Alexz Smith is the owner and Club Director at Matchbox Recreation Center. Alexz has coached club volleyball for the last 10 years, most recently serving as the head coach of the 18s division at NESD Volleyball Club. In addition to club coaching experience, Alexz has coached 6 seasons of high school volleyball including a four-year tenure on the Northwestern High School coaching staff. Alexz specializes working with front-row players focusing on attacking, blocking, and offensive strategies and is currently working on building her own facility that will open in 2018!
You can read an overview of the interview with Alexz Smith or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: Could you give us some background on Matchbox Recreation Center and what you're working on at the moment?
A: Here at Matchbox we are just getting started with the club volleyball season so things are pretty crazy around here. But the biggest thing that we're working on is actually building a new facility. So that is something that will be new for us, is to actually have our own facility for all of our volleyball programs… It's something that we really need here for a club teams and for the volleyball programs in our area, but to actually build the building has been extremely difficult... So I've been very fortunate to have people to help me around the community, otherwise, this has just been difficult and very challenging...
Q: You mentioned that you’ve had a lot of community support and that that has made a big difference, could you explain that a bit more?
A: The community has been so supportive I mean unreal supportive about this. Volleyball up here has always been seen as a secondary sport and I think it is quickly being realized it is not a secondary sport up here. Kids.. they want to play volleyball they want to play volleyball more, and more, and more, and I just can't even begin to express how grateful I am to our community, supporting something that is so primarily focused on volleyball. Just the support and the excitement around a new facility for us and for our Aberdeen community has been unreal.
Q: Tell us a story about one of your proudest moments in your coaching career?
A: One of my proudest moments is a moment that is so simple and so maybe uneventful. So I often work with hitters and blockers, some offense and front row players, and one thing with my high school team last year is we did a ton of power tips, practicing the power tip, which is just a volleyball attack, or offensive attack that is pushing the ball to the back corners of the court. And we did a ton of that in practice, and the girls weren't always appreciating it and liking it, but we did it anyways. And at the state championship match last year, one of my players pushed the ball to the back corner and got a huge kill for us, and turned around and just looked at me and smiled. And in that moment I was just so proud that she could execute a difficult shot at a very important time in her life, and that she still turned around and recognized where that motivation came from. That, I would say, was one of my proudest moments as a coach.
Q: Obviously you recognized the importance of that drill, but how do you go about pushing and motivating your players to keep at a drill like that when like you said, they aren’t loving it?
A: I think motivation is all about the relationships you create with your players. I am very big on building those relationships with your players. I think if I go up to any 15 year old girl on the street and I ask them to do something there is no way that they would do it for me but if I make those girls believe that I really care about them, as people and as an athlete, they would do anything for you. They would practice power tips all day long, just because coach Smith asked them to And they know coach Smith cares about them.
Q: What do you think has been the key to your success that other coaches could learn from?
A: It has been the community. I mean building your community and serving your community in any way possible has been the most successful and most rewarding part for me. I have a huge team behind me, as far as coaches, peer coaches that I work with, former coaches, the colleges and town... the community that is around this program is unbelievable and that is definitely the key to success...
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in your coaching/sporting career? Could you tell us a story about how they had an impact on your life.
A: My biggest coaching inspiration was actually my high school volleyball coach and it is someone who I coach with now actually. Her name is Nora Groft. She was my high school volleyball coach. And my senior year in high school my team went undefeated until the state championship match and we lost that state championship match and afterwards Nora said to me you’re going to be a great coach someday, and that I need to coach. That I need to stay involved in coaching. and just that one push from someone who wasn't my parents that was positive influence and push from someone else really instilled a passion for coaching in me. and so after that I wasn't able to play Collegiate volleyball, for some unforeseen circumstances, and so I was really lost without volleyball right away and so I started coaching... And she is still supporting me now as a coach and that's the greatest thing I could have ever asked for.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring coaches who are just starting out, and might be considering opening a recreation center or facility of their own?
A: I would say for coaches just starting out - you are going to make a million mistakes and just be okay with that. The coach that you are today will not be the coach that you are in 5 years, 10 years, or 15 year. It is a constant battle. Just keep learning and keep finding new ways to learn new things, and keep adapting with the new generation...
Q: What is your favorite "success" quote?
A: “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling” - Vincent Van Gogh