Sept. 17, 2009
BY AUSTIN BAIRD
When Tennessee volleyball coach Rob Patrick was a walk-on quarterback and captain of the volleyball team at Miami University, he was surrounded by a coaching tradition that has been a "huge influence on his career."
Long known as the "Cradle of Coaches" for its uncanny ability to produce high-caliber coaches, Miami served as training grounds for such greats as Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Paul Brown and Earl "Red" Blaik, in addition to the roughly one hundred Miami of Ohio graduates who currently coach at the collegiate or professional level.
"I was one of those guys that was on the scout team and got beat up every day, but I loved it and wouldn't trade it for anything," Patrick said of his three years playing football at Miami. "It really gave me an appreciation for the experiences and tradition that Miami had for their coaches."
Of his coaches at Miami, Patrick mentions a young Jim Tressel as one of the most memorable--then a graduate assistant and quarterbacks coach, Tressel has since won four Big Ten championships and the 2002 BCS National Championship as Ohio State's head football coach.
"I was looking back at some of my media guides and I remembered, `Oh yeah, Jim was there.'" Patrick said. "It was neat to have a little connection with somebody that's gone on to greatness like that."
"I don't know exactly how Miami became an incubator for outstanding coaches," Tressel told Coach and Athletic Director Magazine . "But it is a great school to experience--a place that believes strongly in teaching, academics, and the culture of football."
With five NCAA tournament appearances and an SEC title of his own, Patrick is already UT's all-time wins leader with 249 in 13 years as head coach.
Continuing Miami's tradition of producing future generations of coaches, at least 13 Lady Vols players and assistants have gone on to coach after their time with Patrick.
"I couldn't be more happy or proud of them. I can see them sitting there now in their offices mentoring young ladies just like I mentored them as they were growing up," Patrick said. "It's not so much about coaching--it's about teaching, leading and mentoring. They're great people that would be able to do that."
Patrick says one of the greatest traits he acquired from his coaches at Miami and throughout his career is the ability to demand a high level of play on the court without driving athletes too hard and causing them to burn out.
"So many young ladies that go through our program here--and it's not easy," Patrick said. "But after they leave here, they still would like to play volleyball, or coach and stay involved with the sport."
According to Patrick, Hester and Piantadosi both required a great amount of mentoring and instruction off the court while at UT--the same type of coaching he required when he played at Miami. He believes both, however, have grown into especially strong coaches as a result.
"They didn't always get it, and I would have meetings with them every couple weeks just to explain, maybe the difference between making good decisions and bad decisions," Patrick said. "They'll end up doing a great job [at mentoring young athletes] because they had to go through some of those not so good decisions themselves."
While Patrick said he would not be surprised if anyone on his current roster entered coaching after their playing careers end, he mentioned senior Carol Cheade's steps to prepare herself to coach immediately after her career ends this December.
"When she finishes her career here [she will be] getting into coaching in club volleyball [in Knoxville]," Patrick said of Cheade. "She wants to give back to the sport that's given so much to her."
Now preparing for this season's conference schedule, which kicks of Friday at 8 p.m. against LSU in Baton Rouge, Patrick says Cheade's experience and confidence on the court will be a key to the team's success this year.
"It's great to have players like Carol on our team as we look ahead to the conference schedule," Patrick said. "Our conference is going to be twice as good and twice as competitive as it was last year. "It's going to be a great test for us and a great opportunity for us to go on the road and down to LSU to battle it out this weekend."
|Patrick's 'Cradle of Coaches'|
|Jasmine Fullove||Assistant Coach at IPFW|
|Janelle Hester||Head Coach at Augustana College|
|Joselyn Johnson||Volunteer Assistant Coach at Tennessee State|
|Julie Knytych||Club West volleyball club in Southern California|
|Lauren (Clayton) Love||Head Coach at Starkville (Miss.) HS|
|Amy Morris||Assistant Coach at Tulane|
|Ann Mullins||Head Coach at Siegel HS in Murfreesboro|
|Kim Obiala||Assistant Coach at Ryle HS in Union, Ky.|
|Michelle Piantadosi||Assistant Coach at Nova Southeastern|
|Former Assistant Coaches|
|Sherry Dunbar||Head Coach at Indiana|
|Mike Minnis||Director of Coaching at Dallas Premier Volleyball Club|
|Former Volunteer Assistant Coaches|
|Phillip Bennett||Head Coach at Lenoir City (Tenn.) HS|
|Mitch Kallick||Assistant Coach at Cal St.-Fullerton|