Wednesday, March 7

Win the Workout

Shamelessly taken from Vern Gambetta's Blog, this is a great entry on his part.

This was something that my HS Volleyball coach talked about every single day. If you've won the workout, you'll win the game. If you've won the practice, you'll win the game. If you practice winning, you'll perfect winning. We won WAAAY more than we lost and every single player on that team benefited from Mr. Baranowski's wisdom both on the floor and off, even if many of us didn't realize it until years later.

I'm proud that he is now in the PA Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame because he was easily the best coach that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. In fact, I would lobby for him to legally change his name to John Aabaronowski so that he'd be at the top of the list. Back in the day, much like the Indiana State Basketball tourney of Hoosiers fame, there were no size designations in PA Volleyball. We had a total enrollment hovering around 600 students and competed against teams that would have nearly that number TRY OUT FOR THEIR VOLLEYBALL TEAM. We held our own and took our fair share of games from them, but they always had the upper hand in the end due to sheer number of athletes. But we were NEVER outcoached. Suprising for a guy who had never played volleyball and who managed to finish his first season with an abysmal record. That would be the *only* losing record for the Lake-Lehman High School Boys Volleyball team for the rest of his stay.

Over the course of his tenure as coach, Mr. Baranowski turned a Baseball/Foootball/Wrestling focused school district into a volleyball powerhouse. We dominated the district (The 59-0 during my 4 years was the norm, not an aberration) and always represented well at tournaments. Technique was drilled relentlessly. "Chalk-Talks" and video review were the norm. We scouted our opponents as a team and were better prepared than anyone else for what happened on the floor.

Practices were uncompromising exercises in focus and determination. For the first 3 weeks you were there as a freshman or sophomore you never scrimmaged. (You did get to watch, out of the corner of your eye, the upperclassmen doing things on the next court that you were always impressed by.) Every practice was laid out to the minute. Motions without the ball led to drills with the ball led to larger drills without the ball led to (eventually) scrimmages. The gym was a dingy, freakishly yellow dungeon in a Middle School that should have been condemned years ago.

Not only was it intense, but the requirements to remain eligible were higher than what the PIAA or our school required. He checked your grades weekly and sat you out no matter the consequences and you'd be running timed suicides at the end of practice until you were begging for a chance to do your homework instead.

Players from my time there went on to play at Juniata, Pepperdine and Harvard, to name a few. If you're playing a volleyball game in NE PA and there are some hick-lookin' white guys who are tearing you up over and over again, it means they went to Lake-Lehman during Coach B's reign. They know how to win and have all of the skills necessary.

When I think about the dedication that I have had in my ultimate career, I look back to two non-family influences in my life: Coach Baranowski and Mr. Edward A. Richards. Mr. Richards was the band director who did the exact same thing for the band that Coach Baranowski did for the volleyball program. Laugh if you will, but myself and the handful other athletes who were also in the marching band unanimously agreed that those practices were harder than anything we did for our respective sports...

...with the singular and notable exception of volleyball.
(Scheduled Rest Day)

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