About 3 years ago, I was coaching my 14s team in a tournament up at ASC. After finishing a match, I walked off the court, and to my surprise found myself standing 3 feet from a legend. Like a giggly teenage girl, I turned and sprinted toward my team so I could tell them he was there. “You guys!!!! You’ll never believe who is here… Karch Kiraly!!!!,” I screamed (probably too loudly). “Karch Kiraly!!!!”. They simultaneously replied with one word, “Who?”. And that, is when we sat down and learned about the greatest volleyball player that ever lived, so that they would never repeat the mistake of not knowing him/recognizing him/taking a picture with him, again. I’m always surprised by how few of our volleyball players have heard this name.
SoCal Volleyball Club is a registered USA Volleyball Junior Olympic training program. We exist because of USA Volleyball, and they are our governing body. The whole dream (in theory), is for our athletes to rise up through the club system, and eventually represent our country at the highest level of sport, which is our National Team/Olympic Team. Why is it then that our kids can spend 8-9 years in the USAV club system and still know so little about our nation’s volleyball history? The link between our club system and our National teams sometimes appears non-existent, but I’m hoping by talking about my volleyball hero, maybe we can “grow the game” in some small way.
So, onto Karch! For those that don’t know, Karch was the guy on the beach that wore the pink visor. He started playing volleyball at 6 years old, and started kicking @$$ on the beach with his Dad when he was 11. Even though he’s only 6’2, at the peak of his career he had a 42″ vertical! He was the only player in existence to ever win an Olympic gold medal indoors (ok he won 2 gold medals indoors in 1984, and 1988), and an Olympic gold medal on the beach (in 1996). Come on how awesome is that!? Think about it.
-Check out video of the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Match
-Check out video of the 1988 Olympic Gold Medal Match
-Check out video of the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal Match
(Can you imagine playing in that many Olympic gold medal matches???)
Karch switched over to the coaching side when he stepped in to help his son’s high school team get out of a funk (imagine how cool that would be). He was later hired by USA Women’s National Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon as an assistant to the team that would go on to win a silver medal in the 2012 London Olympic games. In that same year, he was hired by USA Volleyball to lead the team as they began to prepare for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. It’s hard to believe sometimes that he’s only actually coached for 7-8 years, and now holds our nation’s highest coaching gig, but Karch is one of those people with incredible intangibles. He was always the captain, always the charismatic leader, and the person that people just wanted to follow. He was and is a student of the game with an insatiable hunger to improve and grow. Karch says, “I lived my athletic career with these principles as my guide, and continue to adhere to them as a volleyball teacher and coach. They are: Mastery of Fundamentals, Relentless Preparation, Elevating the Play of Those Around Us, and Ferocious Competition”.
I had the privilege of meeting Karch at a coaching clinic a few weeks ago, and he was exactly the person you would want him to be. He was kind, humble and unbelievably passionate. Twice in the coaching clinic, he choked up talking about how much he loved his players, and how much USA volleyball means to him. We spoke personally about how much his girls recognize their responsibility as role models to their junior predecessors.
So, we now know who Karch is, and why he’s a special part of American volleyball history. You can go watch him coach our Women’s National Team a LOT this summer, and then root him on as he coaches them to gold in Brazil next year! He is genuine, kind and he loves his sport and its fans. He also loves when kids come watch his team play. He’ll chat with you, sign autographs and take pictures. Coolest of all, he’ll invite you to come watch the national team PRACTICE in Anaheim! How lucky are we to be so close to all of this incredible volleyball?
So, go check out our National teams. Meet Karch. Get some of that USA Volleyball glory on you and learn as much as you can about the legends of our great sport- the passion is contagious.