Coach Michael Soylular: Mentor & Legend

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A Volleyball Legend

Coach Michael Soylular has mentored some of the best in the sport. –By Somer Flahert

Michael Soylular has been playing volleyball for more than four decades, rising through the sport’s ranks as part of the Turkey junior national team and the European professional league, plus coaching college teams at Arkansas Little Rock, Wichita State, Cal Poly Pomona and Virginia. However, the 56-year-old is best known for his talents in Laguna Beach, coaching Laguna Beach High School to CIF wins and serving as the club director of the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club, which has sent players to the Olympics and collegiate programs at top Division 1 universities.

Michael says kids living in coastal communities like Laguna Beach have a huge opportunity to excel in the sport: “Orange County is the mecca of volleyball,” he says, while preparing for a full day of practices. “There are just so many options to play so close. We have our own facility here, but there are volleyball clubs in Newport, Irvine and just about everywhere.” The easy access to beach volleyball courts also aids in prepping players. “Beach volleyball and indoor volleyball definitely complement each other, but it’s really important to start kids at an early age indoors because there aren’t any distractions like the sun and wind that you have on a beach court,” he says. “Once they possess some skills, beach volleyball is a great addition.”

Although most of the teenage players at the Laguna Beach Volleyball Club, which has won three national championships within the last six years, are Orange County locals and travel within a five to 10 mile radius to play with Michael and his team of well-known coaches. The club also has players that make two- to three-hour commutes to learn under his guidance; one player even makes the trek from Bakersfield to play with the team.

Playing club volleyball is a hefty commitment with multiple practices per week and a large travel schedule for out of town tournaments. For players new to the sport, Michael suggests practicing once or twice per week and then evolving to three to four times. “College material players will also need to add weight lifting and plyometrics (exercises designed to produce fast and explosive athletic performance),” he adds. “This is the new normal. Anything that you want to be good at— you’ve got to strength train year-round, too.”

For Michael, year-round dedication to the sport is all part of embracing volleyball. “I’m here from the morning until 9 at night because it’s a job, but it’s also a lifestyle. We’re just volleyball nuts.”

Michael and the rest of the volleyball community are eagerly awaiting this year’s London Olympics. “The women’s volleyball team is No. 1 in the world, and I think women’s volleyball is one of the top growing sports, while the men’s team is in the top six or top eight in the world, as well,” he says, and adds that after every Olympics, volleyball clubs get a surge in attendance from the games.

Michael earned two undergraduate degrees and a master’s while playing the sport, but he says kids shouldn’t play just because they want a scholarship. “Enjoy the game first and have fun. If you are bound to be a college player it will come by itself. There are thousands of athletes and only a few make it to the collegiate or professional level. Have fun.”

Side Out

Scoop up a few volleyball essentials to keep you in the game.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics, eyes will be on the men’s and women’s U.S. volleyball teams as the men come back from winning gold in Beijing, and the women go in ranked No. 1 by the sport’s international governing body. If all the action gets you pumped up to play yourself, you’ll  need some good gear first. Shop some of the best options offered in Orange County.  LBM

 

Compression Advance Tank Top by Lija, available at Spa Montage (30801 Coast Hwy.; 949-715-6010; spamontage.com)

Knee pads by Mizuno, available at Sport Chalet (27080 Alicia Pkwy., Laguna Niguel; 949-362-0342; sportchalet.com)

Volleyball by Mikasa, available at Sports Authority (13702 Jamboree Rd., Irvine; 714-669-5150; sportsauthority.com)

Eco mini short by Beyond Yoga, available at Yoga Works (30818 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 949-415-0955; yogaworks.com)

Double knit, microfiber sweat management towel by Manduka, available at Blue Pearl Laguna (21095 Raquel Rd.; 949-715-1674; manduka.com)

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