by Josh Stevens
“Never stop learning. Never stop improving.” That’s the motto for new Cedarville women’s volleyball coach Greg Smith.
Smith grew up in Rochester, Indiana, and had to learn volleyball through an unusual route.
He first got into sports through his father, who coached basketball. His first knowledge of volleyball came from watching his high school girls’ team. He went to Westmont College in California to play tennis but had a desire for volleyball.
“I picked up playing volleyball on the beach, did some indoor as well,” Smith said.
But Smith could not play for the club volleyball team because of tennis. He also became a student assistant for the men’s basketball team, so his time for other activities was limited. Still, volleyball was always in the back of his mind.
He graduated with a business degree and began working for Nike but still felt like something wasn’t right.
“I realized that wasn’t the avenue that I felt like God was leading me down,” he said.
With a little bit of a nudge from his father, Smith went back to school to get his secondary education degree so he could teach and coach high school basketball. But along the way, God again intervened. At the University of Indianapolis, where Smith was studying, a coaching opportunity presented itself. The volleyball program was looking for a new assistant coach, and Smith applied.
“I just said, ‘We’ll see what happens,’” he remembered.
He got the position, and it was just what he needed to launch his coaching career.
Through networking and being a part of several volleyball camps throughout the country, Smith began to make his name known. His next stop was at Hofstra University as an assistant coach, then he moved to Ohio State.
His first head coaching job came in 2000, when the Hokies of Virginia Tech hired Smith. After a brief stint at Notre Dame as an assistant, he became Toledo’s head coach in 2009.
Though it took Smith a while to get into the coaching world, he never gave up on his dream. He cites former Ohio State head volleyball coach Jim Stone as one of his biggest influences. Stone taught Smith to “never stop learning, never stop improving.”
“We would go to coaching clinics, other team’s courts to watch and listen,” Smith said.
One day, Smith asked Stone why he would do this when Stone was already such a successful coach.
“Because I can still learn,” Stone said.
That affected Smith in a tremendous way, and he uses that philosophy now as a head coach.
Smith also had several other influences, including legendary coaches John Wooden, and Tony Dungy.
“There’s so many influences, it’d be hard to name them all,” Smith said with a smile.
With an urge to still coach, Smith had trouble finding a new gig.
He applied to Cedarville, thinking this would be his last shot. And again, the Lord came through. Now in a Christian environment, Smith has the opportunity to coach the game he loves, but he also has a chance to serve in a deeper way.
“I’m not looking for a legacy,” Smith said. “I want to continue to build on previous coaches’ success, I want to continue to build our players’ relationship with Christ.”
Even as a successful coach who’s been across the country, Smith is not worried about wins or losses. He’s more concerned about his team’s character.
“I have a responsibility to continue what has been established here,” Smith said. “And to make sure it continues to grow.”
In coaching, and in life, Smith’s message has remained clear: “Never stop learning. Never stop improving.”
Josh Stevens is a junior journalism major and sports writer for Cedars. He enjoys rooting for the Tennessee Titans and listening to old-school music.