Saturday, 20 Jul 2024

Mikey’s Inspiring Journey in Volleyball

I often discuss the concept of variance and bell curves in coaching and player courses, as it is crucial to understand the realities of life, even in sports. Just like how there are people on opposite ends of the height spectrum, variance exists in the world of sports as well. One individual who embodies the true spirit of giving back to the sport is Mike Hulett, the Director of the Adversity Volleyball Club.

Mike has invested his life savings to run a club that provides opportunities for both boys and girls to learn invaluable life lessons through volleyball. Over the weekend, six esteemed coaches from USA Volleyball’s top cadre gathered in Chicago to share their “secrets” and ideas on growing the game and becoming better teachers of the sport. Among the coaches were Sandy Abbinati, the Great Lakes Regional Commissioner, who was curious to see the latest developments since her coaching course in the 1980s.

During the weekend, I had the privilege of learning a few valuable lessons. One coach shared the importance of measuring success by never being a child’s last coach. This resonated with me, as it highlighted the significance of nurturing and guiding young athletes beyond the athletic field. Another coach introduced a thought-provoking question that sparked a discussion: “Where do you play volleyball?” By challenging players to think beyond the physical location, it encouraged them to focus on their positioning and reading the game from the other side of the net.

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To facilitate this learning process, USA Volleyball utilized net bands and ribbons, creating an environment that emphasized playing over the net at all ages. The weekend also brought together a group of seasoned coaches, including Cecile Reynaud from Florida State University, Stu Sherman from Graceland University, Robin Sparks, and Bill Hamiter, the USA Director of Paralympic Volleyball.

Mike, Bill, and I collaborated on the sitting volleyball module, where we highlighted how this modified version of the sport allows players to maximize their hand skills and enjoy the game regardless of physical disabilities. I took a step back, humbled by the sheer expertise in the room, as Mike and Bill brought forth their decades of experience as Paralympic coaches.

As the weekend drew to a close, Mike continued to inspire by hosting a youth volleyball training program for children as young as single digits. It was heartwarming to witness the power of his teaching methods. Traditionally, young American players are taught to serve like they throw, limiting their ability to clear the net. However, by introducing the torque serve, which involves full shoulder rotation and a quicker arm movement, even young athletes can serve the ball over longer distances.

I had the privilege of witnessing numerous kids serve their first balls over the net on a regulation court that night. The sense of accomplishment on their faces was truly remarkable. What struck me most was seeing Coach Hulett step up to the challenge and serve a ball over an adult net himself. Despite the physical limitations imposed by his prosthetic arms, Mike showcased his determination and skill by skillfully making contact with the ball and sending it soaring over the net.

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This reminded me of another memorable experience when I assisted a Marine Wounded Warrior’s blind, double leg amputee son in learning to serve. Despite his visual impairment, the player, Chuck, relied on his father’s guidance and kinesthetic learning to develop a consistent serve. Chuck eventually became the designated server at the training camp, impressing everyone with his ability to execute clean and flat serves.

Mike Hulett has been a true hero to me and countless others. Despite the loss of his limbs, he continues to give back to the sport by dedicating himself to growing the game and sharing his knowledge through coaching clinics and programs. If you ever come across him in a gym, wheelchair-bound but undeterred, be sure to acknowledge his immense contribution to the sport.


FAQs

Q: What is the torque serve in volleyball?

The torque serve is a technique that involves using full shoulder rotation and a faster arm movement to generate greater power and distance when serving the ball in volleyball. This technique allows even young players to serve the ball over the net with greater ease.

Q: How does sitting volleyball accommodate players with physical disabilities?

Sitting volleyball provides an opportunity for players with physical disabilities to actively participate in the sport. By modifying the court dimensions and emphasizing the use of their hands, players can enjoy and excel in volleyball regardless of their physical limitations.

Summary

In this inspiring article, we delve into the world of Mike Hulett, the Director of the Adversity Volleyball Club, and his relentless commitment to giving back to the sport. Over the weekend, esteemed coaches gathered to exchange ideas and insights, fostering growth in the game of volleyball. Through innovative techniques like the torque serve and the inclusive nature of sitting volleyball, players of all ages and abilities can truly experience the joy and camaraderie of the sport. Mike’s resilience and determination serve as a beacon of inspiration, reminding us all of the transformative power of sports. Join us in celebrating this extraordinary individual and his invaluable contributions to the world of volleyball. And if you ever spot him in a gym, don’t hesitate to recognize his remarkable journey.

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