Working with Sarah Sponcil
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
One day Ryan called me up and said, "hey buddy, any interest in being my assistant coach with one of the pro teams? Wait, what am I saying, I'm your boss, you have no choice." I just kind of laughed. He knew that my dreams as a coach have always been to see how far I can go with it. To see how the skills I have learned would translate to the higher levels of the game.
What I haven't mentioned yet is that I am fluent in Spanish and that my day job is to teach high school Spanish. How does this relate to coaching professionally you ask? Well, I'm pretty full of dumb luck situations and this is another one of them. Sarah Sponcil had transferred to UCLA from LMU. She was finishing up her junior year, had just won a national championship, and needed a Spanish class to graduate from UCLA. She was also preparing to go play overseas in hopes of starting her international career and trying to qualify for the Olympics. She and her partner at the time, Lauren Fendrick, had hired Ryan on to coach them. Ryan took me with him to help him run practices, toss balls, and whatever else he needed. I took it as an awesome opportunity but of course wanted to make myself as useful as possible.
Sarah and I got to talking one day at practice about how she was taking this online Spanish class and how hard it was for her and how hard it was going to be for her to do it while she was overseas playing. I told her that I would love to help her if she needed help. As Ryan, Sarah, and Lauren headed off around the world to different international events, Sarah and I would talk on the phone to figure out Spanish stuff and Ryan would have me watch videos on teams they were going to play and take notes. I would give him my thoughts, stats, and any key things I thought could help the team, Now, I am not sure if he ever actually used any of the things I gave him, but it sure was a cool experience to get to feel like a part of the team and a huge help to me to get to have discussions on incredibly high level volleyball night in and night out. Yes, Sarah passed her Spanish class, and I got an education of my own in the process.
A few months later the AVP Hawaii came around. Ryan and Sara invited me to go out there and work with Sarah and her then partner Therese Cannon (USC Graduate). Yet again, an incredible experience. This was my first event where I got to scout ahead for teams that we would end up playing next. I sat down and took as many notes as possible. I took short video so Ryan could see the things I saw also. This tournament was an international event. I scouted Brazil, and Australia. I even scouted April Ross and Alix Klineman. I got more and more invaluable experience. I began to really form game plans for how to beat some of the best teams in the world. Ryan was so incredibly patient with me. He would validate my ideas and help me build them even more. It was absolutely incredible! I'm very grateful to Ryan, Sarah, Lauren, and Therese for giving me the opportunity! You all are amazing!
Since Hawaii, Sarah and I have remained friends. She is an incredible person. So giving of her time, and so willing to just always help others. She truly wants to have an impact on the kids of the world and I love it! I have asked her multiple times to shoot me off little videos to talk to my classes about things and without any hesitation, she is always willing to do it! She is one of my favorite people, not because she is such an incredible athlete, but because she represents everything that is good about people. Kindness, patience, selflessness. It's really funny, they say that in life you gravitate toward the people that you want to emulate most. I could never do some of the amazing things that she does on the court, but I definitely hope that I can put out into the world all of the kindness that she does all the time! I am very impressed by her and I am very honored to call her my friend. If you enjoyed this post, give it a like. Feel free to check out my other posts while you are here too! There are some good insights on a variety of beach volleyball related topics along with products I genuinely recommend!