USA Olympic libero Erik Shoji is having a ball this season, both playing for Top Volley Latina in Italy and launching a new business.
The native of Hawai’i who played at Stanford has a lot going on, not the least of which is starting Erik Shoji Volleyball Consulting to help players and coaches.
What’s more, he’s now a journalist: We got him to interview his father, Dave Shoji, who retired last May after 42 years as the University of Hawai’i women’s coach.
“I really like my team and am getting along really well with them,” said Erik Shoji, who is the only American on the squad.
He admitted to having a long way to go on his Italian.
“I’m starting to understand a little bit more of the volleyball talk,” he said with a laugh, “but otherwise I don’t pick up much. I have language issues.”
But not volleyball issues. Shoji, might look tiny on the court at 6-foot, 160 pounds, but he was one of the biggest components on the team when the USA took bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He’s been thinking about Erik Shoji Volleyball Consulting for a while and just last week got his website, erikshoji.com, up and running. He said he has a lot of free time in Italy when not practicing and playing for his team, which is located 72 kilometers south of Rome, so this was the perfect time to make it happen.
“I wanted to combine my passion for volleyball and coaching and playing and reaching out to younger players and combining that into this consulting business where kids can send me video through different portals, like YouTube and Vimeo, and I watch, evaluate and provide them with feedback. And then I make recommendations for how I see how they can improve their game.”
The site is comprehensive and easy to navigate and connect with Shoji, who said his service is for boys and girls of “all skill levels and ages.”
“I work with players from the club age to even college and connect with coaches at different universities. It’s for whoever wants to reach out.”
Certainly whatever is being taught and applied in Hawai’i is working as evidenced by so many great players, particularly the men, coming off the islands.
“We train a little different, I think, than players on the mainland. We start at a very young age, it’s very skill based because we aren’t always the biggest, most athletic players.”
There’s no shortage of athleticism in the Shoji family, of course, and that would include Erik’s brother Kawika, who is also in Italy this season, playing for Gi Group Monza near Milan. Kawika, who also played at Stanford, was a reserve setter on the 2016 Olympic team.
After those Games, Erik didn’t have a pro contract and took off for about a month resting and recovering but then he and Kawika got offered to play together in Russia last season for Lokomotiv Novosibirsk in Siberia.
After the “toughest winter I’ve ever experienced” — they headed back to be with the national team in much warmer Anaheim.
After they got back last spring, things were busy. There was a big retirement weekend honoring their dad, then back to the USA gym and then off to the World League soon after.
“It was a whirlwind of a few weeks there,” Erik said.
After the season, they were off to Italy. Their parents, Dave and Mary, planned a visit and that’s when we capitalized on the chance for Erik to interview his dad, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Erik and VolleyballMag.com collaborated on the questions.
Erik: How’s your health?
Dave: I feel pretty good. I surf a lot and golf as much as I can. My PSA numbers are low which is a good thing, I’m also on some medications which suppress the cancer and so far so good. I see my doctor every three months now.
Erik: You said that in retirement you were hoping to go back and visit a lot of the places you only went to for volleyball but couldn’t be a tourist. Have you been to any of those places and what did you do and what’s it like as a vacationer, not a coach?
Dave: Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to visit those cities. However, I have been able to visit some incredible cities in Europe and Asia watching Team USA. Me and Mary’s free time has enabled us to travel and support Team USA.
Erik: Have you been to UH matches and is it strange to do so?
Dave: I’ve been to every match unless we’re traveling. It’s definitely different. I find myself rooting like any other fan, but I keep my thoughts about strategies to myself.
Erik: Now that you’re out, what are three things you’d change in NCAA volleyball?
Dave: Now that I’ve watched more international matches, I would change a lot. I have five things in mind.
1. I would change the substitution rule to the international six subs. The way it is now, coaches don’t develop the six-rotation player, thus hurting a lot of players from succeeding internationally.
2. I would loosen the second contact. There are too many calls on spin.
3. I like the landing behind the lines on serving and back-row attacks, especially in the men’s game. I think this might help to create more rallies.
4. A small change, but I would allow the women to wear jewelry.
5. I would allow players to touch the net if it’s not flagrant, too much stoppage of play.
Erik: The same old question you get all the time: Do you miss it?
Dave: Yes and no. I don’t miss the grind of practices, recruiting, traveling, scheduling, fundraising, conditioning, summer school, boosters. Those things can get pretty tiring especially after 42 years. But I do miss coaching in the games.
Erik: And finally, which son do you like watching play volleyball the most?
Dave: Ha! That’s a no-win question. We, of course, love watching both!