March 14, 2020 – By NJP
The Jefferson Falcons are in good hands. They have a passionate and inspiring Head Coach that has a world of experience as a player and coach as well as a person who instills the same passion in his players. His name is Marc Gaydos.
Marc has had great success at Jefferson as well as other roles in the sport of volleyball. He was an outstanding player at Vernon High School and played Dll college ball at Southampton where he lead the country in digs his senior year. He has handled both girls and boys programs during his career and even spent a few years at the junior college level coaching a winning program at County College of Morris to a championship season. He knows what it feels like to be a winner and brings this confidence to every opportunity that he leads.
Best of all, he has the best mindset for current times challenges. His positivity is motivating and inspiring to all around him. Even NJP, which we appreciate.
Here is our interview with Coach Marc…
Hi Coach… Tell us a bit about yourself?
My story starts in Vernon Township High School in 1997, where I met Coach Jeff DeYoung. He was brand new to the sport of volleyball so we both learned how to play and we both learned to love the game. Over the four years our goal was to just make it into states and we accomplished that after 3 years. Much of my success is because of what I learned from him.
Personally, I was the first player in the program to play four years of volleyball and became the first person from Vernon to play at the NCAA for volleyball. During the four years, I learned what it takes to build a program from the ground up and what a coach should center and focus on to develop a successful team.
I was recruited by Saint Francis University (DI program in western PA) and Long Island University Southampton College (DII). The decision for me came down to location, scholarship, and my major. I ended up choosing Southampton for their marine biology program. I played from 2002-2005 and during that time we went through 4 different coaches (some successful others were outright horrible) but in the end I helped Southampton Colonials to become the undefeated EIVA Ordineal Championship in 2003. That year, we made it to the NCAA playoffs where we lost to Vassar College in the play-in game. During college, I was awarded the Most Improved Player in 2002, Most Defensive Player in 2004 and was the national NCAA league leader in Digs Per Game for NCAA Division I and II athletes in 2004.
After college, I played club ball within GEVA volleyball for multiple clubs while coaching Allegro Club Volleyball. There I learned what it was like coaching girls of multiple ages. After a short stint there, I found a job at Jefferson Township High School as the head coach for the girls and boys programs. After successful 8 seasons of girls and a visit to the Morris County semifinals, 2013 NJ Herald Coach of the Year, I decided to move on and spend more time with family but stuck with the boys program. Our boys program won 3 league titles in four years and last year my team helped me reach 100 wins.
Volleyball somehow dragged me back into the fall season on an emergency basis for Jefferson girls program in 2018. Since I was back in the game anyway, I took a job at County College of Morris as head coach to see what junior college was like. In just one year, our coaching staff turned a 3-12 team into a 14-4 Region 19 Championship, GSAC Division II Champions, and to cap it all off, I was awarded Coach of the Year in the Region 19 conference.
What motivated you to become a high school volleyball coach?
Motivation came from my upbringing through volleyball through positive and negative coaches. Coach DeYoung made it enjoyable to learn how to play the game. Athletic Director Bill Edleman did a great job fostering a young program and teaching us to handle ourselves like men. Coach DeYoung taught me how to think like a volleyball player and that aspect stuck all the way through my career and still resides with me today. Since my high school career was only with one coach and the fact we saw success throughout the years it was very difficult to adjust to fours college coaches in four years. Every year, new ideas about the starting lineup and personal opinions from the coach made it emotionally and physically difficult. New coaches trying to prove that they belong usually took out their frustrations out on the team when things didn’t go according to plan. I saw many good strategies and drills but then I also saw the negatives with all the coaches. The range of experiences helped me develop my coaching style and made me want to be better than all of my coaches. To this day, every time we play Vernon, I catch myself looking over to see what Coach DeYoung is doing. I am still a little bit of a student even in my 9th year in Jefferson. I always wonder how my mentor is reacting to different situations and if I am doing the right thing. In the end, my motivation is just creating an environment that my players can fall in love with the same game that I did and I use the good from all my coaches while trying not to do what I felt was wrong.
Can you share some advice for current high school level volleyball players and students? (Technical, mental, recruitment, etc…)
The best advice I can tell current high school players is to play each second as it is your last. Things happen, like this COVID19 virus, but make the best of it. I believe we will be playing by mid April but that means everyone was robbed of at least a half of a season. This means we will have fewer games to prove who we are. It is not what we want but that is the stack of cards we have been dealt. There’s nothing we can do about it until we get back on the court. I recommend all the athletes to cherish these practices and moments we get back on the court. Don’t take them for granted because they will be gone before you know it.
Tell us about your team this year?
The 2020 Jefferson Boys Volleyball team should not miss a beat once they step back on the court. We lost three solid seniors from last year, outside hitter JT Wojcik (3rd Team All State) setter Logan Kandel (1st Team NJAC), and middle Nick Juba. We knew we had some holes to fill with the seniors graduating but we did have a great core coming back. Sophomore setter Andrew DuHaime who was playing for GSE has greatly improved and I feel is as strong of a setter as Bryan Harris who holds Jefferson assist records with 1,856 assists. Sophomore outside, Austin Obsuth is another player who came into the season with great improvement from GSE. I believe he will challenge JT Wojcik’s school record for kills in their career. His vertical and the team surrounding him provides Austin a better chance to take deeper runs than JT’s teams.
