NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, July 25, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Coaching: More than meets the
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ECU Volleyball Coach
ECU Soccer Coach
Photos: ECU SID
Spend more than 10 minutes in the presence of
any college coach, and you lose count of the number of hats he or she wears.
On any given day, a coach, especially of an
Olympic sport with a smaller staff, might be strategist, motivator,
counselor, tutor and friend. But in the summer time, the jack-of-all-trades
identity takes on a whole new meaning.
East Carolina volleyball coach Chris Rushing
became a high school tour guide in Dallas, and the coach of a wildly
successful 16-and-under squad. ECU soccer coach Rob Donnenwirth learned that
the dormitory water supply could be the root of more than one crisis.
Along the way, these coaches sharpened their
leadership skills and forged relationships with talented young women who
could one day wear a Pirates uniform.
Rushing, who is starting his fourth season at
the helm of the ECU volleyball program, has been part of volleyball’s growth
as a youth sport in Eastern North Carolina. Thanks to expanding rec leagues
and the growing popularity of travel clubs like Rushing’s East Carolina
Junior Volleyball Club, he said that the level of play is stronger at a
younger age than ever before.
It was in Dallas early this month where Rushing
saw firsthand how far the sport has come in the junior ranks. First, his
16-and-under ECJVC squad qualified for the Junior Olympics with a
second-place finish at a spring tournament in Atlanta. They threw themselves
into fundraising to offset their travel costs, and on June 30 they flew to
the Lone Star State, where they turned heads by finishing 10-1 and earning a
bronze medal in their age group.
“I wasn’t too surprised that we qualified for
the Junior Olympics, but the big surprise was, going into the tournament I
didn’t think we were going to win a bronze medal,” Rushing said. “They
started believing that they weren’t the underdogs anymore, and I think that
just makes you better when you’re playing with that confidence.”
Two of his players, Caroline Douglas and Pammy
Craigle, were named to the Junior Olympic All-Tournament Team. In the course
of their season, the 16-under team amassed more than 60 wins and only eight
losses, and the team is full of young women with an excellent chance of
playing at the college level.
“I’d take that any day in my normal job at ECU,”
Rushing said of the travel team’s success. “I think any coach at any level
would take that record.”
Some of Rushing’s other summer roles include the
organizer of two volleyball day camps – one for high school and one for
younger players – and the ever-present recruiting responsibilities. Most of
his players have been here this summer conditioning and assisting with the
ECU camps, but the entire team reports to begin its preseason paces on
Rushing certainly explored some unexpected
nuances of his job, but the winner of the best “How I spent my summer
vacation” story has to be Donnenwirth.
weathered all kinds of storms through a decade at ECU, and his sport is the
only one on campus that still invites athletes as young as nine to come
spend a week in a dorm for an overnight camp. So when he drove home at about
12:30 the first night of camp on June 22, he had every reason to anticipate
a smooth week until he got a phone call later that night from assistant
coach Rich Stoneman.
Stoneman reported a
mishap that was forcing 150 young soccer players to relocate in the dead of
“He said, ‘I have bad
news. The pipes burst on the eighth floor of Tyler.’ We had to move the
whole camp in the middle of the night to Scott Hall. I’m driving back up and
I see a line of 150 campers trying to get keys for their new room, and they
didn’t get to bed until around 4 in the morning.”
The coaches called off
the next morning’s session so that their campers could get some sleep. The
coaches and campers then settled into their routine – until the third day of
camp, when Donnenwirth received word that the City of Greenville had found a
contaminant in the water supply and issued a boil advisory until further
For this, his second
water calamity in a few days, Donnenwirth sprang into action, stopping by a
drugstore to spend $400 on every bottle of water they had. Much of that
supply is still stored in his garage, because the soccer training staff took
the time to drive 30 minutes to head trainer Mike Hanley’s house – outside
of Greenville – to get clean water for the camp’s workout sessions.
By the time the girls
performed their special skits in the camp’s talent show on closing night,
Donnenwirth felt like marathon recruiting trips and the season that opens on
August 5 can’t possibly rattle him after the “craziest week of camp we’ve
“I think we’re just about
ready for anything now,” he said.
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07/28/2008 01:51:29 AM