SAN DIEGO — The Coast Volleyball club has long been a powerhouse on the Southern California and national club volleyball scene.
Just consider some of its former players:
FIVB player of the year Summer Ross, NCAA champions Sha’dare McNeal (Texas) and Lacey Fuller (Penn State), current USA national team setter Carli Lloyd, and the 2016 Gatorade high school national player of the year in Lexi Sun.
Coast won USA Volleyball national championships in 2012 (16-1) and 2014 (18-1) and has medaled 20 times in 12 years, according to Coast executive director Ozhan Bahrambeygui (pronounced O-jean Bar-em-bay-gee), known as Ozh.
Bahrambeygui joined Coast in 2008 and his coaching career was something of a surprise to him.
It started in 1989, when he was teaching an adult volleyball class at Mesa College in San Diego. One of Bahrambeygui’s good friends was Tony Salerno, an assistant coach for the women’s volleyball program at Mesa. Salerno was hired away to head UCSD’s track and field program, leaving the volleyball program short an assistant.
“Ozh,” Salerno said, “I don’t want to leave them in the lurch, they need an assistant, they need a certain type of personality, someone with a decent arm.”
Bahrambeygui replied, “I’ll help you out, I’ll do it for one year.”
Then Salerno looked him in the eye and said, “Ozh, you will coach for the rest of your life.”
Bahrambeygui responded, “There is no way that I will coach for the rest of my life.”
Bahrambeygui studied law at Cal Western School of Law in San Diego before deciding to coach full-time. Thirty years later, Bahrambeygui is still at it after going on to assist at UC Irvine and Wisconsin before settling in at Coast.
Bahrambeygui has owned the Coast club since 2012.
The club has been ranked fourth in the nation and ranked first in Southern California by Triple Crown Sports, and has featured top national-teamers like Duncan McFarland and Mary Jo Peppler as coaches. Coast has produced a number of USA national team members, AVP champions, NCAA championship finalists, and college standouts, not to mention over 300 NCAA DI players. Bahrambeygui lists a few that stand out in his mind at the bottom of this article.
Its facility is centrally located in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley near the confluence of the 805 and 5 highways.
Coast was founded in 1990 by the Higgins, Collingwood, and Richards families. It started as a three-court facility, but continued to pick up space as nearby tenants left, growing to its current 30,000 square-foot footprint, encompassing seven indoor courts and three outdoor beach courts, with an adjacent space for weight training.
Bahrambeygui sees two things that define Coast.
“My biggest job is to attract and retain great coaches. In order for us to do that, we have to know that the coaches are here on behalf of the kids. Sometimes that makes it difficult for me to address professionals that aren’t ready to be teachers, they’re still living out of a suitcase.
“The other thing is that it’s imperative that they’re lifelong learners. If they’re not into getting better, then this isn’t a great fit for them. The kids are given a ton of open space to have influence over their training styles, what kind of systems they want to address, they have to be able to justify against the background of age group sports, and the goal of making their players the best that they can be.
“At the end of the day, we’re not doing this on behalf of ourselves, we’re doing that on behalf of the kids. As long as we have those priorities in order, we’re perfectly sound. It’s yielded some pretty great results. When we first took over the program, Coast was struggling for a variety of reasons. It didn’t take long for the community to respond to the structure and our belief system. It turned around really quickly. When you have families that put faith in what you’re doing, life becomes really easy when you’re both teacher and coach. That’s what I go after, is people that want to be great teachers.
“We have several sessions that we start with at the beginning of the year to display our priorities when it comes to health and safety. We spend a lot of time on that, and we spend a lot of time on the pedagogical approach, the laws of learning, making sure that our teaching methods are not only sound, but refreshed and kept current. Our staff is brought in for several coaching clinics by a cadre of coaches so that the program itself grows as a mindset.”
Katie Meyers has coached for Coast three years, first the 11s squad, progressing to the 12-1’s and now the 13s travel team.
