I started messing with the "Five Questions" idea shortly after the last ball hit the floor at the World Championships in Italy, giving our US Women's National Team their first ever Gold Medal. My father used to say I was inquisitive...
...boy was he ever right,
Since then I have been floored by the response to my requests. Tori Dixon, Deja McClendon, and Cassidy Lichtman came through last week, and they were thorough and thoughtful in their replies. I found it to be compelling,(I hope you did too!) so I sent out more questions.
The sport of volleyball is filled with so many GREAT people, and I shouldn't be surprised by much anymore, but when your inbox has a reply from Karch Kiraly, well it's kind of a big deal.
Here are Karch's credentials...
- All American (1979, 1980, 1981, 1982)
- NCAA Volleyball Tournament Most Outstanding Player (1981, 1982)
- UCLA Hall of Fame (inducted 1992)
Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB: International Federation of Volleyball)
- FIVB Best Player in the World (1986, 1988)
- FIVB Best Player of the 20th Century 
American Volleyball Professionals (AVP Professional Beach Volleyball)
- AVP Best Offensive Player (1990, 1993, 1994)
- AVP Best Defensive Player (2002)
- AVP Comeback Player of the Year (1997)
- AVP Most Valuable Player (1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998)
- AVP Sportsman of the Year (1995, 1997, 1998)
- AVP Outstanding Achievement Award (2004)
Kiraly has been named as one of 2009's inductees into the
Add to this impressive list, World Champion, Gold Medal winning coach of the United States Women's National Team!
Did I have questions for Coach Kiraly? You bet I did. I just never imagined he'd answer them, two days later!
Head Coach, USA Women's National Team
Anaheim, at our training base, American Sports Center
Before I start with my questions, first let me say congratulations on the awesome victory at the World Championships in Italy! We may have been the only ones here in Vandergrift, PA to be watching, but we celebrated right along with you! Just fantastic!
Now that everyone has scattered across the globe to their club destinations and the dust has settled on that stirring victory, what does the typical day consist of for you?
A typical day involves lots of phone calls, emails, texts, WhatsApps, video study, Skyping with our athletes, etc; all with an eye on answering the most important question: how do we get better?
The National team is blessed with incredible depth. How much of a factor do you think that played in how strong your team was in the Semi's and Finals? Was there a plan in place regarding playing time and how you managed the team?
You’re right, we are very fortunate to have such a deep team, and that depth was critical to our success in Italy. Every athlete played important roles for USA, which made us into a fresher team in the semis and finals. Also, we got huge contributions from more than just the 6 on the court at any given instant; more than just the 12 we were allowed to suit up; and more than just the 14 who earned the right to travel. We had more than 50 people wear a USA uniform this year, and they ALL made a real difference in our group effort, along with our fantastic staff who dedicate so much time and energy to this effort.
We love how the coverage of the World Championships allowed us "In the huddle" in an all access way! You have a very calming effect during timeouts and in huddles pre-game. Is that a product of trusting the athletes and the system and is it something you can attribute to someone you had as a coach along the way?
Yes, and yes. We work very hard on developing systems that allow the players to drive this bus, since they are the ones who must make the most important decisions – the real-time decisions as the ball is in the air. They need to have a calm and clear head in order to do that. Also, as an athlete, I resonated to the calm and patient and TRUSTING approach that coaches like Marv Dunphy, Doug Beal, and Al Scates used with us.
Here in Pittsburgh hockey participation tripled after the arrival of Mario Lemieux and increased again with Sidney Crosby and the last Stanley Cup win. Volleyball is a momentum based game. How do we, way out here on the fringes of USA Volleyball keep the momentum you and your team have gained? What will the short term and long term effects of the Gold Medal be?
To answer the second question first, I have no idea for others, but for me, that result makes me hungry for more, for us to continue along the path of improvement and growth – we can still get so much better. How do you all keep the momentum? One great way is by continuing to do what you’ve already done with some of our players: ask them questions, post the answers, continue to grow – individual by individual – our vb community, through Twitter, Facebook, and everything else you have at your disposal. There’s power in numbers.
Now about that match! The US wins games one and two. China rallies back from down and takes game three, then has your troops on the ropes in game four...
We know the end of the story, but was there just a little bit of concern, knowing the Chinese had erased a big deficit the day before to win and did that ramp up the desperation level to finish the match in the fourth game?
One of the beauties of our effort in Italy was that we were never desperate at any point in the tournament – we were just doing what we do every day, no play was any more important than any other, none of us needed to do something better than she’d ever done it before. Our good turns out to be good enough, if we can do it more consistently than anyone across the net. Also, in the late stages, those are the six teams that are playing the best volleyball on the planet – of course they’re going to make great plays, sometimes in bunches like China did; of course they’re going to come at us hard and try to knock us down, knock us out. We should never be surprised by that. We should instead be thanking them – the best teams want their opponents at their best.
What other sport do you enjoy playing and is there a sport you wish you had tried when you were younger?
Growing up, I played a lot of soccer, and it made me a better volleyball player – for example, it helped me to understand how to lead the ball to a teammate (like a setter) on the move. Now, I’m way too old to take up anything new – I still love playing volleyball. That’s my sport, and I’m sticking to it.
Karch Kiraly has always been way up on my list of favorite athletes, but seeing how he managed our National Team at World'
s elevated him to the top of my favorite coach list, and the time he took to answer my questions,
propels him up my favorite people list! Thank you Coach Kiraly for always having the growth of our game first and foremost. We can't wait to see how far this group will go.
If you are interested in GREAT tips on coaching, and especially volley
ball, check out Karch Kiraly's blog at