NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Billy Ebel spent the last 10 days of June in New Orleans but he didn’t have a lot of time for gumbo or red beans and rice.
Ebel was one of the six coaches for the U.S. Collegiate National Team Program working under the direction of Master Coaches Mike Hebert and Ken Preston.
The 36 players who participated are all in college with one or more years of eligibility and were participating in what is basically a second tryout period for the U.S. Women’s National Team. They were working out in New Orleans in conjunction with the USA Volleyball Girls’ National Championships.
“This summer was a huge honor for Billy,” Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “Not only did he get to coach a college all-star team, but he was also being evaluated and mentored by some of the greats of the game.
“One in particular, Mike Hebert, is a member of the Volleyball Hall of Fame as a coach. He is somebody I respect a ton. I have spent some time with him over the years. He is kind of the Yoda of volleyball as far I am concerned. To have Billy be able to spend some time with him was huge.”
The players were divided into three teams. Ebel coached a team along with Millicent Van Norden from the University of New Orleans. Their team won the tournament between the three teams.
“We evaluated players and put them in different situations to see how they would respond,” Ebel said. “We had a five-day block of training before we moved downtown to the convention center for the round-robin tournament.”
While they were running practices and evaluating players Ebel and his fellow coaches were being evaluated by the master coaches. Ebel admits that the evaluations were both nerve-wracking and encouraging.
“They evaluated how we ran practices to how we talked with our players during breaks,” Ebel said. “They would tell us what was good and what was not good.
“Millicent and I planned a three-hour training block along with multiple practices. After each practice they would meet with us as coaches and ask us things like, `why did you say this?’ or `why did you put them in this situation?’ The whole idea was to get us to think.”
Ebel agreed with Rosenthal that it was a great experience to work with Hebert and Preston.
“Mike Hebert is kind of the point person people go to when they have questions,” Ebel said. “He is one of the best coaches of all time.
“Ken Preston has spent 30 years at California-Santa Barbara and has worked with the U.S. and national teams. They both had really good ideas and experiences they let us know about.”
Ebel has worked with USA volleyball in the past, especially with the younger players. This was an opportunity for him to work with players on a higher level.
“Overall, it was a great experience,” Ebel said. “I really learned a lot about myself as a coach. I learned what I do well and what I need to improve on.
“I have known Mike Hebert for a long time. Mike Hebert told me at the end of the tournament that I was willing to do whatever it takes to make the sport better. That meant a lot.”
Ebel is starting his third season with the Lady Bisons. Rosenthal stresses that when he hired Ebel he saw his coaching potential.
“What we saw in Billy when he came here was a huge amount of talent,” Rosenthal said. “He was a little rough around the edges in some areas. It has been a cool opportunity to work with him and continue to see him grow.
“To have Billy spend some time with someone like Mike Hebert was huge. It shows the caliber of assistant we have whether it is Ann (Armes) or Billy. I think it is going to help us a staff and team as well. I am really proud of him. He did a fantastic job.”