John Kessel went to New Zealand attractive for the t of a lifetime. On a cruise to the island nation in the backward 1980s, the USA Volleyball drillmaster spent abundant of his time hip-deep in a trout stream, in amid the clinics he was conducting.
Kessel doesn’t bethink what he pulled out of the baptize on that visit. It was overshadowed by the bulk he begin in the gym: a 6-5 boyhood from Christchurch who arise his appetence afore he alike mentioned his name. “He came up to me, and he was appealing d,” Kessel recalled. “He said, ‘Mr. Kessel, I’d like to arise to America to comedy volleyball.’ ”
Hugh McCutcheon got his wish, aggressive at Brigham Adolescent University afore affective on to a pro career. That angry out to be aloof the start. Now one of the game’s best apparent and admired coaches, McCutcheon begins his seventh division with the Gophers on Friday, attractive to add his aboriginal NCAA appellation to a bays case blimp with civic and all-embracing awards.
At 48 years old, McCutcheon already has accomplished the American men to an Olympic gold badge in 2008 and the U.S. women to Summer Games argent in 2012. He is admiral of the All-embracing Volleyball Federation’s abstruse and apprenticeship agency — one of the best affecting positions in the action — and will be inducted into the All-embracing Volleyball Hall of Fame this fall. Two years ago, he was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit, amid his built-in country’s accomplished honors.
“Hugh’s appulse on the action has been appealing significant,” said Doug Beal, the retired CEO of USA Volleyball who assassin McCutcheon to drillmaster the Olympic and civic teams. “He’s a guy who’s been acknowledged every abode he’s been, at every age akin and with both genders. What he’s done is exceptional.”
The aerial Kiwi ability arise intimidating, with his baldheaded arch and the acute blaze that burns through the best acute moments of a match. His blueprint for success, though, relies as abundant on the bound claimed bonds accepted to New Zealand as it does on the American appetence for competition.
McCutcheon has admired himself to the Gophers by actuality a acceptable adviser and a bad teller of jokes. His “Hugh-isms” — the slogans he uses to distill his concepts — stick with players continued afterwards they’ve left, as do added acquaint from his holistic access to abstraction champions.
“I acquaint everybody, he afflicted my life,” said above Gophers All-America Daly Santana. “Hugh is amazing. He equips you with all the accoutrement you charge central the cloister and alfresco the cloister to do whatever you appetite to do in life.”
When McCutcheon approached Kessel in that New Zealand gym, he believed America offered him the best adventitious of award out how acceptable a volleyball amateur he could be. His activity has anesthetized through abounding capacity since, but the adventure for self-improvement charcoal the same. The alone aberration is that his claimed adventure has become a aggregate one, as he guides the Gophers forth their own paths of discovery.
“We all appetite to try to become the best versions of ourselves. That’s what was active me,” said McCutcheon, whose aggregation is ranked No. 4 in the civic preseason polls. “That abstraction of accretion and growing and aggravating to become bigger every day has been a connected affair for me. And apprenticeship is a abundant ambiance for that to happen.
“I’m not abiding I chose this profession as abundant as it chose me. It’s been actual satisfying.”
Sport of choice
In six seasons at the U, McCutcheon has gone 162-43 with two Final Four appearances. Actuality a drillmaster — or alike arena volleyball — was not a constant ambition. As a child, he hoped to become an oceanographer or abyssal biologist, and he played basketball until he was 15.
A altercation with the drillmaster led him to about-face to volleyball. The action appealed to him for three reasons: He was already 6-3, his physics abecedary at Shirley Boys’ High School was the coach, and he anticipation the guys on the aggregation were cool.
McCutcheon said he acquainted “a appealing burning connection,” apace acceptable a amateur for New Zealand’s inferior and chief civic teams. But in a country area rugby, candid and netball rule, he accepted he would accept to leave home to absolutely advance his talent. It wasn’t an accessible choice; McCutcheon’s ancestor died back Hugh was 14, and his mother, Milly, formed as an authoritative abettor in a hospital to abutment Hugh and his sister.
“That was the truest absorption of a parent’s adulation for a child,” McCutcheon said. “The allowance my mother gave to me was the abandon to accompany my dreams. I had a big dream, but the affairs of authoritative it assignment were apparently appealing small.”
McCutcheon chose the apprentice affairs at BYU, area he could footfall in and comedy anon for admired drillmaster Carl McGown. Following three seasons with the Cougars and two as a pro, he advised to accompany a career in academia. He alternate to BYU in 1995 to appear alum school; to admonition pay his expenses, McCutcheon asked McGown if he could admonition out with the volleyball team.
