There’s no inherent reason for Nebraska to be a volleyball talent pool, producing more major college players per capita than any state but Hawaii.
Rather, The World-Herald’s Henry Cordes reported, it happened intentionally. Taking over the Husker program in the late 1970s, former coach Terry Pettit set out to improve high school play, holding clinics for Nebraska players and coaches.
Over time, Nebraska had built homegrown talent and began attracting top recruits. In 1995, the Huskers won the first of their now-five national championships. With 15 total Final Four appearances and the best attendance in the nation, the college program has engendered some of the top high school programs in the country.
Cordes’ story showed how Omaha’s success in hosting the volleyball Final Four in 2006 set a new standard and forever changed the atmosphere and expectations for the NCAA tournament.
This of course is tremendous for women’s sports overall, and we can be proud of Omaha’s and Nebraska’s role in elevating and showcasing an exciting sport.
It also demonstrates a larger point.
Human beings hold within a wealth and diversity of untapped talent. That might be in sports, it might be in art, science or any number of areas.
Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, for example, has won 21 state championships in mock trial and holds the record for advancing to the national competition. Mitchell High School in South Dakota has a long tradition of excellent show choirs. The University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop has produced a remarkable list of distinguished authors.
Lawyers who coach the Kalamazoo students aren’t the best in the nation; Mitchell doesn’t have unique musical roots; and Iowa doesn’t grow pretty words along with all that corn and soybeans.
Instead, as is the case with volleyball in Nebraska, someone had an idea of what’s possible and the dedication to make it happen.
Collectively and individually, we often don’t know our abilities.
But an enthusiastic champion, often not needing a vast investment of resources, can unlock the interests and skills lurking in young minds. Over time, that can become institutionalized and build a tradition.
It may be that the Omaha Public Schools’ plan for high school career pathways and academies, which officials acknowledge has been inadequately explained, has the potential to build such successes and create equal opportunities across the city.
But the important takeaway from these examples, from Husker volleyball to Kalamazoo’s aspiring attorneys, is that we can build great possibilities with a combination of vision and determination. But things don’t just happen. The sky doesn’t fall in our lap; we must reach for it.