Volleyball's Creative Force

Mark Samuels
Richard McCoy, Misty May-Treanor, and Mark Samuels rock out in this laid-back photo

Richard McCoy was the embodiment of the American Dream.

McCoy, Mikasa Sports USA’s former president who died in June of a heart attack at his home in Maine, started with the company, then known as Sports and Leisure Inc., literally on the ground floor.

“Dad had been searching for work and struggling financially,” said McCoy’s son Jeff, a Hollywood filmmaker. “He was married and had his first child, my older sister, Tiffany. Someone at his church said he should try to get a job at SLI. Apparently one of the men running that company was also a church member. He applied, but they told him they did not have any openings. For the next two weeks, my dad would show up at (what is now Mikasa) every morning and begin cleaning the outside of the building. He brought a broom and dustpan and swept the parking lot. He washed windows and would pick up cigarette butts from the planter. Finally they said they would make an opening for him. He started in the warehouse, and over a decade or two, worked his way up through every position until he became president.”

The well-liked and respected McCoy left Mikasa USA in 2009 after 33 years, leaving behind a mammoth legacy that included building the company into a major player in the volleyball world. His innovation with concepts such as ball colors and textures, broad marketing campaigns, and the embracement of athlete sponsorships fueled the company’s growth and popularity.

“Richard did a lot of things not only with volleyball but with water polo as well,” said Mikasa USA National Sales Manager Nick Bettis, who has been with Mikasa since 1990 and worked closely with McCoy. “He helped develop the Olympic shaded ball for water polo. He’s one of the first people that brought the composite volleyball on the market. He put color into the beach volleyballs. He worked with people like Sinjin Smith and Misty May, people that were big into the beach volleyball scene. All of that really helped beach volleyball blow up and go. He had a real impact on beach volleyball being accepted as an Olympic sport in Atlanta in 1996.”

Mikasa balls were used in both the beach and indoor volleyball competitions in London recently.

“Richard was very innovative,” said Bettis. “He and I made a lot of trips overseas looking at materials and concepts. He always had a lot of ideas regarding volleyball. A lot of them didn’t work, but a lot of them did, especially the colors. He always listened and was looking for new things to read. He’d read anything he could get his hands on about the volleyball industry and the sporting goods industry in general. He was always looking for neat things and new ideas.”

McCoy’s position in the volleyball industry, though, was more than just president of a ball manufacturer.

“Richard was a huge ambassador to the sport,” said Sports Chalet Team Sales Manager Jordan Poznick, Mikasa USA’s former Western sales and marketing manager. “He was a huge fan of the sport and from the manufacturing side was one of the sport’s biggest influencers. He donated so many volleyballs. He supported the Volleyball Festival for many years. He was big with athlete sponsorships and was a member of the SGMA Council. He was very instrumental and not just in the volleyball ball category.”

“Richard was extremely supportive of the sport of volleyball and beach volleyball,” said Smith. “He went way beyond the role of a sponsor for beach volleyball and got involved with the design and development of the balls themselves to make our sport better. He was the kind of guy who was fair and you could trust on all levels. He became a good friend and someone I will miss a great deal.”

Poznick joked he would tell McCoy not to come on sales calls with him.

“I told him not to go because he was so generous,” laughed Poznick. “He wanted to help people and Richard didn’t ask for anything in return.”
Former Mikasa executive Lori Okimura remembers a scene at a tournament she was at with McCoy.

“He noticed a team without any balls. The team was having to ask other teams to loan them balls to warm up,” said Okimura. “A few moments later, Richard asked me to pack up some balls and equipment and give them to the team. His genuine care and concern for those around him was astonishing. He always put others first.”

McCoy also is remembered for the way he mentored countless individuals that came through the doors at Mikasa.

“He let me run with things and try them,” said Poznick. “I was very appreciative of that. He was a tremendous mentor for me learning the manufacturing business and the marketing side of the business. He was a great resource. I was really appreciative of him letting me go in the direction he felt I needed to go.”

McCoy also was instrumental in bringing Mikasa’s vision to life through creative advertising campaigns, carried out by Mark Samuels’ SDA Creative agency. Mikasa’s ads have appeared on the back cover of this magazine for numerous decades.

“For 10 years straight he had the best ads out there,” said Samuels. “Nobody was doing that type of stuff. He put money into those campaigns. It was important to him that our ads excited people. And even when it didn’t make sense to spend money because of the economic times, he still bought the back cover (of this publication). He loved the sport and wanted to support the sport of volleyball.”

One of the company’s most memorable run of print advertisements centered around two-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor when she was sponsored by Mikasa.

