by Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was another opportunity that Jacob Girard couldn’t pass up.
So much so that Girard arrived a full 35 minutes early.
"I'm a younger coach,” the first-year Emerson College assistant said. “So I'm just trying to get experiences from people that have been around the game.”
Girard, who assists the men’s and women’s volleyball programs at NCAA Division III Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, was the first to arrive at the Lessons From The Legends event Friday night inside the Kansas City Convention Center.
Girard and other college and club coaches took part in a discussion with The Art of Coaching Volleyball trio of Russ Rose, Terry Liskevych and John Dunning ahead of the Triple Crown Sports Women’s National Invitational Tournament, which runs Saturday through Monday. The Hall of Fame coaches have a combined 100-plus years of coaching experience, a host of NCAA national championships and thousands of career wins.
“They've played and won at the highest level, so I’m just really taking all of that in,” said Girard, who also attended the Empower Your Club seminar earlier in the day. "I'm just trying to learn as much as possible.”
Rose just completed his 41st season at powerhouse Penn State, where he’s led the Nittany Lions to an NCAA record seven national championships and 17 Big Ten titles.
Liskevych led the USA Olympic team for 12 seasons up until 1996, accomplishing 300 international wins and two bronze medals, before taking the helm at Oregon State from 2005-16, his return to the college game following his two final four appearances with Ohio State’s men’s squad in 1975 and ’76. He also led the University of Pacific women to five final four appearances prior to his USA tenure.
Dunning helped the University of Stanford to five national titles and eight Pac-12 titles during his 16-year run in charge of the Cardinal women from 2001-16. An AVCA Hall of Famer, Dunning stepped down after the 2016 season with an 888-185 career record.
Safe to say, there was some knowledge in the room Friday evening.
“I just love being around it,” Girard said. “This is my first exposure to Triple Crown, and I know the good players are here, so this is where we need to be.”
Dunning was happy to offer this free-of-charge event for coaches who were just arriving to town for the tournament that’s set to host 633 teams across seven age groups.
“Our experience gives us the opportunity to let us share our experiences and it can mean something to other people who are doing what we did,” Dunning said. “All three of us are interested in giving back to the sport. We don't have an agenda except to say that we are gathering it to help educate coaches.”
Topics ranged from mentorship to finding competitiveness in players to why the trio of coaches got into coaching in the first place. On the latter, all three had unique responses.
“It allowed me to give people opportunity,” Rose said.
“I wanted to impact young people,” Liskevych added.
“It fit me and I loved it,” Dunning said simply.
Prior to the open discussion, Dunning spoke more in depth on why he thinks it’s important to inform the next generation of coaches.
"It's part of who we are now,” he said. “We have to remain learners no matter what we know, especially if we want to be great.
“We want to create situations where we can have discussions because that's what helps us evolve,” Dunning added. “It's about what works for you. You don't have to recreate the wheel."
Music to the ears of an eager 24-year-old Girard.
“I'm just trying to learn as much as possible,” he said.