During the CSU volleyball teamâ€™s 3-1 loss earlier this season the Rams got some inspiration from an unlikely source: new volunteer coach Curtis Oliver.
â€œHe told us â€˜you guys know that youâ€™re better than this team, but youâ€™re not proving it right now. Go out and prove itâ€™,â€ senior opposite hitter Katelyn Steffan said. â€œHe brings a lot of intensity that I donâ€™t think any of us were really expecting from a volunteer coach.â€
Before coming to CSU, Oliver was an assistant coach at Colorado Performance Club in Denver under Michelle Buckner, who coach Tom Hilbert knows very well. Hilbert went to the clubâ€™s practice and after a few conversations Hilbert offered him the position.
Oliverâ€™s primary role with the Rams right now is to serve as a scout team player in practice, emulating an opposing teamâ€™s best player after watching her on film to help CSU prepare.
â€œHe simulates a very athletic top-level division one female because heâ€™s about 6â€™ 1â€ or 2,â€ but he jumps really well,â€ Hilbert said.
He also helps make sure drills run smoothly, including hitting balls at the team during defensive drills.
â€œHeâ€™s an additional arm, which we could use because I donâ€™t hit as well as I used to when I was younger,â€ Hilbert said.
Although he would like to get into coaching eventually, Oliver is primarily using this as a learning opportunity.
â€œI donâ€™t give too much feedback to the girls, but I communicate a lot with the coaches,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t want to step over the instructive part.â€
Outside of the gym Oliver is trying to get a job after recently moving to Fort Collins full-time because his position is unpaid. He used to work in Denver coaching high school volleyball and was a server at the Rock Restaurant and Bar while commuting.
In college, Oliver was an all-conference player at Johnson and Wales University in Denver, leading the team to the NAIA national tournament in both of his seasons at the university. Before that, he played at Santa Barbara City College in California, where he is from.
He grew up in Santa Barbara and played for the Dos Pueblos High School Chargers, but he got started with the sport when he was 14.
â€œMy dad played at the high school I played at. He played in college a little bit, Santa Barbara City College as well,â€ Oliver said. â€œHe was always playing in tournaments growing up on the beach when I was younger, so Iâ€™d go watch and enjoy that.â€
Eventually Oliver wants to get into college coaching, and whether his career takes him higher up the ranks at CSU or in a graduate assistant position somewhere else, he wants to keep volleyball a part of his life.
â€œI grew up playing baseball, soccer, tons of other sports, and I was a pretty good player like on all star teams,â€ he said, â€œbut once I started with volleyball I was like this is it. Iâ€™m going to be involved with volleyball for the rest of my live.â€
Volleyball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the coach
- Who: Curtis Oliver
- What: CSU volleyball volunteer coach
- Age: 26
- Hometown: Santa Barbara, Calif.
- College: Johnson & Wales University