By Cassie Sheridan |
A PHD in philosophy is not something you would necessarily expect from a division one volleyball coach. However, Brent Crouch, UP’s newly selected women’s volleyball coach, possess just that. Crouch has been an assistant coach at St. Mary’s, a large WCC rival, for the past four seasons and helped the Gaels finish in the top three in the extremely competitive West Coast Conference.
Crouch’s passion for coaching goes beyond the court. He has a particular focus on the strong relationship between coaching and teaching and the benefits that result from this bond, both on the court and in the classroom.
“The kind of problem solving and attitudes towards learning that are developed in classrooms are the kinds of things you want your athletes to possess on the court,” Crouch said. “A strong and valuable student athlete culture should emphasize this importance and grow from it. An athlete that is performing well in the classroom is going to perform better on the court.”
UP seems the perfect fit for a man that values the equal importance of being both a student and an athlete and wants to develop a culture that emphasizes this relationship. The complex differences of teaching and coaching explain why one would not find this highly educated guy in Buckley Center teaching an intro to philosophy class.
“I consider coaching and teaching to be so incredibly similar,” Crouch said. “You are teaching drastically different things but you are still teaching. I think essentially what led me out of the classroom and onto the court is my need for competitive environments that I couldn’t find in philosophy classrooms. The culture was a little too isolating for me.”
That’s not to say that Crouch doesn’t have enormous amounts of experience on the court. While at St. Mary’s as an assistant coach and recruiter, Crouch also served as head coach of the beach volleyball league, leading them to the best record in the NorCal consortium.
After a few frustrating seasons for the Pilot’s volleyball team (0-27 in 2013), Crouch’s passion for competition and his desire to establish a new culture for the UP program is exactly what is needed to reinvigorate the program.
“He came in with a lot positive energy and was just really calm” said freshman middle blocker Makayla Lindburg. “He was really open to us and excited despite our record last season. It’s been really positive.”
The UP administration is excited about the new energy to invigorate what has been a slumping program.
“Brent is a great addition to the Portland family,” said Scott Leykam, UP athletic director, in a press release. “He is an educator at his core and has a clear passion and vision for our program.”
The team has been working with Crouch since his arrival at UP about a week ago and have already started reworking their skill set. Crouch has a lot of things he wants to begin working on to develop immediate positive results.
“The first thing I am going to start doing is just beginning to develop a new culture of learning and team chemistry, those are a foundation that cannot be understated,” Crouch said. “In terms of volleyball skill sets, there are certain things that can quickly lead to success on the court. Serving is a largely undervalued skill in general, that can lead to very large successes quickly and it is definitely going to be something that I start developing immediately.”
The team is excited to begin developing a new game plan for their 2014 season.
“We are doing a lot of work from the ground up,” said sophomore outside hitter Emily Liger. “Since we do have a lot of time before the season starts and we need change, it’s definitely good.”
Crouch is ecstatic about his move to Portland and the Northwest. A self-labeled “foodie” he is excited to begin exploring the copious meal opportunities the city has to offer as well as the many outdoor adventures in the area.
“I am a very outdoors oriented kind of guy,” Crouch said. “(Mt.) Hood has great opportunities for snowboarding and the Gorge has beautiful hikes. The only challenge is going to be continuing to surf. I guess I’ll just have to get some shark repellent and a wet suit and hit the coast.”
Crouch is largely unconcerned about the past records of the Pilot’s program and is excited to begin developing a firm foundation for the team with strong performance on the court and in the classroom.