Watching the names scroll on the video RPM Sand posted today was so nostalgic. Since there was no practice tonight, I had some time to do some reflecting.
When we started RPM, Ryan and I were both on the verge of giving up coaching. Indoor had soured us both. We still loved the game but we were so hesitant to actually be anything organized. We wanted to teach the game and we felt like club volleyball was too much management and not enough teaching. Ryan got a call from a few athletes in the Phoenix area and we started just running private lessons. It was amazing because we didn’t have to worry about benching athletes and drama between teenagers and their parents spilling over into the purity of teaching the game. (The stories I’m sure EVERY coach in ANY sport could tell about that are literally unbelievable) We would literally just show up at a park in Anthem or Scottsdale, or snag a court at Victory lane, teach, and go home. We were still living in Flagstaff at the time, so we would literally just drive down, coach, get in Ryan’s tiny Nissan truck, and drive home. We’d take the drive home to talk about what the athletes needed next time, and go about our business until the next time we came down. No tournaments, no drama, just teaching the game. If you want to blame RPM on someone, blame it on a man by the name of Frank Tunnel. It was his fault that all of this ever actually started. His daughter and her partner wanted to play in a tournament, needed a club name to register under, and RPM was born.
After so many road trips with just the two of us driving literally al over the country to try to help kids chase their dreams. Nights sleeping in the car on the freeway when a bridge washed out, or there was an accident. Nights staying in terrible hotels because we made a last minute trip because an athlete needed us. It was an adventure and one we gladly accepted because in the end, we just got to teach. I recall one night in particular where we coached in Hermosa Beach, ended late but had 5:00 AM practice at Tempe Town Lake the next day. We got on the road and there was an accident that slowed us down. As we pulled into Phoenix we realized that we could either drive home and sleep for and hour, or drive to the parking lot at the lake and sleep for two. So there we were in the parking lot with our alarms set, sweating in the summer heat in the truck. Adventure!
I sat down tonight as we reached the 2,000 medal mark and decided to pen a letter to the athletes of RPM Sand, so...
Dear athletes of RPM Sand old and new. As a team, as a family, and as a club, today we celebrate the accolades of ALL of our individuals. We know that to find true greatness as a unit, it takes the genuine effort, focus, sacrifice, selflessness, and dedication of all of its individuals.
Since RPM Sand started back in the summer of 2013, we have tried to honor those individual accolades. We have kept track of as many of them as we possibly can because we are truly proud of each individual who has ever come through our club. We take pride in watching the effort that each of you has put in over the years. The rich tradition of excellence on and off the court is something we have always taken seriously and tried to pass on from one class to the next. We recognize the important role of those before us who blazed the way. We recognize that it is because of their efforts that RPM is what it is today just as we recognize that it is because of the efforts of those of you who are in the program now, future classes of RPM athletes will be held to a standard of excellence. It is not by chance that over 70 athletes have committed to play in college. It is not by chance that most every top school in the nation has had RPM blood run through it at some point. It is because of the commitment, the focus, the drive, and the passion of each individual EVERY SINGLE DAY, that those things are possible and that they continue to be possible. Some people wait their whole lives to be a part of something truly great. It is my greatest pride in life to get to be in the mix of that every single day. So when we say thank you, please know that thank you does not do justice to all that we feel as we think of each of you. Please know that if you ever touched the sand in Horizon Park and wore the RPM logo across your chest, that you are a part of something bigger than yourselves.
How often is it that the 14 year old in a program can get a personal message from one of the girls who came along and graduated before that athlete ever joined? How often is it in a program that when an athlete reaches the professional level, she still takes so much pride in her roots that she comes back to the park and the club that she trained with as a juniors player to make sure that the kids there get to know who she is? How often does an athlete ask her juniors coaches to be her coaches in professional matches? How often does a coach get messages regularly from their former athletes asking what they can do to help the up and coming athletes in the club?
When Ryan and I started this back in 2013, we never could have imagined what RPM Sand would grow into. In all honesty, we were tired of coaching indoor and just kind of needed a new hobby. It never really got to be that hobby. From the 6 kids that we started with all the way til now, It has always been so much more than a club full of kids to us. There isn’t a single athlete that has ever touched the sand with us that hasn’t also touched our hearts. It’s so much more than hard work and dedication. In all my life, I have NEVER found an atmosphere that helped kids to chase their dreams like RPM does. It’s not just the coaches, it’s the environment that was created by all involved. An environment that KIDS feel and understand and take pride in continuing. It is with absolutely incredibly humbling pride that I get to do what I do every day with the people that I do it with. So even though the words can’t ever express it enough, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
We have come so so far since the beginning. Now, every season we sit down about a week after the season is over and the first question we ask each other before we start to plan the next season is, are we still in it for the right reasons? Do we still love to teach? The answer is always a resounding yes. That answer is yes because of, and for you. This sentiment is felt by ALL of your coaches. We are so proud of you. Thank you for continuing the adventure!