Jan. 23, 2013
Arizona head sand volleyball coach Steve Walker took time away from his busy schedule to answer some questions about the start-up program.
How did the addition of sand come about at U of A? How long had it been in discussion and why this year?
Almost two years ago now members of our department, our internal gender equity committee had their five-year committee meeting. After a thorough review it was clear it was best to add a women's sport. The next step was which sport? The committee presented the project to the NCAA group and then last summer, presented to our athletics director Greg Byrne and our senior staff on why sand was the best fit. The department felt with the rapid growth of sand volleyball, our location and strong indoor program that the timing was appropriate to move forward and add it as a varsity sport.
Why did you want to take the helm of this program?
I’ve always been passionate about the beach game, having grown up in southern California and cut my teeth as a beach player on the coast in the mid to late 90’s. The elements of sand volleyball are what excite me most about coaching in general. It’s a sport where all of your skills are on display (weaknesses exposed) and you must work extremely hard to develop your all-around game to enjoy even the slightest level of success. I consider myself a leader first and foremost and have always preferred to be the one making hard decisions, be it as a player or coach. This was an opportunity to be in a leadership position at an amazing institution, who has had just outstanding athletic achievement in both men’s and women’s athletics. Having been all over this country as a coach, the University of Arizona has always been my favorite place of employment and I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity.
What are the first steps from your perspective in building a sand program like this from the ground up?
I’m looking at this as a start-up and what is most important to me is to surround myself and the incumbent players (current indoor players) with the type of coaching staff, support staff and incoming players that will best represent this university, athletics department and community. There will be a signing period this April and I plan to bring in a recruiting class that will be as excited as I am for this opportunity.
What is your vision of this program in five years?
Any time you associate the word “volleyball” with Pac-12, the expectations have to be that of the highest variety. The plan and hope is to have both the indoor and outdoor programs contending on the highest national platform.
What are the major obstacles in getting this program off the ground, i.e. facilities, recruiting, etc.?
So far from a recruiting standpoint helping to educate club and high school coaches on the potential sand opportunities for their players; trying to ensure them that time spent developing their players on the sand game will benefit their programs (as it’s almost a certainty that within a few years this will be a certified NCAA championship). We plan on having a great on campus facility, near the McKale Center that will provide a great venue for such a fan friendly sport.