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Kevin K. Wong Headshot

Are We Having Fun Yet?

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"I Never Did A Day's Work In My Life. It Was All Fun." -- Thomas Edison

Saturday was a "circle of life" volleyball kind of day. It started with the Opening Day of Spike and Serve's Junior Volleyball League, and ended with an NCAA record-breaking performance by Hall of Fame, University of Hawaii Head Women's Volleyball Coach, Dave Shoji. It was a day of contrasts: five year olds taking their first baby steps and learning the sport, and a legend who reached the top of the mountain yet still looks to blaze new trails. I was just the man in the middle: honoring the coach who helped start my love affair with volleyball, while also looking to pass the torch on to the next generation of "spikers."

Hawaii loves volleyball. It is our state's sport. We play indoor, grass, and beach volleyball. In fact, Duke Kahanamoku and friends invented the sport of beach volleyball on the sands of Waikiki beach back in 1915. Every weekend and most week-day afternoons you can see people playing the sport they love with the people they love... having fun.

Sometimes we lose track of the fun. There is a sentiment among some parents that equates having fun with lollygagging. In this bizarro world coaches should yell and scream and "motivate" with fear while their players mindlessly obey and march in step. Why do coaches use fear? Because it's easy. Fear is an easy way to get intensity and effort. Fear is an easy way to take the offensive and put people in a defensive situation: "I'm obviously right and have all the answers because look at the way I'm screaming at you every time you make a mistake." Nothing makes me cringe more than bullies coaching kids. Children are energetic, creative, and impressionable. Coaches who bully get short-term results in sports at the cost of long-term independence, confidence, and personal development. Are we having fun yet?

Master coaches motivate in different ways. Dave Shoji has been the Head Coach of the University of Hawaii's Women's Volleyball team since 1975 leading the Rainbow Wahine to four National Championships. On September 6, 2013 he became the winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 women's volleyball history with 1107 wins. Equally amazing facts are his awards as AVCA National Coach of the Year first in 1982 and then again in 2009. Staying relevant for 27 years is tough. Staying at the top of your game is nearly impossible. The coaching lessons that I've learned from Shoji are simple: connect with your players as people first and athletes second, model the work ethic and intensity you expect from your team, surround yourself with a strong staff then empower them, and always remember to have fun in the process.

Every Spike and Serve Junior Volleyball League session starts with a reminder and a goal. The reminder for day one of the JVL was for the coaches: "Remember the first day you ever played volleyball. Were you nervous? Anxious? Excited? Afraid? Many of these children are playing volleyball for the first time and you are their lifeline. Be ready and with a smile." The goal was for the children: "Have fun!"

Children who have fun fall in love with the sport. Once they fall in love they are motivated to work harder. After working hard they see progress. They then learn that short-term sacrifices can equal to long-term success and start setting goals. In doing this, they have already mastered some of the keys to leading a successful life. My hope as a coach and teacher is that as they mature they not only remember these keys but also remember to always "Have fun!"