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Q & A With Coach: Kurt Vlasich - Volleyball

Kurt Vlasich (photo by John Valenzuela)

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 lost.

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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