After 13 seasons with the Tiger women’s volleyball team, head coach Paco Labrador was named to Miami University’s Cradle of Coaches on Wednesday.
“It’s a huge honor to be considered in the same class as all of the members in the Cradle of Coaches,” Labrador said, who was humbled by this award.
Labrador joins the ranks of other big names in sports, who have also had heritage with Miami University, such as John Harbaugh, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.
Labrador earned his masters of science in sports studies from Miami, and also began his coaching career there as an assistant from 1999 to 2002.
“It is truly an honor to work alongside Paco,” said Gary Williams, Wittenberg’s director of athletics. “I have never met a coach who has accomplished so much and yet is so humble.”
“Paco displays incredible conviction, pride and self-discipline in what he does and despite all his personal and team accolades, he still challenges himself and his women each day to get better and better,” continued Williams. “Paco is a gift – to our university, to our athletes, and to the sport of volleyball.”
Many honors have been awarded to Labrador for his success with the Tigers. Since his start as head coach in 2003, the Tigers have made 13 NCAA Tournament appearances, including one national championship win of two appearances, six regional championship wins and 12 North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship wins.
“Many words describe him: innovative, organized, precise, patient, professional, amusing and highly competitive!” said Carolyn Condit, head women’s volleyball coach at Miami. “I knew he was headed toward greatness when he guided Wittenberg to its first national title. I was not surprised.”
As a coach, Labrador has earned Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year twice, and NCAC Coach of the Year seven times. He was also named American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) coach of the year in 2011.
Also in his 13 years, he has produced 14 student-atheletes who have been honored as All-Americans.
“It is amazing to see the impact a coach has on his athletes, especially at a small college,” said Williams prior to Sunday’s game against Allegheny College.
Coach Labrador has excelled on an international playing field too, spending the summers of 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 in Spain. His players get the chance to play, and succeed, against local teams, while also experiencing educational and cultural tours with the help of Labrador’s father, Jose.
“We take a great deal of pride in constantly evolving throughout a season,” Labrador said. “We might be a totally different team in November as we continue to grow.”
In 2005, Labrador began Wittenberg women’s volleyball’s tradition of the Fall Classic held every year by the Tigers. This invitational has built a sense of community for the volleyball team, branching out to both the student body and the Springfield Community.
Philanthropy was also integrated into the Labrador’s Fall Classic. The opening invitational included a clothing drive and other donations to those feeling the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The 2007 Classic featured a benefit for breast cancer awareness.
The 2016 Fall Classic proved to be a tough challenge for many teams that made an appearance. It included many top teams in the country, including top ranked Cal Lutheran, who was knocked down by the Tigers.
“It was important to get tested and find out what our strengths and weakness are early in the season,” said Labrador on his outlook of the season so far. “It is also important to prepare ourselves for the NCAC season.”
Wittenberg opened their conference season against Labrador’s alma mater, Hiram College, on Saturday, winning three sets to one.
“To this day,” Labrador said, “I still hold true to the words Carolyn and Miami helped instill, ‘Love and Honor.’”