The 2019 season for the Cal Poly Beach Volleyball team led by 2012 Olympic gold medalist and coach Todd Rogers was historic. The team won the Big West Tournament championship, making their first NCAA tournaments, and Rogers was honored with the 2019 Big West Coach of the Year Award.
“At the Big West Championships, the team played really well,” Rogers said. “Everyone gelled together. We had lost to Long Beach State at our Big West Challenge that we hosted in Pismo, so there were a lot of gals that were pretty fired up to play them again. They were ready. They were really hungry.”
For the team, passion was definitely not a problem. However, there was another aspect of their game that was crucial to their successful season.
“The biggest piece is simply communication,” Rogers said. “It’s a big area to cover for two people, versus indoor where there’s six, so communication is so critical to have in every part of the game.”
Throughout the season, the Cal Poly team was consistent in their performance. They were able to maintain a top 10 national ranking every week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll.
“We beat the teams we were supposed to beat,” Rogers said. “We started off in the top 10, and we didn’t lose any crazy upsets. We lost to some teams in the top five [in] what is a proverbial ‘good loss’ — everyone recognizes that that’s a really good team.”
Though Rogers said he keeps an eye on the AVCA polls, he also said he does not get nervous about the rankings. He said he prefers to devote his attention to other aspects of teams that are more important.
“Your video, your scouting, your practice plans,” Rogers said. “What do my teams need to do to get better?”
This was Rogers’ third season with the team. As far as coaching skills, Rogers said he has a lot to owe to his background in the sport as one of the top players in the world.
“I have always seen myself as more of a cerebral player, not dominating physical,” Rogers said. “So, I used that a lot to get these gals to think the game through rather than just play the game — thinking the game through and actually understanding it.”
Rogers said his experience and game-sense contributed a huge amount to his coaching methods. However, through it all, he said he has not forgotten the importance of good athleticism.
“My high school coach always used to say, ‘This game is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical,’ and I took it to heart,” Rogers said. “The higher level you get, the more physical you have to be to perform, so it’s probably more like 60-40.”
Even with the honors, Rogers and his team are out practicing, because he said they cannot help but look ahead to the next season.
“Well, we lose three seniors, so we have to find a way to replace them,” Rogers said. “We have a pretty talented program, so I think we can be a team that is just as good, if not better. That’s the goal, really, to win Big West and go back to NCAA. Instead of ‘uno, dos, adios,’ send some people home and make waves, instead of us being the first to go home.”