Q&A with Dennis Hohenshelt
New Virginia head volleyball coach Dennis Hohenshelt recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to discuss what about UVa appealed to him and how his 16 years of experience at Penn State will affect his coaching style.
What attracted you to UVa?
Hohenshelt: I think it was a combination of things, the institution as a whole academically and the athletic department. One of the things I was looking for in a head coaching job was that I wanted something that was similar to what we had created at Penn State over the last few years academically and with the type of kids we were recruiting. In the back of my mind, I thought that Virginia was the type of institution that had that. When I got here it was confirmed that it was, plus more.
You’ve coached both men and women at the collegiate level, how will that affect your coaching strategy at Virginia?
Hohenshelt: I think one of the advantages to schools with both men’s and women’s volleyball is that they learn from each other. The girls can watch the guys’ practice and think, ‘why can’t we do that?’ They can mimic the guys because they’re watching the guys at the highest level. Am I going to incorporate some of those ideas from the guys’ game? Yes, but I also think you have to do that because that’s the way the women’s game is going.
How it happens in the United States is the men’s national team establishes how things are going to be done and the women’s national team follows. Then the guy’s college and women’s college follows those things, and it moves down to the high school and club levels. What we’re doing in the women’s game is what we did in the men’s game eight years ago, so it’s a cyclical thing and you play the copycat game.
So having coached the guy’s game for 10 years at Penn State and three years before that at Juniata, we’re going to teach it like the guy’s game and we’re going to get the girls to play like the guys as much as we can. I think the guys are a great learning tool for us coaches and the players on how to learn how the game should be played and we’re going to mimic it as much as we can.
What have you learned from working under two very successful coaches, Russ Rose and Mark Pavlik, and how will they shape you as a head coach?
Hohenshelt: I think they’re very different. Mark, who I was with the guys for 10 years, is a very laidback, quiet type of guy. It takes him a lot to get riled up and he has a very even keel about him. He was an engineer, so he’s numbers guy, he thinks thing through very clearly, I tell him he’s the guy who thinks things through in the cubicle. So in that way with him, I learned a lot about patience and to think things through before things actually get done.
Russ is going, ‘here we go, let’s figure it out and let’s go,’ where it’s moving fast- paced to everything you do. It’s a fast pace to practice, it’s a fast pace in the office, we’re getting as much done as we humanly can, eight hour days plus some, we bring home our work, and a go, go, go, attitude with him. Everyone has responsibilities and everyone has their part… if you do your part, it’ll work.
So I think having worked with both of them, I may be in the middle of the spectrum between those guys when I look at it. There’s parts I like about how Russ and I did our things, obviously the winning and the streaks and all that stuff are testament to how that works. On the other hand, we also had great success with the guys with how Mark’s style was. I think there’s no right style, everyone has their own. Maybe I fall right in the middle of those two right now.
What type of style of play can Cavalier fans expect to see this fall?
Hohenshelt: We talked to the girls about this in our first meeting. How do I want to play? I want to play fast, play hard, and I want to play smart. But when we talk about systems, that’ll come along to fit best with the group of kids that we have. What I saw a little bit in our first meeting is that I think we have kids that can play fast and we have kids that get up there and bang the ball.
I liked what I saw, but we need to play a lot smarter too. Obviously, it was a get-to-know-the-players type of thing. I didn’t really coach and it was more of me watching them play, but we talked about mistakes and how they have to limit their mistakes. At this point with rally score, this isn’t a game of scoring more points, it’s a game of creating less mistakes than your opponent has.
We’ll continue to tell them to play fast and play hard and play smart and I was pretty excited coming out of the gym yesterday. We’ve got some kids that can just play the game and that’s always good to see on your first day at work. We’ll keep working on that and we’ll use those three words a lot this spring to get to that point, fast, hard and smart.