Today’s Guest – USA Assistant Coach Joe Trinsey

Joe TrinseyIn our very first episode of The Volleyball Life, we talk with Joe Trinsey, who’s currently working in Europe with a Men’s Professional Team during his off-season as an assistant Coach for the USA Women’s Volleyball Program. Enjoy the show!

Chris:  Hello, everyone. I’m Chris McGown, with Gold Medal Squared, and today is the maiden voyage of our new podcast. We’re calling it The Volleyball Life Podcast by Gold Medal Squared.  Our first guest ever is Joe Trinsey.  Joe is an assistant coach with the USA Women’s Program. We’re talking to him about his off-season, his origins in the sport and how he got into coaching.

Chris:  Hey, everyone. We’re excited to be talking with Joe Trinsey today. He’s the technical coordinator for the USA Women’s Volleyball Team.  Is that the title we’re giving you here?

Joe:  Yeah, it works.

Chris:  How do you like to refer to yourself when people ask you what you do with USA?

Joe:  I just say assistant coach.  Technical coordinator implies that I’m doing something a little bit different besides just coaching volleyball.  This is accurate to a certain point because I handle the statistics and scouting.  However, I do spend a lot of time coaching in practice as well.

Chris:  All right. Joe Trinsey, assistant coach, with USA Women’s Volleyball. And you’re not in the USA right now, right?

Joe:  No, I’m actually in Berlin, Germany.  I’m assisting with a men’s professional team for a few months.

Chris:  Sweet. How does that work? How did you end up over there?

Joe:  Well, first of all, you have a great boss who’s okay with you being able to work from a distance.  That’s the first step.  I’m always thankful to Karch for letting me pursue these things which is some personal development, which I hope I’ll take back to the USA program. With USA we’re in the off-season so most of our athletes are scattered around the world.  We had a German Cup match on Wednesday, and now we’re getting ready to play the Berlin team on Saturday which has a couple of USA National Team guys, Paul Lotman, and outsider hitter and Erik Shoji the Libero.

Chris: That’s awesome.  Often times people assume that the women’s team is always training in Anaheim.  The reality is that most of the players that are good enough to play for you guys, to start for you guys, are actually under pro contract during the winter, right?

Joe: Yeah, on the women’s side, every player is a professional. We always have a couple that might stay home. Sometimes it’s a family thing, maybe they just got married or maybe they just wanted a break from playing overseas. Sometimes the year long thing gets to be a grind.  For most, typically when the national team season ends, they hop on a flight, usually to Europe, Brazil, Japan or China.  In a way, it’s a little bit like playing high school ball and then going off to your club team with some of the same time conflicts and both teams wanting their players for as long as possible.  Even at the highest level, you never get away from that.

Chris: That’s interesting. And you guys as coaches, you don’t exactly get a break?  Isn’t there always stuff you guys can be doing?  I think it’s pretty good thinking for Karch let you go have coaching experiences in a different environment. And like you say, it’s personal development, but that’s only gonna be good for USA when you get back, don’t you think?

Joe: Well the thing is, I think we have to be constantly seeing other styles of volleyball, especially on the women’s side.  It’s no secret that in some areas, the women’s side follows the men’s side. But maybe some things on the men’s side are now following the women’s side. I think you’re seeing a lot more men going to a jump float serve, but a really aggressive jump float serve with a little higher toss and a full jump.  David Lee on the national team is a perfect example of that.

Chris:  Yeah, I know middle blocker Russ Holmes has a great jump float as well.

Joe:  It’s funny. I have some matches back when Karch played, ’84 and ’88 and all that. And that was just when you were starting to just see jump spin on the men’s side. They had Eric Sato coming in and hitting his jump spin. He was the dynamic serving specialist. Funny enough, a lot of times now we’re seeing guys who are serving subs, who are float servers.  They have targeted a specific guy on the other team who might not know how to pass a float very well.  It’s interesting to watch that evolve.

Chris:  Well you’ve got a little bit of an interesting story, how you landed at USA and how you ended up in coaching to some degree. Tell us a little bit about your background. You’re an East Coast guy, originally.

Joe:  Yeah, East Coast guy. Grew up in Delaware and my parents coached club volleyball. That’s one of the things, you don’t think of Delaware as the hotbed for volleyball. When I’m out here in Southern California, which is still the volleyball USA capital, and I tell people I’m from Delaware, they kinda give me like, “Oh, that’s really nice.” Like I’ve achieved something just by making it from Delaware to California.

[chuckle]

Joe:  When I was really little we actually lived in Southern California. My older sister played club volleyball.  When my parents moved to Delaware there wasn’t really much club volleyball going on.  My dad and my mom, they had coached football and basketball but they had never volleyball.   I think attending a few volleyball clinics, watched some VHS instructional videos, then started a club.  Club volleyball is like the mafia, once you get sucked into it, you’re in there for life.

