Q & A With Coach: Kurt Vlasich - Volleyball
Coach Vlasich began coaching volleyball at CMS in 2002 under
Coach Dianna Graves as an assistant coach and became the head coach
of the Athenas in 2012. Learn more about Coach Vlasich in the
latest installment of Q & A With Coach, a feature that aims to
shed light on the great work done by the coaches at CMS and to help
alumni, students, parents and fans get to know more about the
Athena and Stag head coaches.
Why did you get in to coaching?
Kurt Vlasich: I never intended to coach full
time. As a matter of fact, it was not even something I was
interested in. I happened to stop by the office of my college coach
at Pepperdine, Marv Dunphy, and we got to talking about what to do
post-graduation. While I was unsure and young, he suggested I
pass along my experiences as a Pepperdine player to those who
wanted to learn more. One of the amazing things about being a
part of Marv’s program is that there is always a strong
alumni network and tradition in being a part of that
program. I almost felt obligated to coach and pass along what
Marv had taught me. I started out with a few private lessons, and
eventually took over a boy’s junior team. We won a
bronze medal in our first season, and from there I was
hooked. There was no turning back, and coaching just became a
part of my life.
You were born and raised in the Inland Empire and have spent much of your career coaching in Claremont. What are your favorite parts about living in this area?
KV: It has always been where I have felt the
most at peace. Claremont is where my family is from, and it is
where I want my girls to grow up. The community is amazing,
but more importantly, I love being a part of the Claremont
Colleges. I see first-hand every day what the schools offer
and there is no other place I would want to be a part
of. Claremont is also the perfect Southern California town for
me; not too busy, relaxed and family oriented.
You played at the Division I level at Pepperdine. Describe your game in college.
KV: My path was much different as a player than
most would think. I played middle blocker in high school, but
when I got to Pepperdine, I was the shortest on the roster. It was
eye-opening, and I knew I had to change positions. They used
me as a setter for a couple of year, but then switched me to a
serving specialist once they saw I had multiple serves I could
use. The rules were different back then, we had no liberos,
and scoring was side out style. That was actually a very
valuable position on a roster, and I embraced it. I knew I
could locate and be aggressive as a server, and still to this day,
it is easily my strength on the volleyball court. I guess I
just had the mindset to be an aggressive and effective server. Too
bad its rally score now, as the art of serving has somewhat been
When you aren’t coaching the Athenas or volleyball in general at some level, how are you spending your time?
KV: Still coaching volleyball. For 11 years I
ran one of the country’s largest youth volleyball
clubs. While I have stepped away from running it on a daily
basis, I am still involved as a coach and as a consultant. We
work with young players ranging from seven years old all the way up
to 18 years old. It’s fun to teach the game to young players,
and it keeps you sharp as a coach. The game constantly
changes, and new ideas and theories come about all the
time. By being involved in the club, I can bring those things
into the CMS program and use it with our players. But in all
honesty, when I’m not coaching, my time is spent with my two
daughters. One is five and the other is two so it is fun to watch
them grow up and learn. I think at the end of the day, the
greatest part of my day is influencing the lives of those two
little girls and being rewarded for the hard work with hugs.
Do you have any favorite moments or games during your time at CMS?
KV: My first game as a head coach was a pretty
big one. I was nervous and wanted to win so badly. I
almost forgot to turn in the lineup. But as much as most would
think that was my favorite, it was about seven years ago when I was
still an assistant coach. At the time, I was calling service calls
for Dianna, and our best player at the time, Emily Bennett, went
back to serve. I really wanted her to use her jump serve, so I gave
her the universal signal for jump serve (thumbs up with an upward
motion). She just looked at me and gave me a thumbs up back
and served the ball normal. I don’t think I stopped
laughing until the fourth set. After the game we all shared the
moment and laughed for what seemed like hours. It’s a
moment that won’t ever be topped.
Which volleyball programs or coaches on the Division I level do you respect and work to emulate?
KV: Marv Dunphy at Pepperdine is still my biggest influence. That is the program that I know best and want ours to be like. Although it is a men’s program, it is the culture, the coaches and the players I would most like my program to be like. They command respect and they always play with class. But most importantly, it is the tradition that I want CMS to have. A winning culture, and players who carry on beyond the lines of the court. We’ve taken great strides in that direction already and I can’t wait to continue to build on that.
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