Olympic gold medalist visits young volleyball players


By Shaun Ryan

To learn how to practice a sport, it is always useful to have the advice of an expert. And on Thursday, May 19, a group of young volleyball players from the Ponte Vedra region received advice from the best.

Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser visited the youngsters, who were enrolled in a series of lessons offered by Volleyball1on1 at Nocatee Community Park. He taught them advanced techniques and how to put more power into their game and explained how mistakes can be used to improve.

The day was divided into two sessions: one for students in grades 4 to 7 and the other for students in grades 8 to 12. That evening, Dalhausser joined Volleyball1on1 founders Andor Gyulai and Vanessa Summers-Gyulai for a parent bonding presentation titled “Better Parenting Through Sports.”

Dalhausser, teaming with Todd Rogers, won his gold medal in beach volleyball at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. At Thursday’s rally, he showed the youngsters his medal, the back of which was encrusted with a rare white jade.

He described winning a gold medal as “pretty sweet”.

“It’s the best feeling multiplied by 100,” he said.

Although many Olympians start honing their skills early in life, Dalhausser didn’t get involved in volleyball until he was a high school student at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. The coach had been asking him to try out for years, but it wasn’t until Dalhausser got tired of playing baseball that he agreed.

And he discovered that everything came naturally.

“I became obsessed,” he said.

He went to the University of Central Florida, where he earned a business degree, but after graduating he told his parents he would like to pursue a career in volleyball. They were fine with the idea but agreed to give him until he was 25 before he had to turn to a career more compatible with his degree.

It turned out that he won his first professional tournament at age 25.

In addition to her victory in Beijing, Dalhausser competed in three other Olympics and won several beach volleyball championships around the world.

Dalhausser’s visit to Nocatee was at the invitation of the Gyulais, who met him earlier this year at a private trial in Orlando.

Prior to founding Volleyball1on1, Andor Gyulai and Vanessa Summers-Gyulai had careers in financial services in Los Angeles.

Andor Gyulai was an experienced volleyball player and a world famous coach. In 2009, the Gyulais started posting videos – 3,000 in total – on YouTube featuring the best players and coaches in the world. This evolved into a franchise volleyball training system for high school coaches and clubs. Their company, Volleyball1on1, runs volleyball camps all over the country.

“We actually want to raise volleyball Olympians,” said Andor Gyulai.

In fact, they may already be doing it. Their son, Thor, 14, has demonstrated an interest and talent for the sport. He was recently scouted for the elite U-16 volleyball team.

In addition to volleyball skills, the Gyulais – who moved to Ponte Vedra in January – incorporate life skills into every lesson. It’s something that Vanessa Summers-Gyulai said is her favorite part of what they do.

“We like to say it’s bigger than volleyball,” her husband said.

“We like to teach things like: how to communicate, how to ask questions, how to work successfully, how to set goals,” said Andor Gyulai. “We like to say that when we teach these things, we develop excellent lifelong learners who are goal-setting, communicative, self-directed, critical-thinking, who thrive in competition and under pressure, who know how to work as a member or leader of a team while being fair and considering others.

At Thursday’s rally, Dalhausser helped Gyulais reinforce these positive ideas to students.

Later, when presenting at the link, they sought to partner with parents so that the lessons they were giving on the ground would be reinforced at home.

As for Dalhausser, he said he wanted to help develop the sport that was so good to him in Florida.

The bi-weekly volleyball lessons offered at Nocatee Community Park (collectively referred to as NocVolleyball) are about to end. But they will be relaunched in August.

For more information about Volleyball1on1, visit volleyball1on1.com. For more information on NocVolleyball, visit NocVolleyball.com.


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