Matt Fuerbringer Brings Elite Coaching Experience to Long Beach State
LBSU’s new associate head coach has been at the highest levels of volleyball, coaching with the US Men’s National Team.
LONG BEACH, Calif. - Matt Fuerbringer had no plans to leave the United States Men’s National Volleyball Team. As an assistant coach to John Speraw, Fuerbringer had helped the US win its first World Cup Championship in 30 years, and then won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. He’d already had his sights set on the 2020 Games in Tokyo, but those plans changed over the summer when an opportunity arose coach alongside his wife, Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, at Long Beach State.
“I was really never going to coach for anyone else, I was only planning on moving from that job (with the National Team) if I was going to be a head coach, but this situation came in where we really felt like we could do this together,” Fuerbringer explains. “What a gift we have to be able to live where we want to live. We have a great house that we really love but more importantly we have a business here … Staying local was the ideal situation, so when this popped up I wasn’t necessarily ready to leave the National Team, I was still loving it and wanting to go to Tokyo, but these jobs don’t come around often … When this job opened up, I was all for it.”
Matt and Joy have been stalwarts in the local volleyball community as owners, directors and coaches at their volleyball clubs, Mizuno Long Beach and Team Rockstar. While building and maintaining their respective clubs, they’ve never really had the chance to coach together until now.
“I’ve always admired Joy as a coach and all the amazing things she does with her kids that she’s coached for all this time,” Fuerbringer says. “We’re learning that the way that we teach isn’t exactly the same, so we might want to say the same thing but we might say it differently. So it’s just figuring that stuff out, but the great part is that you know that the other person is all in and has the best intentions, and we know that with each other.”
From club volleyball all the way to the Olympic Games, Fuerbringer has had the chance to coach volleyball at all levels. As a player himself, he was a star at Stanford, earning All-American honors four times while becoming the Cardinal’s all-time kills leader. After playing professional indoor volleyball overseas, he segued into a highly successful beach volleyball career and, ultimately, a career in coaching.
The trip to Rio for the Olympics has been the highpoint of that coaching career so far, and it was an invaluable learning experience for Fuerbringer. The USA faced a difficult road after dropping its first two matches in pool play, but battled back to win the nation’s fifth Olympic medal in men’s volleyball by defeating Russia in the bronze medal match. That proved to be the culmination of a four-year stint with the national team for Fuerbringer, who learned a lot in his first experience as a full-time coach.
“For me, those four years were a lot about me learning and growing as a coach,” he explains. “Really learning how to teach the game and at the highest level, it can be difficult … It’s about having the patience and learning the language that the players need to hear.”
One of Fuerbringer’s key coaching philosophies came from US Women’s National Team head coach Karch Kiraly, who said one of his biggest mistakes as a coach was assuming. So as Fuerbringer takes on the new challenge of coaching at a Division I women’s volleyball program, he has left out any assumptions derived from his previous experience as a coach and a player. That means starting with the basics of the sport, crafting each players’ skills from the ground up to make the best players and the best team possible. The best way to do that for Fuerbringer is through building relationships with his players.
“That’s how I think of myself as a coach,” says Fuerbringer. “I like to build relationships and relate to the players and teach through experience that I’ve had, and show them that no matter how good you are you can always get better. My core values are that comes through hard work. A lot of people don’t necessarily know how hard you have to work to be great. Working hard doesn’t guarantee greatness but you can’t be great if you don’t work hard … That level of professionalism that it takes to be great, we’re trying to infuse that in the Long Beach culture.”
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