Updated: Apr 6, 2020
The year was 2013. Ryan and I had been coaching indoor volleyball in Flagstaff and he was running the club called High Altitude Thunder. Early in the year a man by the name of Frank Tunnell had called Ryan up to give private lessons to his daughter Jenna and her partner Maddy Roh. The dilemma was that the girls lived in Phoenix and Ryan and I lived in Flagstaff. Ryan and I would get into his little silver Nissan truck and drive down to the park in Anthem. We would train the girls a couple of days a week and then come back up to run our club in Flagstaff. After training at both the park in Anthem and Victory Lane, the girls wanted a taste of competition. They wanted to see where they stood in the world of beach volleyball. Ryan went with them out to Santa Monica. Ironically, they ended up winning the tournament. It was awesome! After the win, the girls were hooked. They wanted more. Ryan and I would travel to Phoenix to train them, and they got into as many tournaments as they could. One day, the two of them went with Frank out to California to compete. When they went to sign in, they were required to write down a club name. Thinking on his feet, Frank wrote down "RPM Sand". R.P.M. are Ryan's initials. That day, RPM was born.
Through word of mouth, we ended up with 6 girls that year. Two 12's, two 14's, and two 16's. We also started running sand training in Flagstaff because we loved it so much. Ryan wanted to start things off right, so he called someone he thought might be able to help him to not only run a great camp, but to bounce ideas off of for running a club. It's pretty unbelievable, and I may not even believe it myself if we hadn't been roommates at the time. I got to see it for myself. The day before our camp started there was a knock on the door. On the other side of that door stood none other than Butch May. Yes, former Olympian, Butch May. Yes, father of Misty May-Treanor, Butch May. He was there to help. He was there to golf. He was there to tell the most amazing stories!
Butch came out with us every day to run our camp. He would explain the drills and then Ryan and I would run them. We would go out early in the morning in Flagstaff in July and go for four hours. We would then go eat lunch, go back to the house, and listen to Butch tell stories, or hit the golf course with him. Butch was incredible! One day he asked us to take him to Home Depot. We hit the Home Depot next to the mall after camp was over that day. He went in and bought rope and twine. We had no idea what he was doing. He came back to the house and went to work. Butch sat on the couch for the next couple of hours with the twine and the rope. When he was finished, he had created his own set of court lines. They were awesome!
Butch was famous for his one liners. Phrases such as "Frank and Lynn" or the nickname "Mosquito" became stuff of RPM legend in practices. One day, several years later I was walking out of stadium court at the AVP after RPM's 14's had just won the national championship. There was Butch. He had watched the match and waited to congratulate us. The one liner that he gave me was epic! He said, "Hey Nick, just wanted to say congratulations. It has been really fun seeing where RPM has come from to where it is now. You guys started with a bunch of hamburgers and now you have a few hot dogs." I loved it! It was pretty cool to have Butch May congratulating us on our hard work.
RPM has formed into what it is today from a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice. Ryan and I drove from Flagstaff to Phoenix to California to Vegas and then home in one weekend to coach different kids in different events. We spent nights sleeping in our cars on the side of the road, or slept in our cars on the freeway in stopped traffic. We stayed in hotels when we first started that we had to buy air mattresses and sheets to put ON THE BEDS because the hotels gross, but all we could afford. RPM was born from passion for the game. It was born from our innate need to try to give back to our community. It was born from watching so many coaches scream and yell at their players to try to get the best out of them and wanting something different. While it isn't perfect, and probably never will be, we have worked really hard to form an environment where family is its soul and compassion is its heartbeat. As you see the hashtag "RPMfamily4life" floating around, as you see alumni interacting with current players, just know that each person who is a part of the program knows that they are part of something special.
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