Coach Explains Success of Culver Volleyball
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an interview with Culver City High head volleyball coach Joe Manzo)
I enjoy coaching volleyball because my kids are into it and I enjoy giving back what it gave to me. I started here at Culver City High about three years ago and this will be my fourth year with the boys and my second year with the girls.
When I was young I started playing volleyball with my mom. I grew up in the Valley and went to Birmingham High in Van Nuys. At Pierce College we won the State Championship and I was with the team at Cal State Northridge that went to the NCAA Semi-finals.
I ended up playing Pro Beach for a year, Pro Grass for four years and a lot of indoor with the Coed Nationals type level play.
At Birmingham I actually started coaching my senior year. I coached the JV team for four years and the team was undefeated during those years. I continued to grow and enjoyed playing as much as possible.
I made some money while I was playing, had a good time and decided to give back to the sport. The fulfillment of kids learning, enjoying the game and hoping they can continue to grow from it is what got me into coaching.
I coached at the club level for ten, fifteen years throughout Southern California.
My approach to coaching high school is to let the kids understand they are student/athletes, which means the student is first, the athlete is second. So my philosophy is: your family is your number one priority in your life, your school is your number two priority in your life and your third priority is what you like to do. I love the kids that maintain their good GPA, are hard workers and enjoy doing what they do.
Last year was my first year with the girls team. It was an interesting group because I knew some from coaching them in club and some from coaching against them. The talent level is amazing but getting them to work together is the hard part.
In general, the fundamentals of the six-person game: to understand how to work as a team, to work together with all the different attitudes, directions and ages to make it a cohesive group. Once they work together they start understanding and believing in each other and the system.
During the season Santa Monica beat us as they have been doing but we were able to take a game off of them. And then the girls got to the second round of the playoffs so it has been a big success for them since they haven’t done that in a while.
In June we played in the L.A. Watts Games. Though the competition wasn’t that strong, our team worked very hard and wanted to play hard.
We pretty much dominated the tournament. It wasn’t that it was easy, it’s just that the girls were playing flawlessly and executed everything possible.
The boys’ season was pretty successful even though we didn’t make the playoffs. We were a tough competitive team, fought against good teams and talent and did better than expected. When I started with the boys program we had 13 seniors. We lost in the semi-finals of CIF and ever since then we’ve been kind of building.
We hope this year coming up is going to be the year we’ve been waiting for to go all the way if possible.
I teach the boys and girls in a very similar way, a lot of the same systems. The girls are more about ball control where with the boys it’s about speed, similar systems but just different strategies.
We practice every day of the week that we can. During practices we try to emphasize our strengths and work on our weaknesses. We work with what’s called a transition from offense to defense, defense to offense to where we’re learning how to move, work together, play together, exert effort and most of all try to make it fun.
I think for this school to be successful, the skills and the talent’s here thanks to Marty Siegal because he has a great program here at the middle school that really develops the girls for the high school.
The boys program is a lot of word-of-mouth and just getting some of these athletes to not be afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone because to them it’s more of a girl’s sport. When they understand that volleyball does have a lot to offer, not just physically, mentally but school-wise as well, they can see there are a lot of colleges available that do take boys programs too.
The ultimate goal, especially for this high school, is to win the CIF Championship. To me, a successful season is a team that grows together, meets good friends, works hard and continues to develop a love for the game as well as an “I want to win” attitude while at the same time not getting away from that “let’s have fun while we’re doing it.”
My biggest thing is the friendship and the camaraderie they make throughout the sport between not just themselves on their team but with others. A lot of the girls and boys play club where they’ll meet friends from other clubs throughout Southern California and even the neighboring States.
It’s a great sport to meet people, hang out and have something in common with other people.