Five Questions has been fortunate enough to make contact with volleyball players and coaches, spanning the virtual globe to track them down. From Cassidy, Nicole and Juliann in France, to Courtney in Switzerland and Alisha in Italy, to Tori in Azerbaijan to Kelly in Japan and back to Southern California to catch up with Kayla and Christa. Each of them provided unique stories about the places they come from and the places they have been. Karch, Dave and John gave some interesting and enlightening views into coaching and growing the game. These are all great volleyball people, respected and admired around the world. Today we want to narrow the scope and introduce you all to someone you may not have heard of, but need to know more about!
Mike Bruno is why we love the volleyball. He embodies all the passion for the game just like everyone we named above. He has a unique story about where he came from and the places he has been and his fun-loving personality makes those tales easy to listen to. Coach Bruno inspires people here and Western Pennsylvania and beyond. So today we come back to Pittsburgh, back to the place we call home, to bring you the very special story of Kiski Area’s own Mike Bruno.
Current Location-Cecil PA
Position-Head Volleyball Coach Point Park University
University-Robert Morris College 1990
Your path to coaching volleyball isn't typical! Tell us how you came upon the game and how you got into coaching.
I ran cross county and track at Kiski Area HS and then at Robert Morris College. I began playing "volleyball" in the Delta Zeta Mud Volleyball Tournament at RMC. After college, I continued my sport of distance running through road races and marathons. An Achilles tendon injury in the 92 Pittsburgh Marathon forced me to “retire” from the sport. I found beach volleyball as my new passion and eventually played indoors as well. I got my first job after college as a recreation director in the state prison and started my coaching career at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. I coached the varsity inmate team in 1994. I was promoted to a Recreation Manager at SCI Greene in Waynesburg and was eventually hired by Limin Jin as a part time assistant coach at California University of PA in 1998. In 2000 I took the part time head coaching job at Waynesburg College and enjoyed 5 great years. In 2005 Point Park University had a vacancy for a full time head coach. I have been blessed to pursue my passion of coaching volleyball in the city that I love form 2005 to the present.
Things are going pretty well at Point Park. What are some of your goals for 2015, and to what do you attribute your recent successes?
We have been putting a large emphasis on the process and not the result. Hopefully the process will produce a favorable result of winning the regular season in the KIAC and another conference tournament championship.
Is there a coach from your past that you pattern yourself after?
How has he/she affected your own style?
I can come up with 3 people that have had a positive impact on my path to becoming a coach and how I have approached the profession..
My father, Frank taught me how to roll up my sleeves and go to work. He also instilled accountability and discipline into me at a very young age. Work ethic, accountability and discipline are huge part of our every day training gym.
Secondly, my junior high gym teacher, Burwell Shearer also had a huge impact on me. His gym classes taught you how to battle through adversity. Life is about how hard you can take a “hit” and get back up. This life lesson was dispensed very often in the lower gym during Mr. Shearer’s unique version of dodge ball.
Thirdly, my college XC coach, Bruce Frey was a tremendous motivator. More importantly he taught us how to work hard to become champions. He always provided our teams with amazing student athlete experience filled with fun, laughter and lifetime memories. Coach Frey led a very successful program that worked hard but wasn’t afraid to have fun along the way. I can honestly say, Point Park Volleyball has taken those chapters out of Coach Frey’s book.
The past two plus years you have made a return to your cross-country roots! What brought you back to running and can you explain the blindfolded aspect?
My daughter Cassie who is blind and lives with autism inspired me to get back into running. It’s much easier to let a professional journalist answer that question.
It takes a great deal of trust to run a marathon blindfolded. What lessons can you derive from that experience that may apply to the court?
Running two marathons blindfolded was an amazing experience for me as a father and a coach. Our constant goal in the gym is to cultivate a culture of trust and to work hard and play for each other. Obviously I had to put total trust in my selfless friend Jim Irvin who was my sighted guide for both races. Both years around 20 miles, Jim was on the verge of “bonking.” I had to reach way out of my comfort zone and become the vocal leader and become a better teammate and “lead” and encourage him. The other part of this experience that directly translated onto the court was the message of working hard in practice. Our blindfolded marathon story had an overwhelming amount of publicity and created an abundance of awareness for the special needs community. After the race, my family and I received many kind words and compliments along the way. Such as, “Coach/Mike I saw you and your family on the news you guys are amazing, or I saw you guys at mile 15 you were killing it.” What nobody saw was Jimmy and I putting 20 mile runs in on a Sunday morning on the Montour Trail in sub 20 degree temperatures” It was great sharing the parallels of my experience(s) with the team.
Obviously Mike you don't have to look to far to find inspiration. What is your favorite story about your family and how you all interact on a daily basis, and how does your team gain perspective from it?
I don’t think I have one memory that is better than any other. Every morning I wake up I feel blessed to have Cassie, Carly and Jennifer in my life. I think the young ladies on the team have found inspiration in our story and have become more involved in community outreach because of it. Additionally my daughters are lucky to have 16 amazing role models from the team. I am truly blessed to pursue my passion of coaching volleyball in the city of Pittsburgh.
Mike has just been recently cleared by the Pittsburgh Marathon to run this year’s race while pushing Cassie! To learn more about Mike and Cassie, their inspiring story, and what they are doing to raise funds and awareness for special needs children in the Pittsburgh area please check out https://www.crowdrise.com/team-cassie
or check out Team Cassie's Facebook page at
Mike has been an integral part of “Jam the Gym” the last four years and is always checking in with us here. He has become a symbol of inspiration for special need families while successfully coaching the Point Park Pioneers. “Five Questions” is always impressed by our subjects, but never more than with our friend, Mike Bruno. Thank you for everything you do Coach!