That concluded his affairs to acquire a Ph.D. With McGown as his mentor, McCutcheon alternate to the affair that drew him to the U.S. — addition out how acceptable he could be, and how to get there — and begin his purpose in allowance others assignment through the aforementioned puzzle.
A applied man, McCutcheon did get an MBA during his seven years on the BYU agents in case his called profession didn’t assignment out. The alone affair he’s acclimated it for in the accomplished 24 years: to become a bigger baton and administrator of volleyball players.
“As a player, Hugh was a acceptable leader, an accomplished abettor and actual intelligent,” said Kessel, now USA Volleyball’s administrator of action development. “My faculty was that he would wind up activity into business. But he abstruse so abundant from those years with Carl — and like any acceptable leader, he took it to addition level.”
The move to the U
Before McCutcheon landed at the U, he had become a all-around brilliant in his sport. Beal brought him on as a advance abettor drillmaster for the U.S. men’s aggregation in 2001; four years later, he began a run as arch drillmaster that concluded with the third Olympic gold badge in the program’s history. McCutcheon becoming common accord and account at the 2008 Beijing Games for his dness afterwards his father-in-law, Todd Bachman, was murdered in a accidental advance at a day-tripper armpit the day afterwards the Opening Ceremony.
McCutcheon confused to the women’s ancillary four months later. His four-year administration included the Olympic argent medal, three Apple Grand Prix golds and affidavit that apprenticeship philosophies can cantankerous gender lines.
“Hugh opened the aperture for USA Volleyball to anticipate that an alone who’s spent best of their time apprenticeship one gender can drillmaster the other,” Beal said. “With him, it’s not ‘men’s volleyball’ or ‘women’s volleyball.’ It’s aloof volleyball. That’s been significant.”
His 2012 move to the U was prompted by a admiration for added antithesis in his life. McCutcheon begin the biking demands of the all-embracing d adverse with fatherhood, allotment to achieve in the home accompaniment of his wife — Lakeville built-in Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman — to accession their two adolescent accouchement amid continued family.
Joel Maturi, again Gophers able-bodied director, hailed McCutcheon as “the Mike Krzyzewski of volleyball.” The abstraction that the U could appoint such a acclaimed amount larboard some bodies in shock, including the women who would comedy for him. Samantha Seliger-Swenson, a three-time All-America setter from Minnetonka, remembered activity afraid back she active her letter of absorbed and “very intimidated” at her aboriginal practice.
That didn’t last. Through barbecues at the McCutcheon home and chats in his office, Seliger-Swenson and her teammates accept arise to apperceive a low-ego man who shuns the spotlight. Santana, who now plays professionally in Italy, said he is “a cool bedrock star” in the volleyball apple — but he consistently picks up the buzz back she calls for advice, advance or an casual bit of wry Kiwi humor.
“He cares about your activity alfresco volleyball,” Santana said. “That plays a big allotment in absent to comedy for him and absent to get bigger back we’re out there. And the way he coaches … he alike afflicted the way I breathe, that’s how abundant he is.”
McCutcheon takes a accurate access to teaching fundamentals — his mentor, McGown, was a assistant of motor acquirements — with ability and attention as his touchstones. During his time with USA Volleyball, he developed a arrangement for a collaborative aggregation culture. It gives ability and articulation to the players, but it additionally demands adherence to a set of basic principles.
“Commitment, trustworthiness, respect, inclusiveness, loyalty, grit, adamantine work,” green Stephanie Samedy recited. “We apperceive what’s expected. And we apperceive it’s not aloof about volleyball; it’s about actuality the best bodies we can be. We booty a lot of pride in that.”
Pride will comedy a above allotment in the accessible season. The Final Four will be at Target Center, giving the Gophers alike added allurement to ability it for the third time in four seasons.
Seliger-Swenson keeps a account of McCutcheon’s slogans on her iPad, and she acclaimed that one “Hugh-ism” applies accurately to the months ahead. “No abhorrence in the process,” she said. “That means, assurance that the little things you do every day will get you to the bigger goal. We allocution about that all the time.”
That doesn’t beggarly the Gophers can’t dream. Years ago, McCutcheon summoned the adventuresomeness to cantankerous an ocean to hunt his ambition. Admitting his activity in America angry out bigger than he anytime imagined, he hasn’t chock-full attractive for more.
“For me, it’s never been about the result,” he said. “It’s about aggravating to amount out how we can be bigger at this. How can we advance and abound and evolve?
“Where it all leads, I don’t know. But as continued as I feel like we’re growing and evolving, it’s a abundant job.”
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