Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, June 9, 1997

Crabb can help right
the ship of USA Volleyball

DANCE with the one that brung you? If the U.S. men's Olympic volleyball team hopes to return to its golden days, it will need to bring back the ones that had them dancing.

To that end, USA Volleyball has rehired Doug Beal, the coach who led the U.S. to its first ever Olympic volleyball medal in 1984. One of Beal's first calls after accepting the job was to his former assistant, and World Games teammate, Hawaii's Tony Crabb, considered one of the most innovative volleyball minds in the world.

"I'm excited," said Crabb, who will be working on a part-time basis with the national team. "One of the first goals, obviously, is to qualify for the next Olympics. I'll be traveling with the national team this summer, going to Japan in July for a

10-day tour. Then it's to Puerto Rico for the (North American) Zone Championships, a real important tournament where the winner gets a qualifying spot in the Olympics."

Last summer in Atlanta, the U.S. men did not medal for the first time in four Olympics. Their work is cut out for them as they try to qualify for the 2000 Games in Sydney.

USA Volleyball is in a state of flux, from the changing of its name (formerly U.S. Volleyball Association) to a change of address. After more than a decade in San Diego, USA Volleyball has temporarily relocated to Colorado Springs, home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

The move will cut costs but at what price? Those involved wonder how it will affect the accessibility of players, the majority of whom live and work in California.

Last month's tryouts for the men's national team at Long Beach State attracted 80 players. It was an easy freeway jaunt for most, whereas a trip to Colorado might have been impossible.

"It's one of the questions we're debating, whether to move temporarily for six months or move permanently," said Crabb, 52. "My personal feeling is to move for four years and train every day. I'd vote for a

year-round program, which was the course we took when we won the gold in '84.

"But volleyball has changed so much since then. We didn't have to compete with the pro tours, the beach, the AVP or 4-man. Now we have to compete with domestic and international leagues for our own players."

IT'S a bittersweet situation for USA Volleyball, which fought hard for recognition of the sport. The success has become too much of a good thing, with lucrative contracts detering players from committing four years to the national team.

"The U.S. players are getting great training and the players are getting better and better," said Crabb, who plays for Outrigger Canoe Club. "But the rest of the world has become much better, too. I'm happy that the (USAV) administration is making a serious commitment to creating a solid junior program that will create the next generation of players."

Crabb, a former University of Hawaii assistant, is doing his part for the younger players. He coaches the varsity team at La Pietra/Hawaii School for Girls and is head coach of Kaimana Volleyball Club, a junior program that will travel to competition this summer in Canada and Las Vegas.

"It's going to be an exciting challenge, to rebuild the program after we took such a beating in Atlanta," said Crabb, who competed for Oregon and Brigham Young-Hawaii in the 1960s. "I think we can build it again. It's going to take four years and full-time training. It's going to be tough."

Why go back? "Volleyball is a great game," said Crabb, an outside hitter. "There's such a thrill to spiking, to blocking. Besides, Doug owes me after I had to hit his sets all these years."

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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