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    Fighting Irish

    Sept.16, 1997

    Press Conference Transcription - Tournament of Champions

    Laurel Brassey Iversen (New Mexico)
    Debbie Brown (Notre Dame)
    Laurie Corbelli (Texas A&M)
    Sue Woodstra (California)

    Q: HOW DID THIS TOURNAMENT ORIGINATE?
    DEBBIE BROWN (DB): "I finally told the other coaches, 'OK, here is a date that I can do this--do you guys want to do it?' And we have made a commitment to have it travel to each of the four school every other year so that we could each host it. It's something that we talked about for a long time but it's something that we never formalized until a couple years ago."

    LAUREL BRASSEY IVERSEN (LBI): "All of us have thought about this. It's always fun to go to a tournament where you know the other coaches and it's more than just playing volleyball. I know we've all been in tournament before where we don't really know the other coaches. ... We're all looking forward to getting together, with our families, and just talk and have a little bit of fun."

    DB: "We all are very competitive people and all have competitive programs. So, not only is this a good opportunity for us to renew our friendships and spend some time together but it also is going to what I believe a very competitive tournament. If we didn't feel like we had competitive programs, then we probably wouldn't have followed through with it. We know that each of us can beat the others on a given night ... and that makes it even more of a challenge. ... For me, if we come out and the team plays really well, win or lose, we all are going to feel really good about it. ... We'd all like to see our teams come out and play really well."

    Q: WHAT STEPS DO YOU FEEL NEED TO BE TAKEN TO INCREASE VOLLEYBALL EXPOSURE?
    LAURIE CORBELLI (LC): "... The first thing that comes to my mind is trying somehow to get more television exposure. There is a lot of battling at our convention every year about our scoring procedures and trying to change our game to fit a TV format of two hours. ... There is a fear that we are falling behind (other women's sports) somewhat. It's constantly being talked about. We realize that our game is unpredictable, in terms of a time limit. But there's a lot of us that don't feel like we should have to change our game to get on TV. It's taped anyway most of the time and when it is on TV right now they 'chop it' or edit the best parts of the match. ... Another aspect that I continue to think about is the way that our young kids are getting exposed to volleyball. It's a game where you need a net, a court and 11 friends to get out and really play the game that is part of the younger level, 6-on-6. ... Just getting volleyballs in their hands, and not basketballs and not soccer balls, has been increasingly difficult. We put them in clubs, where they have to pay a lot of money to get more coaching and exposure to the college game. A lot of kids that are great athletes can't afford the club (route). So we are still really working grassroots to try to get more programs out there for the kids that are on the playgrounds. (On) a trip to Hawaii in May with my family, we drove by five schoolyards that had volleyball P.E. classes and they were playing outdoor volleyball. You don't see that on the mainland, (not) very often anyway. ... (It's) something that has been identified as a problem and (there have been) efforts to make changes. But, it's hard to really tell if the changes are really happening at a rate that is acceptable."

    LBI: "...in the last Olympics, (there were) a lot of other sports that did well in Atlanta. Having the Olympics in our own country, of course there was all kind of exposure. ... The (women's) volleyball team didn't do very well. They were expected to do well and when they didn't, all of a sudden you didn't even see volleyball (on television) anymore. We saw gymnastics and basketball and softball and soccer and I think that gave a big boost to those sports in the United States. So it was really kind of a setback for us, when that could have been a huge boost to expose more kids to volleyball and see the U.S. team doing very well on an international level. ... (Beach volleyball) is a different game and it attracts a different crowd. But it's volleyball nonetheless and I think in a way it kind of helps us to get exposure for (indoor) volleyball.