“Richard was a good, good man. He was always looking to improve not only his product, but the sport as well,” said May-Treanor. “He was always interested in you as a person and not just as an athlete. He really wanted to surround himself with good people. I always enjoyed walking into Mikasa because Richard was always thinking of new, creative ideas no matter how crazy some of them might have appeared. That was Richard! He was missed when he left Mikasa and he surely will be missed now.”

Defending men’s beach Olympic gold medalist Todd Rogers knew McCoy for a short period of time when he was sponsored by the company.

“I liked him and recognized that he left a great legacy in the sport, especially in the ball industry,” said Rogers. “I was bummed when he retired from Mikasa and I was saddened when I heard of his death.”

In addition to May-Treanor and Rogers, Mikasa also sponsored the likes of Smith, Gabrielle Reece, Reid Priddy, and Phil Dalhausser under McCoy’s watch.

Even though he was not involved in the industry, Jeff McCoy credits his father for helping him forge his own career path.

“My dad was definitely a major influence on me,” said McCoy. “Even though I decided to go into film production as a career instead of getting into the sporting goods industry, I would go to him constantly for business advice. Most recently we were emailing back and forth about his dealings with the Japanese. He had extensive business with Mikasa in Japan and he was always such a big help to me by sharing his experiences with a culture that is so different than our own. It turned out to be invaluable to me while I was working for a Tokyo-based advertising agency (last month), working on a commercial shoot for Mitsubishi Motors. The director that I was working for said that my dad’s advice to the two of us was something he wished someone had taught him 20 years ago.”

McCoy noted one of his first real jobs was to shoot and edit a water polo commercial to be on the first Mikasa Sports website.

“The budget was a whopping $2,000,” said McCoy. “I was so excited that he trusted me to pull this off and I still get comments on the commercial to this day.”

McCoy saw firsthand how much his father was devoted to Mikasa.

“He always talked at the dinner table about his latest ideas he had to move the Mikasa brand forward,” said McCoy. “He ate, slept, and breathed everything Mikasa. He was extremely interested in creative advertising and always wanted the coolest ads, best athletes and best publicity they could afford.”

Okimura puts McCoy in extremely elite company.

“Richard McCoy set the standard in the volleyball industry,” said Okimura. “His fresh ideas and cutting-edge promotional concepts paved the way for the rest of the industry and challenged them to continue changing the way we play the game. He was a dear friend to many in the world of volleyball.”
Samuels takes things a step further.

“Richard put his money where his mouth was,” he said. “He was one of a kind.”

McCoy is survived by his wife, Dale, children, Tiffany and Jeff, and three grandchildren.

The Last Lunch

Mark Samuels, President SDA Creative Inc.

By its very nature, the creative process, with its subjective nuances and mad dash deadlines, often forms strong friendships among co-workers and clients. The recent passing of my friend and former client Richard McCoy has caused me to stop and realize how important those friendships really are.

It was the early 90’s when I was invited to a volleyball awards dinner in Santa Barbara. I sat at a table with folks I didn’t know, until a cheerful man next to me shook my hand and joked how lucky I was to be able to sit next to him. Well, that was much truer than either of us would ever imagine, as that man was Richard McCoy, president of Mikasa Sports. For the next 22 years, Richard would entrust Mikasa’s image to me and my staff, and we had a wonderful journey from day one. Mikasa flourished under Richard’s leadership and vision, and to this day enjoys success from the relationships he nurtured.

Richard and I made a habit of having lunch together often and discussing business and creative ideas, mostly about the volleyball industry and who was doing what. It’s something we thought was important, and being responsible for the creative image of Mikasa volleyballs, it was imperative that we got together and exchanged ideas. We came up with some damn good concepts for new ads and promotions at those lunches over the years. Richard would throw out a wild idea and I would refine it and make it happen, always with his support and enthusiasm. I’ve heard that you should keep business separate from friendship, but I couldn’t help it, we had become friends.

Our last lunch together in January was really special for me. He was in town wrapping up some family business and he dropped by my office in Capo Beach. We walked next door and ordered our usual tacos and guacamole and talked non-stop for close to two hours. We hadn’t seen each other in a while now that he was officially “retired” and had some catching up to do. We reminisced about volleyball and all the great athletes we worked with through the years. I thanked him again for sending me to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, and for giving me so much creative freedom with all the athletes he had brought onto the Mikasa team, especially Misty May-Treanor. We tried to figure out how many years straight we have been running ads on the back cover of Volleyball magazine and figured it was at least 20. We just laughed and thought we deserved some kind of award. Richard was always so humble and I don’t think he really knew the positive impact his support of these athletes and publications had on the sport of volleyball. I did.

