According to the Volleyball Hall of Fame, “the Mintonette Medallion of Merit is awarded in recognition of significant individual achievement.” In their eyes, for the selection of the 2013 recipient of said award, there was no better option than Springfield College’s very own, Joel Dearing.
Dearing served as head coach of the Pride from 1989-2010 and never had a losing season. Overall, Dearing was 595-196 as a women’s volleyball coach for Springfield College. In his early years, from 1989-1996, Dearing coached the men’s team as well, posting a 130-52 record.
The wins that Dearing has collected from the sideline are just the beginning of a long list of achievements that he has collected throughout his coaching career. Some of these include: serving on the board of directors for the Volleyball Hall of Fame, becoming an honorary board member, being involved with USA Volleyball’s Coaching Accreditation Program for over 20 years, and authoring two books.
Although Dearing has been a monumental figure in the sport of volleyball, he is the first person to pawn his successes off on others.
“When I first heard, I reacted as if I was saying, ‘Why me?’ I am not very comfortable with individual recognition when I feel like everything I have ever done, for the most part, has involved other people,” stated Dearing. “My family is really excited about it. [Winning the award] means a lot to me because it means a lot to my family.”
Dearing, who has been a mentor to many of his former players, including head coach of the Coast Guard Academy women’s volleyball program Aylene Ilkson and the head coach of the West Springfield High School program Chelsea Barnicle, handed off the women’s volleyball program to his former graduate assistant coach Moira Long in 2011.
“[His] winning this award says a lot about him as a leader,” stated Long. “He has given so much to Springfield College, and to both men and women’s volleyball and it’s great to see. He is such a great person and so deserving of this award. To this day, when I am coaching, in any situation I think to myself, ‘What would Coach D do?’”
Dearing will join a star-studded list of recipients of the Mintonette Medallion of Merit, including Kirk Kilgour, a member of the 1972 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team, and Richard Caplan, the record holder for most consecutive appearances at the United States Volleyball National Championships, with 52.
The first-ever winner of the Mintonette Medallion of Merit was a lady from Western New York named Sally Kus. Kus, the 1987 National Coach of the Year from the National Federation of High Schools, started coaching in the 1970’s at Sweet Home High School in Amherst, N.Y. Twenty-three years later, Kus had posted a record of 792-29 and collected 20 consecutive Section VI Class A titles.
Over the years, Dearing and Kus built a strong relationship and became good friends through the work they have done together.
In his final year before leaving the women’s volleyball team, Dearing wanted one of Kus’ players to join the program for preseason the following summer. Her name was Whitney Miller.
Miller, who is now a junior setter on the volleyball team, has built a tight relationship with Dearing over the years from working his summer volleyball camp.
“I never had Coach Dearing as my volleyball coach, but he is 100 percent the reason I chose to come to Springfield College,” said Miller. “My relationship with Coach Dearing is definitely great. I am able to go to him about anything, whether it concerns volleyball or just life in general. He always knows what to say and makes you think outside the box. He is truly one of the most genuine people you will ever meet.
Receiving the award will not only put Dearing in the spotlight, but also the Springfield College Athletics Department as a whole.
“Coach Dearing is so well-known and a legend in the volleyball world. It is so well-deserving, especially because of his background in volleyball,” stated Springfield College Athletic Director Cathie Schweitzer.
“Winning this is good for Springfield College, good for Joel Dearing, and it’s good for volleyball throughout the country. This will reflect very highly on Springfield College, and it’s just another link from Springfield to the sport of Volleyball.”
Although the final members of Dearing’s last freshman class are now seniors, Dearing will always be remembered in their minds as a phenomenal coach.
“He was amazing. He figured out his players really fast and he knew who he could be a little firmer with and who he had to ease up on,” said senior outside hitter Tessa Smolinski. “He knew his players so well and knew the game even better. He taught me more aspects of the game than I even knew existed.”
Dearing will be honored with the award on October 18 at the annual Volleyball Hall of Fame Induction Celebration at the Open Square Mill 1 in Holyoke, Mass.