Goss: Friend wearing red, white and blue this summer
June 24, 2012 5:08PM
Lewis men’s volleyball coach Dan Friend is coaching the U.S. Boys Youth National Volleyball Team as it competes in the NORCECA Boys Under-19 Continental Championship from July 1 through July 7 in Tijuana, Mexico. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 26, 2012 6:08AM
Dan Friend is widely recognized as a volleyball guru.
He also has an impeccable sense of timing.
Friend, who guided the Lewis University men’s team to a national semifinal finish in the spring, has been coaching in the U.S. national volleyball program “for about eight years.” However, until now it was as an assistant.
Wouldn’t you know it, this is his first go-round as a head coach and it’s an Olympic year, with the Summer Games getting under way in about a month in London.
“Any time you can be part of USA athletics, it is awesome,” Friend said. “When it’s in a year when the Olympics are going on, it makes it all the more special.”
Friend is coaching the U.S. Boys Youth National Volleyball Team this summer as it competes in the NORCECA Boys Under-19 Continental Championship from July 1 through July 7 in Tijuana, Mexico.
The top two teams at the NORCECA (North Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) Championship will qualify for the 2013 FIVB Boys Youth World Championship.
Friend’s team began preparation Saturday and will continue practicing through Friday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
“I’m working mostly with 16- to 17-year-olds,” Friend said. “For most of these guys, it’s their first opportunity to be in this type of venue. So I’ll be helping them understand how important this is and how proud they should be to represent their country.”
Friend was an assistant coach in the World Championship in Argentina last summer. In 2009, he traveled to Italy as an assistant.
“I guess they like what I’m doing, so they keep asking me to get involved,” he said. “This is a great honor to be a head coach.
“And from a personal standpoint, this summer is good because I’ll only be away with the team a total of about 15 days. Last year I was away 35 days.”
Friend has coached world-class volleyball talent during his nine-year tenure at Lewis.
“We have Greg Petty, who was on the Junior National Team with me last summer in Argentina,” he said. “We’ve had a handful of guys over the years who have been involved in the USA pipeline.
“For me, there has been a direct correlation between coaching USA teams in the summer and being able to recruit some of those guys for our program at Lewis.”
Of course, there are things Friend can do, things he can teach, at Lewis that he does not have time to introduce in the summer program.
“Especially with kids who are 16 and 17 years old, I don’t want to overload them,” he said. “I just want them to be as successful as they can in this type of atmosphere. It has to be a simple and short plan. Yet at the same time, I want them to medal and qualify for the World Championship.”
Regardless of the outcome in Tijuana, Friend is in an enviable position.
“Getting the experience to represent your country, especially in an Olympic year, is awesome,” he said. “It is always a proud moment to put on the USA colors, but maybe even a little extra special this year.
“I’ll get to talk to the guys on the team about the Olympics, make them aware of how much they mean. Everyone wants to be part of the Olympics. For some of the guys on this team, this will be as close as they get. For others, they will continue to pursue it and go further.”
Around the diamonds
Lockport wins tourney: Kudos to coach Andy Satunas and his Lockport summer baseball team.
The Porters competed in the 19U Battle of Omaha and came away with the championship. The 16-team event included teams from six states and Puerto Rico.
Lockport, which went 4-1 in the tournament, beat Omaha Burke 7-6 in the title game. Doug Matthews’ double, capping a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, was the game-winner.
CrackerJacks’ Smith a winner: The Will County CrackerJacks beat the Chicago Zephyrs 11-3 in a Midwest Collegiate League game Thursday night at Brennan Field on the Lewis campus.
What’s so special about that, you ask?
Remember Jim Abbott, the one-handed pitcher and former major leaguer with the White Sox and Yankees? The CrackerJacks have a one-handed pitcher from Tennessee-Martin named Carter Smith. He earned his first victory of the season against the Zephyrs, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out eight in 71/3 innings.
Of course, it mattered not what the win-loss record said. Smith already was a winner.