age of spin doctoring and obsequious cowering would not even consider.

I was also happy to see that he was not the only one who stood up to be counted. Many Division 1 coaches tweeted their disgust at the recruiting service and they said plainly that this is unacceptable. There were enough Division 1 coaches who responded by canceling their subscription that the owner apologized en masse. Unfortunately he had already defended himself multiple times in private emails to the chain of coaches, saying that: I was just joking, I was having a bad day, and I still believe in what I said I just said it in a bad way: it was a no apology apology. The usual public: I'm sorry that you felt bad about what I said but I'm not sorry that I said it statement. Which is typical of many of the weasels who populate that business. After having been called out many times, and after seeing his business suffer catastrophically, he finally relented and wrote a very contrite and sincere sounding apology. He decided to step down from his own company in deference to bringing in someone else to run his company, someone less reactionary and supposedly more ‘woke’. I am reserving judgment, they need to show me. Walk the walk.

Getting back to the coaches, even though I was not privy to all of the exploding email chain that resulted from the incidence - so I don't know exactly what all these coaches said ˗ I do know that there were enough cancellations to make this man panic and resign. Assuming the best of fellow coaches, I am proud of the volleyball coaching community, actually it is an even more intimate relationship. I would say we are a volleyball coaching family. As a minority person in this volleyball coaching family, I have always been made comfortably welcomed and felt a part of that community. I still wonder, in the deep recesses of my mind, however, whether I had the right to have that peace of mind, or I would wonder whether I was being a fool for believing that this was indeed a family.

I've been at coaching for a little over 20 years and I've always felt that way, there has never been any overt statements being made or actions being taken regarding my minority status, but I have always been on guard and prepared to respond in case something happened to change. The unity and immediate response shown by the Division 1 coaches made me that much more comfortable with my assumptions, even though I am still on guard, it is a bad habit, a survival instinct driven habit.

This instance, in the greater scheme of things, does not mean much, but it meant everything symbolically to everybody that is involved with volleyball, it meant the world to me. It made me feel comforted that my fellow coaches stood up and acted, swiftly and decisively. It made me feel proud that we are all a part of a family that is willing to uphold the highest moral and ethical standards in doing what we do: teach and lead the future generations.

I now send a message to the Division 1 coaches who were so vocal in doing the right thing. To quote Jack Buck, former St. Louis Cardinal announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, I am standing, and I am applauding you.

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