“As a collegiate athlete that was so passionate about the game in trying to get better, and being fortunate enough to have coaches that helped me, it’s nice to be on the other end to coach others and be in an environment where the coaches are constantly supporting each other and pushing each other to improve and the players are so hungry to get better. It’s an inspiring environment to practice in. To work with these young girls, who have seen how motivated and hard-working everyone in the gym is, I feel fired up every practice I come in.
Meyers is a former setter at UC Riverside, and has experienced significant growth as a coach during her Coast tenure.
“I feel very supported by (Bahrambeygui). I feel like he supports his coaches if they have questions, helps them grow, and he also instills confidence that he knows that we’re going to make the decisions that are going to help our players not only get better but ultimately become better human beings. I think that’s a clarity that he has that not everybody always has, so I feel really lucky that I can go to him for support or any question or advice. I feel like I’ve grown a lot not only as a coach, but just by being here as well.”
Bryce Mayer is Coast’s Beach Volleyball director, working with the growth of junior beach volleyball.
“We’re definitely excited about expanding our numbers, which will provide more competition, more partnerships, more options for tournaments. Our girls are competing at a super-high level because of the training that they’re receiving. We want to see more of that as the girls continue and get older in the 14s and 16s and 18s. We hope to assist them with their college aspirations as well. We’re also stepping up our coaching presence at tournaments this year.”
Mayer, a high-level beach volleyball player, has competed in AVP qualifiers since 2015. He is excited about the potential of the Coast beach program.
“It’s exciting, we’ve got some new faces, we have a new staff of coaches that are really passionate, both current and aspiring pros.
“It’s definitely a grind, but it’s very rewarding. Honestly, I really look forward to it, and I really enjoy the process. It’s a lot of coordination between parents and athletes. It’s nice to be on the other side of things and help players get where they want to be. Ozh does a good job inside, that’s for sure. I have a lot to learn from him.”
By the Coast metrics, it’s really about the growth of the players. Samantha Francis, a 15-year-old 6-foot-5 middle for Coast’s 16-1 team, has been recruited by Nebraska, USC, Stanford, Texas, Minnesota, and Penn State.
“Honestly, it’s been nothing but great.” Francis said. “It’s been really fantastic here. I played at a local rec center near my house, a local club, but it was nothing compared to the experiences here. The coaching here is absolutely amazing. Everyone knows what they’re doing, everyone’s highly educated, they have a lot of experience in the volleyball world, so it’s not just volunteers, it’s people that honestly and truly want to be here. It’s really great. They want to make every player as good as they can be, so they push us to be our best.”
Bahrambeygui is justifiably proud of the multitude of Coast players that have gone on to success in NCAA, AVP, and FIVB volleyball.
“There are too many to recall with certainty,” Bahrambeygui admitted. “But here is a start.
“Since 1990 there have been almost 300 Division I players come through the program. And over 200 in last 10 years. Carli Lloyd (NCAA player of the year, Cal), Juliann Faucette (NCAA freshman of the year, Texas), and Katie Wilkins (Pepperdine) have made the USA women’s national team. We currently have 15 players competing professionally overseas.
“Summer Ross has gone on to the AVP and FIVB World Tour success on the beach, as well as AVP champion Kelley Larsen, who won an AVCA college sand championship for Pepperdine.
“Recent college standouts Lexi Sun (Nebraska), Brittany Abercrombie (USC), Kendra Dahkle (Arizona), Madeleine Gates (UCLA), Lauren Page (Oregon), Jolie Rasmussen (Oregon), Kacey Nady (Oregon), Raeann Greisen (Cal Poly).”
Bahrambeygui also listed a number of those players have reached the NCAA championship match.
“Lacey Fuller (two-time NCAA champion at Penn State), Sha’Dare McNeal (Texas), Lauren Plum (Oregon), Robin Rostratter (Cal), Lexi Sun (Nebraska), and Jen Saleaumua (Nebraska).”