    Q: WHAT ARE YOU THOUGHTS TODAY ABOUT THE 1980 BOYCOTT?
    LC: "It's still a very, very soft spot in our hearts. We were a team that was kind of looked at as pioneers, in our sport and for amateur sport as a whole. Moving to the training center and giving full time to our sports, no job, no money, no schooling. We just trained and we gave up a lot for it. We just didn't see that happening with other sports and we knew that we were unique in a way and we know that was what it was going to take for us to be the best in the world. Other teams we would be competing against in Moscow were doing the same things--the Japanese, the Chinese, the Cubans, the Russians--(and they well) professionals in their countries. We knew we wouldn't have a shot if we didn't (train like) that. But it was a very difficult move to make and there were some of us that resisted it to a great extent but still had that dream. When we started to become ranked, one of the top three teams in the world ... even when they announced it on January 4, 1980 when President Carter said we might boycott, our coach said, 'I don't care what they say. We'll go to Haiti and represent Haitians. We'll go to the Fuji Islands.' I remember him saying 'We'll find a way to get there' and that was just the way he approached everything that he did with our team. We trained eight hours-plus a day, with sometimes Sundays off, throughout the 'maybe', the 'we might boycott phase' until April 23, when we finally heard the word. And that was maybe the most difficult three or four months of all of our careers as a volleyball person. ... Not knowing if we were going to go, but still ... needing to believe that we were going to go, no matter what, and committing to the training and the sacrifices that we had made. So, once that word was 'no' there was one side relief that 'we finally know' and for the other side of us it was so devastating. A lot grieving and lots of tears. It just wasn't going to be. I was fortunate enough to be a young peon in those years and didn't really contribute much to the '80 squad, very young internationally. And I knew we wouldn't boycott '84 ... and I wanted it so badly. I knew it was in store for me in four years and I didn't know if I wanted to do that. But I was young and hadn't played that much at that level. So, I was fortunate in that sense. It was an easier decision for me than for some of the others, to continue on. I was 23 and didn't want to go back to college. ... I think for Laurel and Deb, two of those that retired, that it was even rougher for them. ... It was devastating and I talk about it all the time when I go and speak to groups. (The Olympic Games) is the first thing I talk about.

    SW: "There's one other thing, for Laurie and my perspective, in that we continued on to '84. And at the '84 Olympics, it was something I had trained for 11 years for and it was quite an experience--absolutely extraordinary--and we had the chance to win the silver medal. But one of the most conflicting and difficult times was to see my (former 1980) teammates (in the stands) and not on the playing surface. ... That experience in '80 will not necessarily haunt all of us but it was an extremely difficult experience. We took some pretty great memories from our times together.

    LBI: "Regardless of what all of us went on to accomplish afterwards, I think that experience of training together and leading up to the boycott of 1980 made all of us the type of people that we are. We continued on to do other things and persevered. Somehow I feel that if we hadn't had that experience in our lives we wouldn't be people that we are today. It's helped us get through all kinds of other problems and face other types of situations in our lives that maybe we wouldn't of handled as well had we not been through that experience. ... We had so many other great experiences leading up to 1980, other tournament that we played in, and I don't know that any of us would trade any of that, even knowing that the outcome would be the same. I think we'd all do it again."

    DB: "We can look back now and know that there was a boycott but the experiences that we had and the opportunity that we had to travel the world and play against the best teams and the fact that we made a commitment as a group that we were going to accomplish something. There was such a strong faith and belief in what we were going to accomplish. The bonds that developed were so strong--I can't really describe it, it was just an incredible experience. ... My closest friends to this day are the ones that are on this (teleconference) right now and it's just because of the time that we spent together and the things that we went through, the trust and faith that we developed in each other. ... We had a reunion a few years ago and relived our stories. The thing that was great about it was that ... here were our teammates that were, at this point, spread out across the country and we just knew, and I know today, that if I ever needed anything from any of them that I could call them and that in a heartbeat they would do whatever they could for me. It's rare to have those type of friends--(maybe) one or two in your lifetime--but here we have this group that is incredibly strong and support each other through anything. For me, that's worth any Olympic gold medal or anything that we could have achieved together."