Richard seemed really happy, and he told me his new retired life was wonderful and he was especially enjoying spending time with his wife and family and working on his new waterfront home in Maine. Being typical guys, we were starting to run out of things to say. We walked back over to my office and talked for a few minutes at the bottom of the stairs, promising to keep in touch with each other. I reminded him I was planning a trip out his way after summer and we agreed to meet for lemonade on the patio of his new house.

It was time to go and he offered his hand, not good enough now that we lived on opposite coasts. I opened my arms for a hug and he did the same. As Richard walked away he raised his hand without looking back and said “see you in Maine.” I watched him walk away longer than I normally would, I knew it was because I had missed my friend and was sorry to see him leave. I didn’t know it was actually good bye.

We will remember you always. Fair winds my friend.

Leader and Teacher

Allison Clewett, former Mikasa intern

I wanted to express my sincerest sorrow on the passing of Richard McCoy. Richard McCoy was a wonderful person. As someone who grew up in the volleyball community, I was fortunate to work for him at Mikasa Sports, USA. Not only because he was passionate about the sport of volleyball, which was a major force in my life, but because he was an incredible leader and teacher of how to conduct yourself in business and in life. His energy and enthusiasm for progress was always on high, and his desire to make a positive impact through his work made him someone to admire. His spirit had a huge effect on me and I will forever be grateful for the doors he opened and experiences he provided.

Leading Legacy

Lori Okimura, Creative Sports Strategies

Richard McCoy passed away recently, and with that a piece of volleyball history passed as well. His legacy at Mikasa Sports reached far and wide through the sports of Olympic volleyball, beach volleyball and water polo. His innovation and creativity built a dynasty at Mikasa for more than 30 years, and signaled many “firsts” in the sport. He was the first to make an official ball for the AVP (remember the “Suede Spike?”), the first to make an official ball for the FIVB, the first to make an official ball for the Pro Fours, the first to test the use of multi-colored balls in competition—which are now widely used today—the first to invest his own dollars in sponsorship of beach volleyball tournaments and athletes. He worked with some of the top athletes and personalities including Misty May-Treanor, Todd Rogers, Sinjin Smith, and Gabrielle Reece, to advance the development of volleyball equipment and programs in the sporting goods industry. He was the first to invest a tremendous amount of resources, including his own participation in the Volleyball Festival for more than 10 years, bringing his family to enjoy a week of volleyball with the Epperson Family and starting an internship program for student athletes that jump-started the careers of many in the industry today. His support of club volleyball was a personal mission for him, not just a matter of donating balls and equipment. He truly believed that volleyball could change people’s lives. He was one of the most generous and loyal people in the sporting goods industry. I consider myself fortunate that he was my boss, but I am even luckier that Richard McCoy was my mentor and dear friend for more than 20 years.

Patriotic Character

Melissa Hamm, former Mikasa intern

I had the honor of interning under the leadership of Mr. McCoy and Lori Okimura for three consecutive years during a national volleyball tournament each summer in Davis, Calif. I wanted to say a few words about what a generous man he was. Mr. McCoy inspired me to develop into a leader by allowing me to work for him with Mikasa doing marketing and PR for the company. His love for the sport of volleyball was apparent from the beginning of the internship. I saw him carry himself with the utmost character and integrity, always putting the needs of the players first. He truly wanted young women, through their love of the sport, to achieve their goals, and to succeed in everything they set out to do. He gave me license to reach out to the younger players and make them feel just as important as the older girls in the tournament, by providing them with a carnival for their age division only, and fun Mikasa gear and prizes for various activities and games we planned in the surrounding gyms. These young players often felt disconnected from the rest of the players, as they competed at surrounding high schools and junior highs and often didn’t get to be a part of the main festivities at the convention center. Mr. McCoy knew these players were the future of the sport and he wanted them to be a part of all the fun. I found this to be incredibly generous, as we weren’t sent out to those locations to sell a product or man a booth, rather we were only there to provide a fun experience for the younger players. Mr. McCoy just wanted everyone to be treated fairly. Mr. McCoy always treated us interns with respect and dignity. He allowed us such a high level of responsibility, and we rose to the occasion and were better off for it. I’ll never be able to put into words just how important the skills that I learned during that time are to my life today. I developed leadership abilities, time management, business skills, customer service, and overall character through hard work that has stayed with me into my career as a teacher, a wife, and a mom of two. I will always be grateful for what he taught me.

PS: One of my favorite memories of him is during Opening Ceremonies of the tournament, when he would cry during the singing of the national anthem. He was such a patriotic man!

Originally published in September/October 2012

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