[chuckle]

Chris:  That’s it, you’re in, yeah.

Joe:  They’ve been doing that ever since.  I was in gym from an early age.  As I got a little older, I got a little more interested and started peppering with some of the athletes.  Just hanging around with my parents, helping out with their practice, just being an extra body in the gym.  In high school I ended up coaching kids that were middle schoolers, giving lessons and continued that throughout my college career.  As far as getting involved with USA, this probably sounds like some sort of product placement advertisement, but a lot of it has to do with meeting your dad, Carl at a Gold Medal Squared Clinic in New Jersey.

Carl McGown was the guy who opened my mind. I had been coaching in my little area and was always questioning things or analyzing the game. My first time at a Gold Medal Squared Volleyball Clinic I was like, “wow, there’s other people that are thinking about the game like me. I’m not just this crazy guy out here in Delaware.”  Carl really challenged me to think deeper and to go outside my little area.  He told me to get out to the University of Washington, Pepperdine, BYU etc and to watch those guys play.  So, I saved up my summer volleyball camp money and moved out to California.

In 2012 the club team I was coaching qualified for JOs.  I had a two-month period between then and JOs.  Carl put a good word in for me with Hugh McCutcheon, who was coaching the Women’s National Team at that point,  Basically I said, “hey, I’ll come, I’ll shag balls, whatever you need I’ll do.” I treated it like a two-month long coaching clinic in my mind, but when I got out there, I had learned about Data Volley and the statistics end.

One thing led to another and I ended up more involved with the USA program. When Karch took over as head coach I was fortunate enough for him to select me as a full-time member of his coaching staff. It’s been a pretty interesting ride, [chuckle] to say the least.

Chris:  Often times coaches will ask “how do I break in at the higher levels?” Some of the things I tell them is, “hey, you have to keep getting coaching reps, you have to always be coaching, so keep coaching your high school team, coach your club team, coach as much as you possibly can.”  The other thing is I tell them a lot of times is “work for free, just go and volunteer.”

Earlier in the show you had mentioned that you got zillions of coaching reps working camps.  This is where it began for you and where it begins for so many others.

You were always coaching and I was really impressed with that.  But, the thing I think that impresses me the most is you put yourself in a position to go get hired by USA Volleyball, simply because you were willing to go out there and just… “hey, I’ll shag balls.”

Joe:  I’m really thankful that I didn’t go right into college coaching. I think that’s what happens with a lot of young coaches who play in college. They play in college and they know they wanna continue coaching.  Often what happens is they come into college coaching, they’re a volunteer assistant, they’re the low rung on the totem pole. Often times (not always) what happens is they aren’t fully trusted by the rest of the staff.

Chris:  Oh yeah, they’re not trusted to do any coaching. You’re booking flights, and you’re planning meals, and you’re inflating volleyballs, and yeah.

Joe:  I actually didn’t really want to get into college coaching. I loved, and I still do, love coaching 12 year olds, 14 year old kids who are just learning the game.

All of the coaching reps I had under my belt really helped me when I had the chance to volunteer with USA and Loyola Marymount University.  It allowed me to step right in and coach. My first college exposure was coaching Division I and for a pretty good team. We made the NCAA tournament that year, we got votes at some point in the year to be ranked.  I could step right in and coach these kids because of the reps I had working volleyball camps etc.

Chris:  And that’s really where the magic comes. Is not so much in knowing the craft, but in communicating the craft and getting kids to get better. You’re this classic outliers model, right? You’re one of those guys that burst on the scene… Came out of nowhere sort of thing, but you’d been putting in the work for all these years, getting thousands and thousands of reps and it’s the classic Bill Gates model, where he went to the University of Washington and just coded for hours and hours and hours and then out of nowhere founded Microsoft. But it wasn’t out of nowhere, he’d had this baseline education in code and in computers and stuff that had happened behind the scenes.

Joe:  I think it was actually a huge advantage for me to play Division III ball in Delaware.  I had a good Division III career. We had a good team and I was All-American, but certainly I wasn’t playing at BYU for you or your dad. I wasn’t playing at Pepperdine for Marv. So when I got exposed to Gold Medal Squared this was my first exposure to high level volleyball.  I was like, “holy crap.” And I think maybe some people who come up in a more developed volleyball culture, they almost take it for granted.  For me it was such an eye opening experience I was like, “Oh my God, I have to learn everything these people know.” And it worked out to be a huge advantage for me.

Chris: Okay, awesome. Well good luck there in Europe. Hope you guys have a wonderful time and really appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us.

Joe: Yeah. Good to hear from you, Chris. I’m sure we’ll talk soon.

Chris: Okay, sounds good.