Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Coach men or coach women?

University of Washington coach Jim McLaughlin won a national title coaching the USC men's team. But, long ago, he switched to coaching women, becomming the first coach to ever win NCAA titles with both men and women.

Now, Hugh McCutcheon is doing the same.

I often contribute stories to the Seattle Times; the latest is about McCutcheon's choice and his upcoming visit to Seattle:

Olympic Coach here for Volleyball Clinic
Man who coached U.S. men to 2008 gold will coach women in 2012

by Jack Hamann
special to the Seattle Times

He could have coached any men’s volleyball team in the world.

He’s decided, instead, to coach women.

Hugh McCutcheon was one of the biggest stories of the Beijing Olympics, leading the U.S. men’s team to unexpected gold, despite the murder of his father-in-law the day after the Games’ opening ceremonies.

Two weeks ago, McCutcheon announced that he had spurned offers to join the lucrative overseas professional volleyball circuit to become the head coach of the U.S. women’s national team.

It was a bittersweet decision.

“Our sport is not like other sports,” McCutcheon says, “especially for coaches. There are just not as many opportunities in men’s volleyball as in women’s.

Not that McCutcheon regrets coaching women. With the sport’s popularity at an all-time high, he’ll have a vast pool of world-class American athletes to choose from for the 2012 London Olympics. That pool includes several current and former UW Huskies like Courtney Thompson, Candace Lee and Becky Perry, among others. The US women won their second indoor silver medal in Beijing, but have never won the Olympic gold.

Men’s volleyball reached its heyday in the 1980s, as teams led by Karch Kiraly dominated the Olympic games and the world. Since then, the number of women’s teams playing NCAA volleyball has soared (to more than 1,000 teams and 14,200 athletes), while men’s NCAA volleyball has stagnated (just 80 teams and 1,200 athletes.) While every state offers high school girls’ volleyball, very few offer the sport for boys. There are no male teams in high school or college in the state of Washington.

“I think it’s a shame,” says McCutcheon, who points to the large number of football scholarships as one reason why men’s Olympic sports are often ignored or overlooked. “In this country, people rarely get a chance to see men play volleyball. It’s a very enjoyable sport, not only to play, but to watch.”

In general, he acknowledges, the demand for volleyball facilities outstrips the supply. In Washington state, more and more boys have expressed interest in starting teams, but are usually turned away from high school and community center gymnasiums which have already committed space and time to basketball.

Girls’ teams face similar shortages, both of facilities for club volleyball, and of coaches qualified to teach the modern physical style of the sport.

McCutcheon will be in the Seattle area this weekend to headline a US Volleyball Association coaching clinic, which also features former US Olympic coaches Doug Beal and Bill Neville, plus Russ Rose, the coach of two-time defending women’s NCAA champion Penn State.

“When you have coaches who know all that volleyball has become, more and more people will fall in love with the sport,” McCutcheon says.

“We want people to be excited about what we’re trying to do.”

1 comment:

  1. that article you wrote on the wrongful conviction of african american soldiers at fort lawton.


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