    Q: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR FRIENDSHIP?
    LC: "We know how to push each others 'fun buttons' and laugh and enjoy and reminisce. I really long for that some days. I feel like I was meant to be with a team. Even after I retired, I felt lost. I didn't go back to school, I didn't have a team to connect with, I wasn't coaching yet. I think that's where I learned what a team and close friends can do for you. And I think that's why I'm coaching because I long to have those kind of relationships. They are right there with you, you're trying to achieve the same goal, and you've got to have a sense of humor and the fun instilled in it to really make it worthwhile. The first people I look for when I'm at a recruiting tournament are the coaches on this phone call. I want to sneak up behind one and grab 'em and choke 'em and then the other one gets mad because I didn't say 'hi' to her first. It's stupid stuff, you'd think we were in elementary or junior high. But that what makes it fun for us--we're just goofy and (we) can be goofy around each other and they still know what you're like and accept you just to laugh at you. ... That's another part of these friendships that is really special to me. It's true that the '80 team was very close. The '84 team had a great group of athletes, had a great goal and we achieved great things. But, when we did the reunion, more people from the 1980 team came ... We persevered so much and really were underdogs at first, we combined a national team and a junior national team. A lot of people, even in USA Volleyball, were against our training procedures and the philosophy of our training by Selinger. (They were saying) 'What are these people doing, they are going to grow up and just be waitresses. They aren't going to have degrees.' And here we were, going against our own USA Volleyball organization in our philosophy. But we stayed with it and I would never have stayed on that team had it not been for the players. ... I couldn't imagine walking out of the gym, waving goodbye and saying, 'Good luck you guys at the Olympics. And having had that opportunity with that group and not having taken it. I'd have stayed until they kicked me out ... but it was never forced on us, it was completely a choice. A lot of people were saying that we were made to be there ... but we could have walked away any day we wanted ... the commitment was so strong, there was no way that was going to happen."

    LBI: "I think all of us have reaped the benefits of participating in sports. All of us reached the highest level but I think we absolutely got out of it the best it has to offer. I think all of believe that's what the Olympic movement and participating in sports, even at a lower level, is all about. The relationships that you build with other people, the trust that you develop and the responsibility that you learn. And I think that's what all of us now are trying to pass along to our student-athletes, trying to give them some opportunities where they can not only play good competition but also where they can enjoy the trip and maybe see some nice things and have a nice time and not just go from the airport to the gym, to the hotel and back. My players are really excited about this tournament because they know that the four of us are really good friends and they are waiting to see us in action. I think all of us are very fortunate to have made the lasting friendships ... that's something that some people never have in their lives. I know my players are really looking forward to meeting the other coaches and their teams also."

    LC: "It makes me just want to get in a big room with all these teams and have the four of us share experiences, fun times and things about the others that the girls can really laugh about and learn from. ... I know my players got to meet Sue and Debbie at the national team tryouts in April ... I practically pulled them into the dorm room where Sue and Deb were, and Debbie Green was there and myself, and just wanted them to see another side of me, I wanted them to see another side of me and get to know some of my closets friends. They still talk to me about that and still tease me about some of the stories they heard from those guys that night. ... That's part of what I love about coaching, getting to know other sides of people. ... It tells a lot about a person to meet the people that they are closest to."

    Q: HOW DO YOU VIEW THE COMPETITION AT THIS TOURNAMENT?
    LBI: "Laurie's team definitely has had some tough competition early on and they are ranked. Notre Dame is right in there. Our team is not as strong this year, we are a little young. We all know how competitive each other are and we train our teams in similar fashions and some of the characteristics that come out are very similar. And we all know that on a given night we can all beat each other. ... If I'm going to lose, I'd rather lose to one of these guys because I believe in everything that they are doing with their teams. ... If we play well and lose to a better team, that's OK. But we all want to win. Playing in a tournament with your friends is not as painful as playing against somebody that you don't care or you don't agree with their philosophy of coaching."

