The following blog post is not so much about volleyball, camps, clinics, and instruction. It’s a bit of reminder that there are much bigger issues facing our players, our colleagues, and our communities. Sometimes, however, we can try to use our influence to help relieve or tackle some of those issues. To the community of Joplin, Missouri and the College Heights Christian School, our hearts and prayers are with you in your recovery efforts. To Mary, Nir, Lauren, and the volleyball program at College Heights, thank you for your courage and dedication to each other. Here is just a small part of their story:

From Mary Colin:

I would like to thank Tom, Mike and the other staff at GMS for being so great to my program and me during this difficult summer. I have been attending Gold Medal Squared clinics for seven years. I value everything they have to offer to my program and me! Our school is located in Joplin, MO. After the recent F5 tornado, I heard from Tom, Carl and Nir promptly, as they were concerned about our well-being. Then, Tom sent his coaching staff here to run a GMS camp, literally to tornado alley. Nir and Lauren were so patient and kind to my athletes. As my first year as head coach at this school, the GMS training was all new to my athletes. Nir and Lauren were so professional and GREAT!! My kids were playing strong and competitive by the end of camp. The summer was tough, and the transition back to school was tough, but getting to play volleyball has made it okay!! In the words of the girls “Can we play 6 v 6 first, and skip warm up”!!!

If you have been to a coaching clinic, then you know how great the training is from Carl and Chris! I can’t thank Gold Medal Squared enough not only for their continued support to me as a coach, but for their friendships as well!!

Mary Colin
Elementary Principal and Head Volleyball Coach
College heights Christian School, Joplin MO

From Nir Ofer, Assistant Coach, Towson University

“What kind of tea would you like?” asked the young woman behind the coffee shop register. I was about to answer when I was cut off by the sound of a woman weeping. It was blaring from the television mounted to the wall. She was sobbing about her home, a pile of rubble. The shot cut to a nightly news anchor. He was reporting on the current death toll caused by a tornado that plowed through Joplin, Missouri. I froze.

Joplin was the site of a camp I was assigned to coach the following week. Shortly after collecting myself, I hustled home and called Mary, the host coach. She informed me that she, along with her family, were safe. Later, I heard from Tom Melton, that the camp would still be held, but in a town nearby. I was asked if I’d still like to coach. That single question opened a flood gate of thoughts. Would the girls be in the right state of mind? Would we be safe? Would I be able to handle the devastation? My mind was racing, but I quickly came to one conclusion. There was no way I could back out. There were fears associated with visiting a disaster-stricken area, especially one which was still potentially dangerous, but I wanted to do my small part to help Mary and her players return to some sense of normalcy. Volleyball has always been my escape from stress and worries, both as a player and coach. I needed to offer these players the same opportunity.

Our first night we drove through ground zero, the area of greatest devastation. It was a surreal moment, sending shock waves through my body. Entire neighborhoods were flattened. Homes were ripped in half. Trees were completely uprooted. Cars were turned upside-down. We stopped at Mary’s parents’ house, now a pile of earth-laden rubble. She gave us a tour of the property. Shattered glass covered the ground. The walls were torn in half. The roof now opened to the sky. It was a war zone. My heart sank.

The next morning I was introduced to the players. Some were slightly withdrawn, still processing the disaster. Others were upbeat, ready to enjoy some distraction, however small it might have been. I looked into these girls’ eyes, and knew this week would be unlike any other week in my coaching history. This would be a bittersweet challenge and joy. I took a deep breath, and we began.

The week flew by. We had moments where nothing else mattered but volleyball. And, we had moments where emotions ran high and left tension in the air. In the end, I can wholeheartedly admit it was one of the most fulfilling camps of my life. I want to give a shout-out to the bravest people I’ve met in a long time. You’re role-models for courage for strength. Thank you, Missouri. You’re constantly in my thoughts and my prayers. I cannot wait to see you next year. Now, pop quiz, what’s the third key for passing?

*Mary and Nir thanks for sharing your stories. If anyone would like to help the families in Joplin, Mary Colin can direct you (mcolin@collegeheights.org). Nir, thanks for sharing your photos.

Tom