You want a cool little volleyball history lesson?
Talk to Southern California Volleyball Club founding director Bill Ferguson sometime. Ferguson’s ride down the road that led him to SCVC is nothing short of fascinating and is lined with names of some of the sport’s top stars. Here’s the abridged version. Ferguson’s father, Tom, who played for sport-coaching legend Burt DeGroot at Santa Monica College in the early 1960s, helped start Palisades Boys Volleyball Association in 1983 — a club before clubs were the “it” thing. By ’84, the club had won a junior nationals title with a roster that featured the likes of Ferguson’s brother, Bobby, and two names that just might ring a bell with sport enthusiasts—Eric Sato and Scott Fortune, who were involved in the final point that gave the U.S. men the Olympic gold medal in 1988. Gary Sato coached that Palisades team, which also won the Volleyball Festival boys’ division the same year, as well as took home a bronze medal at the Pacific Rim tournament in Taiwan.
In 1988 Ferguson played on a Palisades 18s team that included the likes of Mark Presho (current UC Irvine men’s assistant) and future pro beach player Albert Hannemann, who remains heavily involved in the sport today through a variety of initiatives (including as founder and CEO of the NVL, a pro beach organization). Around that time Ferguson’s dad turned the club over to 18s coach Mike Normand, who was the men’s and women’s coach at Loyola Marymount. That led to the creation of the Santa Monica Beach Club (current Harvard men’s coach Brian Baise was an early alum). “I went off to my surfing career,” says Ferguson, the head men’s coach at USC for nine years and currently assistant women’s coach at Cal State Los Angeles. “Mike called me in 1991 and asked me if I would like to coach. He thought I would be good, so I helped out with two 14s teams.”
One of those teams featured future UCLA football and volleyball star Danny Farmer. Ferguson notes the one group took a silver at 14s and a gold the next year at 16s (this was before USA Volleyball had odd-number age groups).
Normand then moved his family to Hawaii, but the club wasn’t going anywhere. Parents had expressed an interest in keeping it going. “My dad helped with the administrative part and we brought Gary Sato on board and we recreated Palisades,” Ferguson says. “My dad taught me the business end and Gary was a big coaching mentor.” In the ensuing years, Ferguson directed Reebok Palisades and the LA Athletic Club, entities that produced such familiar names as Farmer, Ryan Millar, Brook Billings, Gabe Gardner, Mark Williams and Brandon Taliaferro. Ferguson notes a third of the 2004 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team roster played for him either at the club level or in college. “Those were some big years for us,” Ferguson says. “We gained a lot of momentum.” Ferguson also coached in the USAV Open championships (something his dad did in the ‘80s), directing one team, led by Olympian and tournament MVP Tom Sorenson, to the gold medal. During his time with Palisades and LA Athletic Club, Ferguson coached a player named Matt Boice (played at Pepperdine, graduated from USC), who would end up as the bridge to yet another prosperous part of Ferguson’s sport journey.
The SCVC Days
Boice’s mother, Mary, at the time was running a club of her own (South Coast). Ferguson and Boice talked and decided to combine forces, thus the creation of SCVC, one of the most highly regarded club operations in the country for its reputation of fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and family.
Today, SCVC features 20 total teams (boys and girls). The club also has a 9-10-year-old Roxy group for beginning girls’ and a similar Groms group for boys (grom is a surfing term for younger surfer). The club serves 240 players. “Our leadership has stayed in tact with Mary and I,” Ferguson says. “Mary and I divide our talents pretty well and we’ve been fortunate to have good coaches who have stayed with us. Mary has the business and day-to-day know-how and that has helped with the consistency of building a high-level group that has done a lot of good things over the years.”
Boise’s daughter-in-law, Melissa Plass-Boice, is one of the club’s directors (director of players and coaches) and brings a plethora of sport experience, dating back to her days playing for Charlie Brande’s Orange County Volleyball Club and at Pepperdine for longtime coach Nina Matthies. Ferguson’s wife, Brenn (née Larson), played at Washington State and UCLA and is now the club’s recruiting coordinator. “We’ve made a lot of important additions to the club over the years,” Ferguson says. Another key coach in the program is Cam Green. In addition to being the boys’ club director, Green is one of the lead girls’ coaches (18 Roxy) at SCVC. Green also was one of Mary Boice’s first coaches at South Coast. Green was an assistant on Ferguson’s staff at USC and currently is on Alan Knipe’s staff at Long Beach State (which plays in the NCAA championship next week at Penn State).
“We have a lot of high-caliber people here from different backgrounds,” Ferguson says. “We have coaches providing high-level input to our players.”
Home Sweet Home
SCVC has plenty of history on its side when it comes to its junior-high practice facility. The club’s younger age groups practice out of the old Aviation High School gym in Manhattan Beach, which now is part of the Northop Grumman parks and recreation facility. Ferguson notes Aviation used to be competitive with sports teams at Mira Costa High, a school rich in volleyball history for both genders. “We have been able to create our own culture that is like our own junior high,” Ferguson says. Plass-Boice adds: “It’s the consistency of what we do year over year. “We have a commitment to our families and we empower kids to continue to grow. We are very open to our families and our players. Club hopping has become quite normal these days. We show our families that we are committed to their kids from age seven to senior year in high school. If they stick with us, they will get to where they want to go. We tell the younger kids what the next step is. We’ll put them in front of the 12s, 13s and 14s players and we’ll get alumni to come back and work with our high-school kids. We show that lineage. If you are a sixth-grader and you see a senior in high school in your gym, you are going to remember moments like that.”
The older players in the club certainly can’t complain about their digs either. The older age groups call the StubHub Center, a multipurpose sports facility in Carson, Calif., that houses the LA Galaxy MLS pro soccer team, home. SCVC has five courts on the infield of the VELO Sports Center in the StubHub complex. VELO is billed as he world’s largest velodrome. “We can have five teams at a time going, so it streamlines training,” Ferguson says. “I can be there and Cam Green can be there overseeing our training and making sure everything is in line from team to team and age to age. We’re probably one of the few clubs anymore where we don’t have our own facility.” And Ferguson is fine with that. “You always look for ways that the grass could be greener, but at the end of the day out here we have this thing called the Pacific Ocean, which drives real estate prices into a different stratosphere,” he says. “It’s not all about having multiple revenue streams. We’re here to concentrate on what we are supposed to. We’ve always seem to have had a lower-school feeding into the upper-school type of situation. Success begets success.” And thanks to the steady hands of Ferguson and Boice directing the ship, SCVC continues to bathe in success.
SCVC At A Glance
Year club was founded: 2001
Number of players in the club: 240
Number of coaches in the club: 42 Number of teams: 13 girls, 7 boys Number of club national titles: 12 Notable alums: Ryan Millar (BYU, Olympian), Brooks Billings (USC, Olympian), Mark Williams (UCLA, Olympian), Gabe Gardner (Stanford, Olympian), Donald Suxho (USC, Olympian), Brandon Taliaferro (UCLA), Brian Beckwith (UC Santa Barbara), Kristen Kelly (UC Irvine), Jimmy Killian (USC), Tony Ker (UCLA), Ryan Millar (BYU, Olympian), Staci Venski (USC), David Russell (UCLA), Todd Hollenbeck (Pacific), Carson Clark (UC Irvine), Andy McGuire (UC Santa Barbara), Kendall Bateman (USC), Jennifer Beltran (Illinois), Alexis Olgard (USC), Stesha Selsky (Michigan), Nikki Jagd (UCLA).