Staff member for U.S. Women’s National volleyball team returns to UTD with plans to implement strategies, poise for school squad
After serving as a staff member on the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team at the Pan American Cup, UTD’s head volleyball coach Marci Sanders recently came home with a gold medal following the team’s first-place finish.
At the tournament, which was held June 13 to 21 in Peru, the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball team swept the competition, going undefeated and losing only one set during the cup. In the final match, Team USA was able to dethrone the defending champion, Dominican Republic, 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15) to capture its fourth Pan-American Cup.
Here at UT Dallas, Sanders boasts an overall 252-101 record and a 156-24 record in conference play as well as three NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in the last seven seasons.
Before heading into this year’s tournament, Sanders had some prior affiliation with Team USA through the collegiate national team.
“It started a few years ago,” Sanders said. “Tom Pingel, who’s with the collegiate national team, was looking for a place to train. They stayed in our residence halls and ate in our dining hall. The next year, I got invited to work with the collegiate national team in Minnesota. I actually got the opportunity to co-head coach a team.”
Her name was eventually passed around important people within the volleyball community, such as Karch Kiraly, head coach of the Women’s National Team. He was looking for staff to head to Peru when he contacted Sanders with the opportunity.
“(It was the) day before April Fools day. I’ll never forget it because I thought someone was messing with me, Coach Kiraly called me and said he got good recommendations and was looking for staff to go to Peru,” Sanders said. “Of course I got excited… a couple days later I told him I’d love the opportunity.”
While in Peru, Sanders was a team leader and director of operations. Her responsibilities centered on taking care of all the necessary paperwork for the team and making sure the players had anything they needed, from their groceries to their laundry.
“I made sure the paperwork side of things was taken care of, that way the coaches could focus on coaching and the players focus on playing. So I took care of all the outside distractions,” Sanders said.
With this being her first international trip, she said one of the biggest takeaways from her experience was to not take for granted the conveniences of the United States.
“It’s definitely a different environment there,” Sanders said. “I told my family I was going to go drink out of the water hose [here] because I could, whereas there you’re not even supposed to brush your teeth with water.”
From a coaching standpoint, some key takeaways she noticed was the calm aura behind Team USA. Most importantly, she noticed the player-coach relationship, which focused on the importance of treating the players like the people that they are above anything else.
“There was a big calmness over everything within the Women’s National Team,” Sanders said. “Even though we had some injuries and things were a little stressful… David Hunt, the head coach, and the staff… kept a calm confident demeanor about them. That’ll be something I’ll carry on to my staff and my team.”
Sanders, who has led UTD to a record of 252-101 along with three national tournament appearances during her tenure, looks to translate what she learned during her experience in Peru to the team here at UT Dallas. From a technical perspective she looks to revamp the teams’ workout and training regimes as well as utilize new applications for preparation such as scorekeeping and film coverage.
Most importantly, Sanders looks to carry over the calmness and poise among the players and staff that was present within Team USA.
“(Assistant Coach Zach Villarreal) and I already do a good job of making sure the athletes feel like people first and players second,” she said. “I definitely liked that calmness and even if you’re feeling a little nervous or jittery about something or stressed out that you (roll with the punches). That’ll be something (to implement).”