Although Ryan Roark, ’18, never played volleyball in the high school setting, other than gym class, “like everyone did,” Roark is following his dream of being a volleyball coach.
As a sports management major, it seems only fitting that Roark began coaching volleyball while working with Wittenberg’s men’s and women’s volleyball teams.
“I had the chance to work with Wittenberg’s men’s volleyball team for their inaugural season [in the spring of 2016],” Roark said. “[It] was a completely new experience than what I had observed before, but it was unforgettable.”
Along with coaching, Roark is the current club volleyball president, the philanthropy chair for Delta Tau Delta, a server at Springfield’s Olive Garden, a house sitter and a member of a Dayton’s adult men’s volleyball league. Roark does this all while working as a women’s volleyball coach at Synergy Volleyball Club in Dayton, and working with the Wittenberg women’s volleyball team.
“My passion for volleyball started the day I walked into that first practice [of club volleyball] during the fall of 2014,” Roark said. “Ever since then, it has been exponentially growing as the thing I do. And, being that my life revolves around volleyball these days, I started to make a connection that I focus on nothing more than the game. [I thought] maybe I should make a career out of this infatuation I have with it.”
Through his interaction with the Wittenberg community, particularly women’s volleyball head coach Paco Labrador and assistant coach Evelyn Carus, Roark has made connections to fellow volleyball fanatics throughout the area.
“When an Alumni Tiger met me at a [women’s volleyball game] and offered me a coaching position, I couldn’t refuse,” Roark said.
At that point in his life, Roark hadn’t an idea that he had wanted to coach. It was during the 2016 NCAA season that he switched his major to sports management and began his career in various volleyball programs within Wittenberg and the Dayton area.
Currently, Roark coaches an under-13 regional women’s team while also being an assistant coach to the under-16 American level women’s team at Synergy. Roark spends the majority of his Tuesdays and Thursdays on the volleyball court, while also spending eight Saturday and Sundays a season at various tournaments.
Although a pretty fun and light-hearted fellow, Roark shares the same coaching strategy as director of Synergy, Sean McMorrow.
“My coaching strategy is to educate,” Roark said. “Our jobs as coaches are to educate the girls in the sport and love of volleyball. Sure, winning is important, and fun, but we only win when our girls are well prepared and know what they are doing.”
As well as assisting the girls at Synergy, Roark has helped with both volleyball teams here at Wittenberg.
“I love every minute that I get to work with our women’s volleyball team,” Roark said. “They are such an amazing group of athletes, intelligent women and effervescent personalities. Both the athletes and coaches are all so talented at what they do. My days with them have made my time here at Wittenberg an experience that I will never forget.”
As for post-graduation, Roark plans to continue coaching while also pursuing further higher education. He plans to assist volleyball teams with larger and larger programs.
“Not that small programs are bad, but diversifying my education is the best way I know how to better my knowledge of the game and experience of being a coach,” Roark said.
To those thinking of pursuing a coaching position, Roark was firm on his advice.
“Get into an internship or job shadowing position with an experienced, professional coach,” Roark said. “That way, you can truly determine if their life is something you want.”
For those with a love of a sport, following your dreams into a coaching or managing position can prove helpful – it can even assist in realizing your dreams, just as Roark has with coaching.