HOLYOKE, Mass. — Such a night, when an 80-year-old man from Korea, a former pharmacist who as a coach led Peru into volleyball prominence, had four of his former players here to see him honored.
A night when a great player from the former Yugoslavia said simply that, volleyball is not only a sport, but a life coach.”
And a night when the greatest American beach player told another inductee from Brazil that her father told her emphatically as a kid, “You watch him!”
They all imparted wisdom, gave many thanks, and in the end were officially inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame:
— Man-Bok Park, the Korean who coached Peru in five Olympics;
— Nikola Grbic, the Yugoslavian setter who played in three Olympics, all for the same, yet different, country;
— Misty May-Treanor, the star at Long Beach State and three-time Olympic beach gold-medalist who told young people to simply “ just make your teammates better.”
— Emanuel Rego, the great Brazilian player whom Butch May told young Misty to study;
— And Danielle Scott Arruda, another former Long Beach star and a five-time USA Olympian who established herself as one of the greatest middle blockers ever.
Al Monaco, a 1997 inductee and former head of USA Volleyball, said this was the best-attended and best overall induction ceremony.
It had it all, mostly centered on inductees whose successes were “Olympic-centric,” as retiring USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal said.
Park, a most gracious man, spoke in Korean as a translator repeated his thoughts to the audience, which included a live web stream of the event. Park left Korea to take over in Peru in 1972 and coached in five Olympics, the highlight a sliver medal in 1988.
“He completely changed the landscape of a sport in a country,” Beal said when introducing him.
Earlier in the day, at a ring and plaque ceremony, four of Park’s former Peruvian players arrived, two of them inductees themselves. Cecilia Tait went into the Hall in 2005 and Gabriela Perez del Solar in 2010. They were joined by Rosa Garcia and Natalia Molaga.
Grbic joined his brother, Vladimir, a 2011 inductee. They talked about their father, who played on the Yugoslavian national team teaching them the sport but playing it in mud on a net tied between two trees.
Grbic played in the 2000 Olympics for Yugoslavia, which beat Russia for the gold. In 2004, his country torn apart by war, he played for Serbia and Montengro, which tied for fifth. And in 2008 he played for Serbia in Beijing.
The Grbic brothers are the first siblings inducted and as best as anyone can tell, the only other brothers in a major sport’s hall of fame are the baseball players Lloyd and Paul Waner, who played in the early 1900s.
Rego set the standard for beach volleyball, the only men’s player who competed in the first five Olympics featuring the sport. So skinny as a young player they called him “Bones,” Rego won gold at the 2004 Athens Games with Ricardo Santos, bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with Ricardo and silver in 2012 in London with Alison Cerutti. Cerutti teamed with Oscar Schmidt to win gold in August in Rio.
Rego was named the FIVB Sportsperson of the Year five times and most outstanding player twice. He 86 beach titles.
“I’ve had a beautiful career,” Rego declared. What’s more, he was accompanied by his wife, Leila Barros, a three-time bronze medalist indoors for Brazil. They have two sons and for that reason Rego did his speech, with a translator, in Portuguese.
Scott, the product of Baton Rouge, covered a lot of ground in her long speech, including how the volleyball community stepped up to help her this past summer when her house flooded and she lost nearly everything.
Scott was introduced by Monaco, who recalled him telling her after 2004 that she’d had a great career, implying that it was time to hang it up. She only had two more Olympiads to go. And in her five Olympics, which included winning silver in 2008 and 2012, Scott played under five different Olympic coaches, of course Brian Gimmillaro at Long Beach, and countless others in a 19-year international career.
“Part of my longevity was being coachable,” Scott said.
Scott truly enjoyed a family affair here this weekend. Not only was she joined by her brother and sister, she was glad to look out at her father, Charles, who had celebrated his 70th birthday a couple of day earlier,and her precocious young daughter, Julianne, made sure to get herself into nearly every picture her mom took. And Scott dedicated her honor to her late mother, Vera, who died in 2015.
“My mom set up my spiritual and faith-based foundation to be able to make it through tough times,” Scott said.
The 6-foot-4 Scott, who also was a standout basketball player at Long Beach, played volleyball for so long she saw the libero enter the sport and missed being a six-rotation middle.
From being the NCAA player of the year in 1993, when Long Beach won the title, to the 2012 Olympics, and in between playing all over the world, including Italy and Brazil, Scott had a remarkable career.
May-Treanor continued the Long Beach State theme as she was introduced by former Long Beach assistant coach Debbie Green, not only a former USA setter and a 1995 inductee into the Hall, but now one of May-Treanor’s volunteer assistants at Long Beach City College, where May-Treanor is the volleyball coach. And her father, Butch, is the other volunteer assistant.
Her mother Barbara died, too, and May dedicated her induction to her.
Before Scott was inducted, the Hall played a video from Gimmillaro dedicated to both his former players. And then before May-Treanor spoke, she got to watch a video from her first pro beach partner, Holly McPeak, with whom she played in the 2000 Olympics.
And then she teamed with Kerri Walsh and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Kerri, she didn’t think she was very good when she first came out to the beach,” May-Treanor said. “And I have to laugh, because she was just fine. She was just fine.”
Indeed she was. As they won gold in 2004, ’08 and ’12, the pair won 21 consecutive matches and lost one set in those three Olympics.
“She was the yin to my yang,” May-Treanor said.
Through it all they dominated on the FIVB and AVP tours. May-Treanor won 112 titles in her career.
“I wanted to be a veterinarian or a zookeeper,” May-Treanor said. “I would hear my dad’s stories of (playing in) the ’68 Games and even then I was too into soccer and swimming and being a kid and didn’t think about (volleyball). So the thought of standing up here at the Hall of Fame wasn’t even on the radar. So it’s flattering to be named amongst the best in our sport.”
Her husband, Matt, had the charge of keeping up with their 2-year-old Malia. She thanked the former Major League baseball player for his support and pointed out that they met while both doing physical therapy.
That was something that May-Treanor was used to, considering all the injuries she had, from a torn abdominal to most notably blowing out her Achilles while practicing for Dancing With The Stars. But she recovered in time for her last Olympics in 2012.
“I love the game of volleyball, and I’ve enjoyed watching our sport develop,” she said. “It’s brought new friendships, it’s opened my eyes to the world, and it’s taught me so much about myself.
“I always wanted to play with passion and I wanted to let my love for the game shine through this talent I had. I wanted to inspire and I wanted to change the way the game was played. And most of all I wanted to make an impact.
“I never played for the awards or accolades, although who’s going to turn down money when you win a tournament?” she asked with a laugh. “So that was a plus. And I made a very nice career out of it.”
Certainly between earning and endorsements May-Treanor — who made $2.1 million in beach earnings — did as well financially as any woman athlete in the world.
“But my goal was always to make the person next to me better.”
She certainly did, from winning two NCAA championships at Long Beach to capturing 112 pro beach titles with McPeak and Walsh.
She joked about not missing drug testing and the pesky drug testers, but admitted missing the playing, competing and especially practice.
“Practice is where you push yourself and where you find about yourself,” said May-Treanor, the FIVB offensive player of the year three times and top defensive player twice.
She listed and thanked every coach she ever had, including her parents. And she choked up when thanking her parents for all of their support. And as her nose dripped, she wiped it with her hand and swiped her pants.
“Oh, well,” she joked. “I’m not used to wearing this much clothes.”
It was quite a night.