by Abi Hillrich
Phil Davis, the head men’s volleyball coach, has a history with the sport that traces all the way back to his years studying at Greenville College. Though the current men’s volleyball program began only two years ago, Davis was a member of a volleyball club at Greenville College that was started by Tom Ackerman during Davis’s sophomore year. Ackerman, now the assistant men’s volleyball coach, is still very passionate about the sport and the way it is spreading.
Men’s volleyball is just now becoming popular in the Midwest. Because of this, the conference is quite small; Greenville’s team has to travel to places such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin to play other teams. Traveling so much only strengthens the bond of these men. It is an honor for this team to be a part of the rising popularity of men’s volleyball.
Davis began coaching the men’s volleyball team last year as an assistant to Ackerman, whose passion for volleyball prompted the launch of a team for men at Greenville. This year is Davis’s first year as the head coach, and he said he loves it. With a youth pastor’s background, and years of high school and middle school coaching experience, Davis is accustomed to creating relationships with young people. He really loves what he called “helping with the wholeness of a student,” which is something he has found to be unique to coaching college-level teams. This means being involved in every aspect of a student’s life — academic, spiritual, and emotional — as well as on the court. Davis admits that he was unable to do this as well at the middle school and high school level, which is one of the reasons that he enjoys his current job so much.>
The team’s theme for the past two years has been “building a legacy.” In the beginning stages of building a foundation for the future of men’s volleyball at Greenville, this year’s team holds a special responsibility. Davis said this of what he is working toward:
“We’re about trying to build a program that’s nationally known. But most importantly, we want to build a program that will make freshmen’s character and spiritual growth evident by their fourth year. We want them to be men of high character, men that are willing to serve in their community, men that are willing to put others first. If we can instill that tradition, wins on the court tend to follow. We want to help men to understand what it means to be of high character and high honor.”
Positive energy produces this high character, and is an important part of what is taught on the court. This is part of what Davis calls the team’s largest accomplishment: staying positive in the face of defeat. The conference the men’s volleyball team is a part of contains several teams ranked in the top 15 in the nation. This can be daunting, especially as a team struggling to find its footing because of its recent creation. However, Davis said that he is most proud of the men when they face stiff competition and continue to persevere. “We fight; we don’t give up; we have a good spirit about it,” he said with pride.