COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, March 1, 2005 - After two days of dressing up and attending countless meetings, new USA women’s national volleyball team head coach "Jenny" Lang Ping felt right at home in the gymnasium this past weekend.
Dressed in a blue Mizuno warm-up suit and volleyball shoes, Lang Ping quietly patrolled three courts as she observed an open tryout for the 2005 USA Women's National Team and associated training programs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Players from all over the United States, 105 to be exact, invaded Sports Center II to put their talents on display for Lang Ping and the rest of the USA Volleyball High Performance evaluators.
"This is the main reason I am here this week," said Lang Ping, the former star player and coach for the Chinese women’s national team. "I have had the chance to see a lot of different players. I am very happy because they are so focused. They give all of their effort and they are taking this tryout very seriously. I have seen a lot of passion here today."
"I have seen a few kids who are pretty talented, but most of the time I have been focusing on the setters and liberos," she added after Saturday’s first session. "There are a few great kids who we will probably see in the future, but I don’t think I have seen enough just yet. I still have to get to know their personality in a game situation, which we will continue to do for the rest of today and tomorrow."
While the athletes were the obvious center of attention for the duration of the tryout, many of the player evaluators were also impressed with Team USA’s new coach.
"USA Volleyball and (CEO) Doug Beal made a ‘wow’ hire with Lang Ping," said John Cook, head coach of the women’s volleyball team at the University of Nebraska and the USA women’s national A2 team. “The next generation of national team athletes will have a wonderful opportunity to train and compete with this special coach. Lang Ping’s style and presence will be embraced by the athletes."
"The future of the USA women's national team is in great hands," added Mary Wise, head coach of the women’s volleyball team at the University of Florida. "Everyone in the volleyball community is well aware of Jenny's track record of success. The tryout allowed me to see, firsthand, her presence. When you combine Jenny's coaching expertise with her personality, USA Volleyball has hit the jackpot!"
"Jenny is my best friend, but besides that she is one of the best coaches I have ever seen anywhere,” said two-time Olympian Laurel Brassey Iversen (1980 and 1988). "She will be awesome for our team. She worked with me [at the University of New Mexico] long ago when she first started coaching. I think she learned a lot about American girls and our style of play and culture. She is the best thing to happen to USA Volleyball in a long time.
The first session of the tryout (physical testing and player meetings) took place on Friday, Feb. 25. On-court sessions were held from 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26 and from 8 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27.
Lang Ping returned to Italy, where she is the head coach of Pieralisi Volley of the Italian League’s Serie A1, following the tryout. She will assume her new full-time duties with Team USA in early May.
"I think it was a good weekend," said Tom Pingel, USA Volleyball’s Director of High Performance National Programs. "It was a bit of a challenge given Jenny’s travel schedule and the fact that she has not been here. We tried to estimate what she would want to see and how much time she would want to spend with it."
"But I think John (Cook) put together a good plan. We had good evaluators and a good staff of court coaches so it ran pretty smoothly. I think Jenny felt good about what she had a chance to see."
Throughout the tryout process, USA Volleyball was attempting to identify prospective athletes for a number of programs.
Athletes that have concluded their college eligibility and who wish to be invited to be a member of the USA Women’s National Team on a full-time basis will be considered for the USA Women's National Team Program. This program would begin as early as April 2005 or when an athlete’s scholastic or professional club season has concluded.
Also considered for training with this group will be athletes that have remaining college eligibility. Their participation will begin in mid-May or when their scholastic calendar ends for 2005.
According to Pingel, a group of “20-to-25” athletes will be selected to participate in the various national team programs and will be notified of their status in mid-March.
"The tryout was impressive with the number of quality athletes," added Cook. "The USA pipeline program is starting to pay off. The USA staff should be commended for their efforts for taking the High Performance programs to new levels."
2005 USA Women’s National Team Tryout Coaching Staff