Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Standing on Others Shoulders

I am an avid reader. Whether in my office at USA Volleyball or in my cozy 19th-century home, you’ll find shelves filled with books. Reading is a passion of mine because it allows me to gain knowledge from the wisdom of others. I get to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, and in doing so, I hope to create something even more remarkable.

In this blog post, I want to share two things with you. First, a valuable lesson from a respected Spanish coach named Oriol Pascual. And second, a selection of commencement speeches that I believe everyone should read.

The Power of Catalan Castling

Oriol Pascual introduced me to a concept called Catalan Castling. Until then, I had never heard of it, which amazed me considering its significance to millions of people in one country. This reminds me of a quote by Atul Gawande – “We have not effectively used the abilities science has already given us.” It’s a powerful reminder that there is so much to learn and discover within our reach.

To help you understand, I found a video showcasing the tower that won this year. Building the tower is an achievement in itself, but an even greater challenge is dismantling it in an elegant manner. I encourage you to watch the video and witness the joy of the Vilafranca group when they successfully complete the tower.

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The Magic of Teamwork

One particular aspect of Catalan Castling that stands out is the teamwork involved. It requires rigorous practice, serious planning, and countless hours of dedication. Each castle is built and dismantled, sometimes for the first time, by different teams. The real heroes of this endeavor are the “Enxaneta,” the brave boys and girls who reach the top of the castle. Without them, the castle is not considered complete. Let’s applaud these courageous youngsters who play a vital role in this incredible display of teamwork.

Inspiring Commencement Speeches

Now, let’s shift our focus to some inspiring commencement speeches. These speeches are delivered by individuals who have accomplished great things and have important wisdom to share. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. David Foster Wallace’s speech at Kenyon College in 2005: In his speech titled “This is Water,” Wallace urges us to become better learners and thinkers. This message resonates with athletes on and off the court, reminding us to continually improve ourselves.

  2. Billy Kenoi’s speech: The mayor of the big island of Hawaii delivers a powerful speech called “No Can.” This talk teaches us valuable lessons about family and how to overcome challenges. Remember, there’s no such thing as “no can,” only figuring out how we can achieve our goals.

  3. Conan O’Brien’s Harvard commencement speech: In his speech, O’Brien shares insights and humor about the non-linear path to success. This is a valuable lesson for coaches, parents, and anyone striving for success.

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If you have a favorite commencement speech that has resonated with you, please share it with us. NPR has compiled a list of their top 300 commencement speeches, which can be a great resource for finding more inspiration.

Before I conclude, I want to recommend another speech. Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” is a must-watch. It’s a poignant reminder of the value of time and living life to its fullest.

Thank you for joining me on this journey of learning and inspiration. Let’s continue to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and strive for greatness.


Q: What is Catalan Castling?
A: Catalan Castling is a remarkable tradition that involves building and dismantling human towers. It requires teamwork, practice, and planning to create these impressive structures.

Q: Who are the Enxaneta?
A: The Enxaneta is the brave boy or girl who reaches the top of the human tower. Their presence is essential for the tower to be considered complete.

Q: Can you recommend any other commencement speeches?
A: Absolutely! Apart from the ones mentioned in this article, there are countless inspiring commencement speeches out there. NPR has curated a list of their top 300, which is a great place to start exploring.


Standing on the shoulders of others allows us to learn from their wisdom and experiences. Whether it’s the teamwork demonstrated in Catalan Castling or the valuable lessons shared in commencement speeches, there is always something to be gained. Let’s embrace the opportunity to grow and become better versions of ourselves. Remember, we are never alone on this journey of discovery. Keep reading, keep learning, and keep striving for greatness.

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