Alexa Rogers, Editor-in-Chief
The new head coach of the men’s volleyball team, Jay Hosack, is an unsuspecting force at the start of a game. He watches his players, analyzes, takes notes and repeats, interjecting only when they need an extra push. But perhaps his first most animated moment in their match-up against Pfeiffer this past Friday, was after a good volley that resulted in a point for the other team.
Valuing good game play and teamwork over the “W” is in every part of Hosack’s playbook.
“I don’t care about the W. The W doesn’t matter to me,” Hosack said. “What I care about is the process and I care about us getting better and I care about us putting to use the tools we give them as a staff and seeing them progress.”
After the resignation of long-time head coach, Fred Chao, last year, the team seems to have been stuck in a bit of a rut. Last season’s good but not great 15-28 record showed a sort of acceptance that even though they were good enough, other teams would always be better, according to Hosack.
But Hosack, with a personality that, according to Penn State’s head coach and Hosack’s former colleague, Mark Pavlik, takes over the gym, doesn’t do ruts – and the transition has not been easy.
“I walk in a gym expecting to win and I think they do too, but I think over the years it’s been more of a hope than an expectation, ” Hosack said.
According to Hosack, it started with getting the guys to be more physical on the court, encouraging them to take bigger swings and forcing their opponents to work harder to earn blocks. Libero and outside hitter Christian Malias said that it’s helped all members of the team, including the freshman, develop as players.
“Not only has it improved our game performance, I also think it’s improved everyone’s confidence. If you get blocked, it’s okay. It used to be that everyone was scared to take big swings and get blocked ad get pulled and it’s completely different this year,” Malias said.
Although it might seem like there’s only a bit of noticeable movement with a 3-9 record for the season, in part to a tough front-loaded schedule, outsider hitter Jack Wilson says he has noticed that the team has started to play more “mature volleyball” and that the biggest change will come when they start to play at that level consistently.
Now that they’re starting to get into the groove, Hosack says they’ve become a really fun team to watch.
“We’re one of the more scrappy teams in the country that sends balls over and tells them ‘that’s not good enough,’” Hosack said. “If we want to be the best team in the country, we have to beat the best teams.”
The players haven’t been the only ones noticing the change either. Hosack says he’s been getting emails from people watching the games about the team’s improved performance.
“Given time and given the support that I think Mason can eventually give men’s volleyball, Jay is not going to be worried about beating us. He’s going to be worried about winning championships,” Pavlik said.
They’ve has also been focused on better communication on the court, which has allowed some members of the team to take on the role as coach and hold other players accountable for how they play.
Outside hitter Paco Velez says it starts with “communicat[ing] everything you see. It doesn’t matter how little, just not being afraid to call something. If you make a bad call, it doesn’t matter. It’s better than not saying anything because then you can learn from it.”
It also shows that Hosack has come to coach the right team at the right time.
Hosack has coached at schools across the country, including UC Santa Cruz, Idaho State, Irvine Valley College, USA National teams and most recently, one of the team’s conference rivals, Penn State. During his time with the Nittany Lions, according to Pavlik, Hosack extensively trained an outside hitter that is now starting on the United States National Men’s Volleyball team.
As for their matchups against Penn State later this season, Hosack says it’s just another game and another opportunity for the team to showcase their talents.
“My goal is to always make it the best program it can be for that season, whether it’s that practice, that week, or that moment,” Hosack said.
Coach Pavlik doesn’t seem to expect anything less and looks forward to sharing a “healthy rivalry” with his former assistant coach.
“Jay is going to have his team ready to go and that’s what excites me,” Pavlik said.
Hosack’s coaching style is partially responsible for the team’s change. While he describes himself as the kind that might not “pat his team on the back enough,” he’s the first one clapping and cheering when the team makes a good play. As a coach, he lives by a phrase his mom told him many years ago.
“Coaches are the people that get you to do what you don’t want to do to get you to become the person you’ve always wanted to be,” Hosack said.
Most importantly, he walks into the gym with a good attitude and expects his players to do the same. Malias says that the team has changed in a sort of way that’s been refreshing for him as a player.
“Jay reminds me why I’m here and it’s because I love volleyball and I love to play it,” Malias said.