Bellarmine College Prep (San Jose, Calif.) senior libero CJ Roey wasn’t sure what type of coach the team was getting when Tyler Hinz took over the program two years ago.
“I knew his background was as a lawyer and a standup comedian,” Roey recalls.
For clarification, indeed Hinz is an estate-planning attorney and has his own firm in Santa Clara, Calif. He also moonlights as a standup comedian around the Bay Area.
“Coming into tryouts junior year, I didn’t know what side we would get,” Roey continues. “Would we get the serious and determined side of the lawyer or the funny comedian? After that first practice it was obvious we were getting a little of both.
“He’s easy to talk to and knows what to say to relax players just like a comedian who knows his audience. He tells it like it is and gives you the facts just like a lawyer. He proves his point and gives his closing statement, which is usually how to fix something in a match. We won matches as a result of this mix.”
Hinz is the 2016 VolleyballMag.com boy’s high school coach of the year after directing Bellarmine to a CIF NorCal regional title (the equivalent of a state title). And he definitely had to work his magic in the calming-down department this spring.
At one point, Bellarmine lost three times to rival St. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.). The three setbacks included a five-set conference loss on the road early in the season, a three-set loss (2-1) in the final of the Bellarmine invitational and then a 3-0 conference loss at home in late April.
“Losing to St. Francis, our rival, put us in our place and brought us back to earth,” Roey says. “We were exposed the second time we played them in league. We felt good going into that game and then we got smacked in the face. It was very embarrassing. We felt bad about ourselves and felt like our season was over.”
As it turns out the season was far from over because Hinz, who also coaches in the Mountain View VBC program (15 Red boys’ head coach), was busy working his coaching magic.
One particular turning point was a team meeting that was held in a classroom at the school after a tough loss.
“For an hour-and-a-half we brainstormed about what we could do to be the best we can be,” he says. “We used a whiteboard. It wasn’t things such as serving better or passing better, but things like after every play huddle up in the center of the court and make eye contact with your teammates and show empathy.
“Coach Hinz has the ability to make a team of 17-18 kids, like we had this year, a unit. He led by example. He showed us how we could be a better version of ourselves. When he led, we followed. When he talked, we listened. I feel inspired to be a leader because of how coach Hinz led us.”
Hinz says that particular meeting was about setting goals.
“I established some rules in practice concerning a couple things we could control, focus and effort,” he says. “They worked hard and gave max effort every time and that was pretty significant for us. It’s a great group of guys who were committed to each other and committed to making this season one of the best we’ve ever had.”
Down the stretch, the losses to St. Francis were turned into wins at the most critical junctures. Bellarmine downed St. Francis 3-2 to in the WCAL final. And after avenging an earlier loss to Monta Vista (Cupertino, Calif.) in the CIF-Central Coast Sectional Division I semifinals, the Bells legged out a 3-2 win over St. Francis to win the CIF title and advance to the region playoffs where they downed Roseville and Granite Bay en route to the CIF NorCal Division I regional title.
“Early in the year we had trouble facing some of the more competitive teams,” says Hinz, who was part of two NAIA national-championship teams at Cal Baptist. “Practices got more competitive and guys weren’t fazed. At the end of the year, we battled hard. We gave max effort and the guys believed, which was nice to see. Our season ended in the best possible way.”
Hinz deflects any credit coming his way back to his team.
“We had great people who were willing to work hard and I get to look better as a result,” he says.
“I can’t take too much credit. If I didn’t have these guys, none of this would have happened. They bought into our program and pushed each other. I don’t know if something like this would have been possible with another group of kids.”
Roey recalls watching replays of both the league final and CIF-CCS final against St. Francis, paying particular attention to Hinz’s demeanor.
“Jacques (Abi-Hanna) puts the ball down and coach Hinz calmly turns to his assistant coach and then walks over to the team. He was so calm and collected,” he says.
“Coach Hinz is the unsung hero of the season. When we were struggling, the outlook he had for the rest of the season made us a unit. He set a precedent on how he wanted us to play. He’s a great coach. He helped us realize that we were a better team than we thought we were. He changed our team.”
And Bellarmine now has a state title to prove it.