Returning to our team are Junior Outside Hitter Shane Conley and Middle Dylan Cobb. Shane had the starting role last year and did a fantastic job. I see him being a big factor to where we end up this season. Dylan is a gentle giant with a big block and a hard arm swing. Standing at 6’5″ he will be hard to get the ball around his block. Senior Mark Schlomann who suffered an injury during the end of last year which exposed our serve receive is now healed and commanding our defense.
Middle Dan Profaca is also coming back who has another year of playing experience. This kid is what Jefferson is all about, a hard worker and doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants. Senior Opposite Hitter Sean Whalen is looking better than ever. I expect that he will be a person who not only will shut down the offense on the other team but also put up offensive numbers to keep the other team’s middle honest.
Our bench is full of potential. Freshmen Justin Nwankwo, brother of Stephanie Nwankwo is challenging for a starting spot. Within time I see Justin becoming one of our top hitters in the future. Jake McKeown and Andrew Giampapa are also players that will help in our serve receive if we start struggling.
Can you share one tip for a current high school player to improve his game?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes but be smart enough to realize the situation. I have played against many older players who can make fools out of younger, better talent by being smarter than them. They win because a well placed shot is as lethal as a hard cross court hit. Sometimes switching the type of hit you are doing is enough to open up enough room to get you a kill. Get the other team on their heels and guessing what you are doing and the more options you will have.
The Coronavirus poses a real threat to the Spring HS Sports season. What will you say to your seniors and other players affected by this challenge?
I understand that they feel cheated and it’s not fair for their senior year to be robbed like this. No parent, coach, administrator, or even the President of the United States wants to shut down public and private entities like they did but this is what we are handed. You can’t control the variables like this but you can control how likely you will be exposed to the COVID-19 virus. If you are doing distance learning stay home, work on your academics because you are a student first, athlete second. Set a ball on your back, find a wall to hit the ball against. Don’t expose yourself anymore than you have to because once we do get over this school closing and reopen schools you don’t want to be the one still quarantined while your team is back at practice.
Once we are back on the court, remember how bad you wanted to get there. It is times like this that you remember what you loved about the sport. Usually only the players who are hurt and out for the season or significant time feels this want and desire but now everyone in the state is going through this. These are unprecedented times and in these moments the sense of normality goes a long way. 9/11 was probably the last time our nation has seen something like this and when the New York Rangers and the New York Yankees took the ice and the field it brought hope to the whole nation. It brought a sense of enjoyment and familiarity in the darkest times. Now it is your time to do what they did. So when you are on the court never take any play, any point, or any practice for granted. Play everything like it’s the championship point.
What word of encouragement or inspiration can you offer current high school level players?
Just because you are told you can’t, doesn’t mean that you won’t. Only when you start to believe those people will it become true.
How do you motivate your players?
Our coaching staff takes motivation from all aspects of life. For example our state playoff spot last year did not sit well with our team and the next game we took our frustrations out on that team. Though, the one thing that seems to pump our guys up the most are stories about our veterans. Before every game, while the other team is doing their warm ups, our coaching staff does a pregame speech and most of them reflect the true stories of some of our veterans and what they did for their brothers in arms. The sacrifice that they went through is beyond imaginable so when they hear these stories about life or death events by holding together, fighting through adversity, and ignoring pain to accomplish a goal it seems a little more manageable to play a game afterword.
What is the biggest challenge that you have as a high school volleyball coach?
I believe a lot of other coaches deal with the same issues that I have with coaching boys volleyball and that is the perception that everyone that never plays has on volleyball which is its not a tough sport. Building a girls and boys volleyball program has its challenges but the biggest issue is to get your top tier athletes to try out. Since we don’t have a developmental league, the first time boys get experience with the sport is 13-14 years of age and they are heavily influenced by what people say. They hear things like volleyball is a girls sport, you are only trying out because they don’t make cuts, or it’s not tough enough. These words play heavily on our top athletes and deter them away from the sport of volleyball. Even some coaches don’t value the physical demands of our fast athletic sport. Luckily I am in a position where certain coaches are very supportive and push our students to try new sports. Our team is now starting to make a name for itself and younger boys are realizing that they want to be a part of our story. Our team is now 80% made up of sophomores and freshmen.
Are there any rule changes that you would to see in NJ High School Volleyball?
I would like NJ High School Volleyball to have a defined set of rules on which coaches go to the selection committee for the state playoff. Within those rules it should allow every coach a chance to earn a spot at the selection committee. If they only invite coaches who won their division from previous year it will open up to new coaches and allows all divisions to be represented. This will create a community of coaches that understands what goes into deciding where teams are placed and allow all coaches a chance for their voice to be heard.
What makes you different than other coaches in your division?
I am part of a division with very intelligent volleyball minds which makes for great competition. I do think I am a little more emotional than some of my counterparts. In some cases that’s a good thing but in other times it’s not. Coach Anthony McMichael from Dover and I have had some spectacular battles over the past few years and according to some spectators the real show is the one we both put on rooting and coaching our team on.
What advice do you have for parents of players on high school teams?
Be a parent in the stand. Learn your team’s cheers and chant with the boys. Make the gym a positive place to play that breeds support for each player no matter what is going on court. Let the coach decide who to put on the court and when. On the ride home, be a listener. Let them vent or tell you what they did right but be their fan. Don’t go over what they did wrong or what you saw, just marvel at what they did right.
What else would you like us to know about you?
I want to thank my wife and family for allowing me to pursue this career. A lot of pressure and burden is placed on them when I am at practice or at a game that I miss being a part of their lives.