Committed coach elevates IT volleyball, leads team to state for fourth time

By Sophia Hysaw, Staff Writer & Opinion Editor

               Sophia Hysaw

The echo of thundering footsteps is almost louder than Sharkey’s voice as he shouts plays and advice to the boys on the court. The smooth volleyball bounces from pass to set to spike and Coach Sharkey thrills at the movement of the team as players follow his instructions. Watching the teammates rebound off each other reminds Sharkey of his childhood days of playing.

“I did play volleyball. I found it in about eighth grade playing with friends at the local park district programs. I was a setter all my life,” Sharkey said.

Though he started playing at such a young age, Sharkey continues to feel a passion for the game.

“I started because my friends started, and we just found a passion for it. The game is the ultimate team sport and really brings out the best in everyone in a program,” Sharkey said. “The people in this game are amazing. It’s also a sport you can play your whole life. Lots of kids start in their early teens, and I know a lot of people still playing in their 50s and 60s at various levels.”

Sharkey’s passion has lasted throughout the years of his life, and he admits that every team has something specifically special about them.

“Early in the year, we had a team meeting where we defined ourselves as scrappy, gritty, blue-collar, hard-working guys that no team is going to like having to play against. That was who we were, and we were good at it,” Sharkey said.

Team Captain and team MVP Alexander Feudner described how Sharkey played his role within the team, utilizing his passion for drive and encouragement.

“Sharkey has made a great environment by being a friend as well as a coach or teacher. He has always messed around with us and made jokes while pushing us to be better at volleyball,” Feudner said.

Jack Esser echoed this explaining how, though the team did have the talent, it was Sharkey who helped formulate it into a structure.

“To get our team to state, it definitely took talent, but it really did take good coaching to be able to get us to where we got,” Esser said.

Sharkey looks back quite fondly on that state game as his favorite memory of the season.

“My favorite memory with the teams that make it to state, this one included, is the joy of seeing these guys getting to experience playing in front of hundreds of fans in the championship venue,” he said. “Not many kids get that experience. They truly appreciated it and realized that all their hard work from the season went into getting them to this place. It’s just an honor to coach kids that appreciate stuff like that so much.”

Though Sharkey loved this last season, he is already thinking of the next and how they can continue to foster a fun and successful environment.

“We’d love to see more athletes –especially freshmen– come out for the program next year. We need athletes to tell their little brothers, neighbors, friends, cousins that boys volleyball is exciting and that we have a great (and successful) program that they all can be a part of,” Sharkey said.