Ohio State University Men’s Volleyball just won their 2nd NCAA Championship. With Pete Hanson as their coach, this is no surprise. Coach Hanson has served as the Ohio State head men’s volleyball coach for the last 31 seasons and has been named the National Coach of the Year three times.
This season, their situation was a unique path to victory that all can learn from. Their setter, Christy Blough, was experiencing some stress reactions that were borderline stress fractures.
Despite these issues, Hanson truly believed in Blough and his abilities.
“He is a tough young man, he never complained about it and more than anything hated to be missing time practicing. When it was time to answer the bell and go play, Christy put on his uniform without hesitation,” Hanson said.
Why would Coach Hanson play Blough when he had other setters to choose from? The answer is quite simple.
“[Playing Christy] we were winning and having lots of success, winning important matches. The more we kept winning, the more we felt that we needed to to keep playing the original starting team. The success and game playing didn’t hurt him, so we continued to put him out there and solidify the team as a whole,” Hanson said.
Playing through these difficulties strengthened the team like never before.
“It allowed the kids to know that every time we put that starting team out there, we didn’t make many substitutions. We played our six or seven guys and became the group that came out every day and developed a higher level of trust, a higher level of confidence, and understanding of our ourselves and our teammates. The more the guys play together the more they problem solve and figure things out themselves and prepare for big moments that happen at the end of season and in tournaments.
“That confidence showed itself in the last four matches we played, we were pushed to the brink in a couple of those and they responded without pressure, and got through it and had great success,” Hanson said.
The performance chemistry that Blough has with his teammates served for a rewarding season.
But this second championship hasn’t changed their goals.
“Our goal as a program is to do everything necessary and important to put our team in a position to win championships. We want to make sure we as a staff can deal with anything. We are playing a great team, the officials might make a bad call but you got to keep playing. We allow our kids to have those experiences so they are as prepared as they can be. That doesn’t change.”
Coach Hanson has words of advice for other coaches who might have a player with a similar situation.
“As always, we did everything we could to make sure that Christy’s health was never in jeopardy. If there was a serious situation, we took every precaution we could, be it extra treatments, rest in the week before matches, or days where he would come in and not do much, maybe stationary setting with no jumping. It was never about ‘we have to play him at all costs.’ If the injury happens then it happens, but we did everything we could to make it to the NCAAS.
“Our mindset was, we will put the best group out there and keep this winning streak going, but never at the expense of Christy.
“You have to follow the doctor’s and trainers orders. As much you might say “I love to see guys that are tough and play through pain and adversity”, you as the coach need to defer to the medical staff. If a doctor came out and said “No he can’t come out”, or a trainer said “Coach he’s not good enough to go”, don’t argue,” Hanson said.
The medical staff are there to help, so take advantage of them and respect their assessment of the situation. To athletes who are playing with injuries, Hanson’s advice continues.
“You’ve got to make sure you know that the decision making has to always come from the medical side. You won’t be put in harms way. We will not jeopardize your long term health, we can’t allow that to happen. As much as we want to win that can’t happen.
“As an athlete you must follow all the directions of medical personnel, physical therapists and keep yourself healthy and have confidence in the coaching staff that they are listening to the medical advice as well. If your coach is truly looking out for the welfare of his or her athletes, he or she should always defer to the medical staff,” Hanson said.
Thank you so much for your time and insight, Coach Hanson. We are honored to work with you and Ohio State Volleyball. Congratulations once again on the National Championship!