    DB: "If this wasn't going to be a competitive tournament, it wouldn't have come to pass. ... It's going to be competitive and a very good learning experience for our players."

    LC: "I can tell you these teams are going to get on the floor and want to represent their program and their friend/coach of the coach the best they can. I think they all have a lot of pride for what they do. ... These kids had a good rapport with their particular coach and they want to represent that coach well and I know every team is going to battle to do that. This tournament is going to be one of a lot of pride and representation. ... I'm anticipating some incredibly long rallies, great volleyball and a lot of fight. I told my team that these three coaches that you are going to play against are defensive machines ... these guys can teach defense and passing better than anyone I know."

    SW: "I think in the end we want our team to make a statement for our sport out on the court. Our past brings interest from the press and then to the people on the outside. We want people to come and ... get hooked on the volleyball."

    LBI: "(Getting back to an earlier point), it's a constant fight for us. We are always having to do things to promote our teams and get exposure. ... This is a pretty interesting story ... and it's up to us to keep the media informed and maybe it will excite some people to come out and see what's going on."

    Q: HOW DID YOU ALL GET INTO COACHING?
    LC: "My dad's a minister and my mom's a music teacher and I've always wanted to share what I could do. ... I've always thought of somehow being involved in either sports psychology, maybe coaching, maybe teaching. It was a pretty natural move for me. I hadn't really learned the skills ... I had to concentrate a lot and learn the techniques, break down skills a lot. I enjoy the kids and enjoy sharing what I know. ... I got hired as a coach without a degree from college and I thought that would be my trial year, at the University of San Francisco. I loved every minute of it. I didn't know what I was doing but sort of learned as I went. ... The game is what I love and for me (coaching) was very natural.

    DB: "I knew before we moved to Colorado Springs to train that I wanted to coach. ... When I decided to leave the team, I had a plan, and that was to finish school and to start coaching at the collegiate level. I think that helped me, in terms of my coaching, knowing as a player that I wanted to be a coach, I think you might look at things a little different than if you are just a player that is out there doing what your coach is telling you to. As a player, I wanted to understand why we did everything, why we would change things. And I think that really prepared me to go into the coaching field. ... I loved working with people, my degree is in education, and coaching is actually teaching and working with people. I do love that aspect. ... If a player comes by to talk with me, that's the best thing that could ever happen to me."

    LBI: "Late in my career, I finally accepted the fact that I wanted to be a coach. I come from a family of teachers, my mom and two sisters were teachers. ... Towards the end of my career on the national team, I saw how much Deb loved coaching ... and I really enjoyed seeing players grow and learn things. That was really rewarding to me and I enjoy that interaction very much. ... I feel like for a long time I was preparing to be a coach but I didn't really accept it until I finished playing.

    SW: " I'm probably the odd one. I did not want to be a P.E. teacher and I was not sure about coaching. I was interested in all kinds of other things. ... I played until I was a lot older than the others and was in and out of coaching. ... At first, I didn't really like coaching ... (because) of all the other things you have to do. I just thought I was going to have to be in the gym and all of a sudden you have to deal with all these other aspects. It's taken quite a while to get the whole thing balanced. I agree with Deb and really enjoy interacting with the players. ... I would have never expected early on that I would be a coach. My mother was also a teacher. ... When we finished in 1980, I didn't have any other experience ... and I too was hired without a degree. So I think we had some great athletic directors that took chances on us and thought we might be pretty good."

    Q: WHAT WILL BE THE TOUGHEST PART OF THIS WEEKEND?
    LC: "Leaving the group after a great weekend. ... I've played Deb before twice and lost both times and I know she felt bad for me. ... But I was so happy for her, her team played awesome. ... I think there's going to be a lot of mixed feelings. I think the hardest part is going to be if a team doesn't;t do as well as you want, because we all are very proud of what we do. (We all) will have a tough time if our team doesn't perform .. .and then the others will probably feel bad for that person."

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