While a number of fall sports may have started spring practice around the country on Monday, it's very unlikely many teams had the special guest Santa Clara volleyball hosted on its first day. Bronco Athletic Director Dan Coonan, in his eighth year at the Santa Clara, kept good on a promise and went through the full practice in the Leavey Center, including wind sprints to start day.
Bronco Athletic Director Dan Coonan, in the red shirt in the back row, joined the Santa Clara volleyball team in its first day of spring practice.
Coonan laced up with the team after promising newly hired assistant coach Matt Lyles back in January that he would come out and play the first day of spring practice. "We wanted him to be a part of what we are doing here with our retooled staff," said Lyles. "I think he was absolutely gassed after this morning. It was great to have him out there. The team really enjoyed it."
The team, including Coonan, started the day with wind sprints and about mid-way through was heard muttering, "are we almost done?"
But all told, Coonan had as much fun as the team and embraced the chance to get to know the women better, first hand. "I didn't impress anybody but I thoroughly enjoyed it," said Coonan. "I got a chance to witness first-hand the new energy on this team. It's exciting. I can see already that in addition to head coach Jon Wallace, assistant coaches Brad Keller and Matt Lyles, will be great to have with the program. As for me being out there, the team was incredibly welcoming, supportive and, most importantly, forgiving! It was great to bond with them like that. I love this team!"
Coonan's 13-year-old daughter, Claire, is very familiar with the Bronco volleyball team, even idolizing the team as she plays youth volleyball. "Claire was absolutely mortified when she heard that I was going to practice with the team," said Coonan.
With Coonan acting as a volunteer coach for the day, the team enjoyed having Coonan as part of their first practice. Luckily for Claire's sake, the women gave him pretty high ratings as well for his skills. Kayla Lommori gave him an eight and Lexi Willamson a 7.333, saying he had great fundamentals, but "he just needed to work out some kinks."
Katy Schatzman said Coonan was a lot better than she thought he would be. Katherine Douglas added "I have seen his daughter play at camp, so I wasn't too surprised by his skills that he has probably learned through her desire to constantly pepper with him at home."
The four Bronco volleyball players all recommended he work on his serve and Douglas added another aspect. "We all have a number of things to work on the first day and he might want to work on his defense a bit more. But, we all need to work on our defense!"
Lommori said it was really fun practicing their athletic director and added, "he acted like he was one of us! He was extremely fun to watch and play with. He surprised me with some of his defense."
"It was awesome having Dan Coonan with us at practice! I have never heard of an athletic director participating in a team's practice. He had a few digs that came out of nowhere," said Williamson. "He was in the trenches the whole time with us. I think he was too winded to talk to us, but the fact that he was practicing with us shows a tremendous amount of leadership!"
Claire Coonan can smile now because she will also be very happy to learn that Douglas thought playing with her father was a lot of fun. "I was impressed with how easily Mr. Coonan stepped in, and how much effort he put forth every time he had the opportunity to touch the ball. He did a great job of holding his own and constantly communicating with the team," added Douglas.
"It was very cool to see our athletic director practicing with us and keeping up with us the entire time. He even participated in our conditioning drills before practice," added Schatzman.
It's safe to say Coonan might want to get his soccer and baseball/softball cleats ready, as well as his tennis racquet, running and basketball shoes and swimming trunks, because he might be hearing from more Bronco teams in the coming months to help kick off their practices as well.
"Maybe not water polo though. I would be holding onto the side of the pool after the first minute," laughed Coonan.