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“If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s John Speraw”- Hoff

This will be Tom Speraw's first World League as coach of the USA Men's national team.
Lausanne, Switzerland, June 7, 2013 - John Speraw was recently appointed coach of the US men’s national team. Former US volleyball player, Tom Hoff takes a look at what this means for the team as they head into their first Pool A match today and in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2016.

“In March this year, USA Volleyball appointed John Speraw as coach of the US Men’s national team following Alan Knipe’s departure after the London 2012 Olympic Games. It’s shaping up to be a busy four years for the new recruit who will also continue to coach the UCLA’s volleyball team in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2016.

“There isn’t anyone else out there who’s better prepared to take on this dual coaching role. John’s a terrific choice for the national team and USA Volleyball is fortunate to have him at the helm. If I was a young player and I knew he was hired I would be excited to have him be leading the team.

“I know that many are wondering how he will be able to juggle two extremely challenging roles. After all, collegiate and international volleyball are drastically different as is the preparation for the two. But if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s John Speraw. The plus point is that the collegiate and international seasons don’t coincide so when one is at its height, the other is lulling down.

“Also John has had skilled predecessors in Hugh McCutcheon and Alan Knipe who have ensured that he has a solid foundation in coaching methodology embedded in the team’s DNA.  John also has the benefit of learning from Hugh’s and Alan’s good and not-so-good experiences.  So all that’s left for him to do is to take this opportunity and mould it into his own.

“To excel at the international game it is necessary for a player to truly envelope himself in the volleyball world. And I believe coaching is no different. Here in the US we function in a bit of vacuum due to the great geographical distances to Europe and South America for example. In these places there is a high concentration of world class volleyball players, teams, coaches, trainers who compete to refine their volleyball IQ. European teams in particular have a different approach to training, which allows them to continually refine and validate the success on their “team system” for winning.  This seems to be a critical component to understand as John plans for the ultimate prize in 2016. 

“It’s now up to John to choose the people who will work with him for the next four years. He knows that the success of the US Men’s national team will depend on the strength of the players as well as the group of coaches and assistants that will help in his pursuit for gold in 2016.  

“John would most likely need to assemble a diverse collection of people to help him on a multitude of fronts in being the head coach of the USA Volleyball Men’s team. They would include video/statistical analysis folks, several assistants who excel at building and implementing daily practice routines, assistants who are more focused on scouting other teams, as well as strength and conditioning specialists (at a minimum). 

“The people working with the team must be willing to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy along with being truly passionate for the difficult journey that is ahead. It’s going to be an incredible work load and if they are not ready to live and breathe volleyball, there’s no point in talking to John. By ensuring a mix of skills and knowledge, the national team’s new coach will have enough information at his disposal to ensure that he is consistently moving in the right direction.

“Importantly, John knows that he has a world-class collection of mentors to lean upon in the form of Doug Beal, Carl McGown and Marv Dunphy who have truly excelled at their craft and always willing to help out. 

“It’s also now up to the players to step up and go to work to show their coach the pieces he has to work with over the next four years. John will most likely be dealing with the delicate art of balancing workloads and commitments from “veteran” players coming in from overseas. As an incoming coach you want to establish a commitment and accountability level across the board, from first year players as well as returning Olympians.  It will not be an easy task but with his track record of success, high volleyball IQ, and astute manner in working with players/coaches, he is well positioned for success looking forward to 2016. 

“Look, this is a monumental undertaking John is embarking on, that is full of numerous risks and unforeseen challenges, but I think if you ask anyone from our 2008 team, the end goal is completely worth it.” 

Tom Hoff was captain of the USA team that won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and also helped his side clinch the 2008 FIVB Volleyball World League title as well as silver at the 2005 FIVB Volleyball World Grand Champions Cup. He has competed on the last three Olympic teams and more recently he was part of the USA coaching staff at the 2010 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship in Italy. He is currently retired from Volleyball and working for Predixion Software in addition to enjoying his post-volleyball time with his five daughters in Laguna Niguel, CA.

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