Ray Bechard Selected to Coach the U.S. Women's National A2 Program
June 19, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas volleyball coach Ray Bechard is one of eight collegiate coaches selected by USA Volleyball to lead this summer’s U.S. Women’s National A2 Team Program in Columbus, Ohio, June 26-July 5.
Bechard will begin his 15th season at the helm of the Jayhawk volleyball program this fall and his 27th season overall. The all-time winningest coach in KU volleyball history holds a remarkable 938-262 (.782) career record. In 14 seasons at Kansas, Bechard has a 222-202 mark, including 10 years at .500 or better.
The long-time Kansas leader joins a diverse group of college coaches to work with the 48 women who were selected to play in the nine-day camp.
“This is my second go-round with USA Volleyball,” Bechard said, who was an assistant coach for the USA Volleyball Youth National Team in 1995. “This gives me an opportunity to work with some of the other great coaches in college volleyball as well as give a little time and energy back to USA Volleyball.”
Training begins June 26 at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, while the matches will be held June 30 to July 4 during the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships (GJNC) at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. During the pre-tournament training session, the 48 athletes will be divided into four teams of 12 players that will play one match per day during the GJNC. All matches will be A2 competing against each other in a round-robin format followed by a semifinal and final round.
“I feel that moving the U.S. Women’s National A2 Program to be in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls’ Junior National Championships will be a very positive move for the program,” USA Volleyball Senior Director Tom Pingel stated on USAVolleyball.org. “The exposure and impact that the program and its athletes will have at the GJNC will far surpass that experienced at the USA Volleyball Open National Championships with the adults competing. It will also be a `win’ for the GJNC event and its participants.”
Bechard agrees, citing that this is the volleyball event of the year and exposes the younger players (12-18 year-olds compete in GJNC) to the competiveness of the Women’s National A2 Team Program. According to Bechard, the A2 program not only trains and creates opportunities for the players, but also gives Team USA a chance to identify future prospects.
“Combining the two to be held at the same time, in the same location was a very smart move,” Bechard explained. “There will be thousands of kids competing at Junior Nationals and parents there to watch, so they’ve created a built-in crowd (to showcase the A2 program).”
The 2012 U.S. Women’s National A2 Team program was selected through the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryouts held Feb. 10-12 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. A record 207 athletes, including several current Jayhawks, participated in the tryout. Athletes in college and with collegiate eligibility remaining for the 2012 collegiate season not selected to join the U.S. Women’s National Team were eligible for the U.S. Women’s A2 program.
Bechard was an assistant coach for the USA Volleyball Youth National Team that won the Slovakian Cup Championship in Zilina, Slovakia, in 1995. Bechard, who coached at Barton County CC at the time, was the only non-Division I coach on the staff. The team competed against youth teams from Poland and Slovakia. Although he regards coaching with Team USA as a proud accomplishment, he also puts the experience into perspective.
“In 1995, I thought `what do I have to offer these people?'” Bechard joked. “Now I’ve learned that it really comes down to the fact that the kids are the same everywhere. As coaches, we’re all working on the same fundamentals and making a commitment to helping players be successful, whether we’re coaching at the college or the national level. We won’t have a lot of time to implement systems and get complex during this program, but we will have a chance to create competitive opportunities. The more we can do that within USA Volleyball, the better.”