Each season, Michigan volleyball coach Mark Rosen takes his players out of their comfort zone to help them achieve new goals.
This year, he took them to extreme heights.
Rosen took the team to a high ropes course in Dearborn before the season. It forced many members of the team — and himself, to conquer their fears of height. But the main goal was to improve communication in a taxing environment.
“When they get uncomfortable like they did, they really have to rely on each other,” Rosen said. “And trust is the key to success on the volleyball court.”
While teamwork will help the volleyball team reach its goals, Rosen is about to achieve a milestone of his own.
Coming into this weekend’s matchups with Purdue and Illinois, Rosen is tied with legendary coach Sandy Vong for the most victories in program history with 177. That puts him one victory away from becoming the winningest coach in program history.
“I want us to win a game to move up in the standings and help us in the postseason, not for my own record,” Rosen said. “The record really doesn’t mean anything to me.”
Rosen shares that philosophy with Vong, who Rosen hired three years ago as a team advisor.
Watching from his corner bleacher seat, Vong sends the team his “words of the day”, volleyball wisdom that aims to bring the team together while promoting a competitive attitude.
“Sometimes he’ll tell us that we really need to pick it up competitively,” senior Kerry Hance said. “And listening to him and (Rosen), it’s hard not to respect them because they’re so knowledgeable about the game.”
Along with his wife and assistant coach, Leisa, Rosen has focused on creating a tight-knit family dynamic with his team.
“We respect (Rosen) as more than just a coach,” junior Megan Bower said. “We respect him as a dad, really. You can tell every day that he truly cares about each one of us.”
Fourteen years of coaching experience, nine at Michigan, has made Rosen calmer while dealing with his players’ ups and downs.
In the Wolverines’ five-game loss to Wisconsin last week, Rosen entered a locker room full of players waiting for a verbal beating. But instead, Rosen calmly stressed the fact that this team was one of his strongest he has coached at Michigan and that he had no doubt they would bounce back the next day.
That confidence will be crucial in the next three games as the Wolverines take on three ranked opponents, including the defending National Champion, No. 1 Penn State. The Nittany Lions knocked Michigan out of the program’s first NCAA Sweet 16 last season.
“There are six of us out on the court, and all of us have to trust each other,” Bower said. “He’s instilled a confidence in us as a team that gets us to play at the highest level every time we’re out there. We’re not six players, anymore, we’re a team.”