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HomeSportsWisconsin Volleyball's Unconventional Journey to Success: Embracing the Scientist Mindset

Wisconsin Volleyball’s Unconventional Journey to Success: Embracing the Scientist Mindset


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WAUNAKEE, Wis. – A number of hours after observe begins with gamers juggling tennis balls and Def Leppard rattling via the health club, a short time after serving teams are divided into Packers followers and non-Packers followers, Kelly Sheffield sits in a wine bar and describes his first workplace as a school volleyball head coach. This was at Albany. He shared house with rakes, shovels and snowmobiles belonging to the grounds crew. He assumes his pc was the primary one ever made. For the primary house match, he scrubbed web poles carrying his swimsuit. Thirteen individuals confirmed up.This viewers, on this Tuesday evening, is into it. It needs to be. We’re a brief drive north of Wisconsin’s campus. Also it’s $100 a head to get in.“B.S. and Bourbon” is the occasion, with a part of the proceeds redirected to volleyball NIL efforts. Storytelling is required, and Sheffield cycles via his library of hits. How he inherited the college’s “party team,” as he places it, and by some means it reached the NCAA championship match that winter of 2013. How he schemed to get air con put in in UW Field House. How he ticked off the Big Ten and tv networks with a tweet about protection. How Waunakee police as soon as pulled him over as a result of he was following his younger daughter in his automotive close to a park and somebody referred to as in a suspicious driver.People giggle between sips, however there’s a puff, too, when the visitor of honor jokes that he can’t speak about his taking part in profession as a result of there isn’t one. It’s a seminal truth, and but, wildly, information to some patrons: Sheffield runs a volleyball powerhouse having by no means competed within the sport. How their coach has carried out that little bit of alchemy, how he’s grow to be a filter-free advocate for the sport whereas constructing a staff positioned to chase one other nationwide title, is basically a thriller to them.He doesn’t want all evening to clarify that half.“If I didn’t ask questions,” Sheffield tells the gang at Red & White Winebar, “I wouldn’t be where I am right now.” Wisconsin’s volleyball staff gained the 2021 NCAA championship. (Jamie Schwaberow / NCAA Photos by way of Getty Images)

As of Thanksgiving week, the whole is 559 wins in 22-plus seasons throughout three jobs, together with 18 appearances within the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin volleyball has reached 5 Final Fours, and Kelly Sheffield has been on the sideline for 4 of them. It was 4 straight Big Ten championships till a loss at then-No. 16 Purdue on Friday put a fifth out of attain. This stopped being quirky a very long time in the past. Actually, this isn’t even the primary time a head coach with zero taking part in expertise has led a volleyball leviathan, nor the primary time such a coach has obtained a paycheck from this explicit college. John Cook — the pinnacle coach in Madison from 1992-98 — checks each packing containers, and he’s bringing unbeaten No. 1 Nebraska to city on Friday for a rematch of a five-set epic performed on Oct. 21.

Still, that is the primary time a traditionally aggressive program has a coach with a nationwide championship trophy displayed on an finish desk, and it’s a bit preposterous that “18-year-old 8th grade cross-country coach” is likely one of the first traces on his resume. To boot, the Badgers run a system utilized by solely a small fraction of the nation’s 300-plus packages, whereas sometimes doing circus methods earlier than observe or watching Monty Python clips or singing alongside to Earth, Wind & Fire within the movie room. (On the twenty first of September, naturally, after Sheffield hand-wrote the lyrics on the dry erase board.)

Because he didn’t come up in thrall to the game’s conventions, Wisconsin’s coach sees issues eclectically. He doesn’t consider there’s a restrict to discoverable solutions within the recreation. Think like a scientist, Sheffield tells his staff, over and again and again. “Sometimes you’re testing things out and it’s not always going to be perfect,” says junior Anna Smrek, the Badgers’ 6-foot-9 – that’s appropriate, 6-foot-9 – center blocker/proper facet hitter. “It’s kind of like a hypothesis. You’re working things out. It’s not your statement yet, right?” It’s the enjoyable within the 53-year-old’s fascination with volleyball — “Every match, there is a path to winning, and I’m obsessed with trying to find that,” Sheffield says — and it’s maybe solely exceeded by how he fell into it.He grew up in Muncie, Ind., and the extent of his volleyball expertise was placing a cutout of a ball o…


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