COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 15, 2008) – Less than four months after leading the U.S. Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team to a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Hugh McCutcheon (Christchurch, New Zealand) has accepted the head coach position of the U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2009-2012 Olympic quadrennial, according to USA Volleyball Chief Executive Officer Doug Beal.
“This is a great opportunity for me to further develop professionally. I'm excited by the challenges this change presents, and I'm optimistic that some of the knowledge we've acquired with the men's program can translate to the women,” McCutcheon said in regards to changing roles to the U.S. Women’s National Team. “There will be differences in systems and aspects of developing team culture but, at the end of the day, the fundamental principles of volleyball are not gender-specific.”
“Hugh proved throughout the past quadrennial his abilities as a great coach, motivator and program manager,” Beal said. “The direction he provided allowed our men to steadily climb into position to be champions. Rarely has a team been so good so often under such intense pressure as they were in Beijing. I look forward to him bringing his talents, abilities, personality and philosophy to our women’s program! USA Volleyball is indeed fortunate and pleased to be able to retain Hugh within our national team structure.”
Beal notes this is not an uncommon situation in international or professional volleyball. There are many examples of coaches moving from one gender to the other, most notably Jose Roberto Guimaraes (Ze Roberto), who led the Brazilian men’s team to the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games, and matched that success by leading the Brazilian women to the gold medal in Beijing.
“Successful coaches are successful coaches,” Beal said. “I have every confidence that Hugh can learn the differences that surely exist between genders and apply his philosophy to our women’s team in a positive way.”
Lindsey Berg (Honolulu), a two-time Olympian with the U.S. Women’s National Team and silver medalist at the 2008 Olympic Games, described McCutcheon as a great fit for the program.
“Personally, I am absolutely thrilled Hugh has accepted the position to lead our team,” Berg said. “He will be able to help us take a huge step forward in making change within our program in a very positive way. This will be a great opportunity for our team to work under a different set of philosophies. Hugh will be able to bring in fresh and new ideas for us to build upon by bringing in aspects from the men’s game, including how we train and compete on the court. Overall, this is a great coaching move and change for our program, and it is going to be exciting.”
As the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2008 Olympic Games, McCutcheon, 39, and Team USA went undefeated in Beijing to claim its third Olympic Games gold medal and its first podium finish since 1992. He leaves the U.S. Men’s National Team program with a 107-33 overall record in four years and Team USA ranked second in the current FIVB World Ranking, its highest ranking ever.
The U.S. enjoyed one of its best seasons ever in 2008 under McCutcheon’s guidance as the team won all three of its major tournaments of the year. Team USA secured its first-ever FIVB World League championship in July 2008 after a bronze medal finish in the same event in 2007, the first time the Americans earned back-to-back medals in the annual event. The U.S. started the 2008 campaign in dominating fashion by sweeping all five matches at the NORCECA Men’s Continental Olympic Qualifier to earn its berth in the 2008 Olympics.
“(Hugh) meant everything to our team,” U.S. Men’s National Team libero Rich Lambourne (Tustin, Calif.) said. “He was the mastermind of what we were trying to do. He was the one who clearly focused our goal and got it written down and set out a plan for how to get us there. In 2005, when we started the quad, the idea that we would be gold medalists was pretty comical. It seemed so far away. It’s a huge credit to him that he kept us on that track and had in mind a way to actually accomplish that.”
McCutcheon, hired as an assistant coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team in April 2003, assisted the Americans to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens after the squad failed to win a single match at the 2000 Olympic Games. He was elevated to head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team in February 2005 after Beal moved from his coaching role into the position of CEO.
The U.S. Women’s National Team also enjoyed remarkable success at the 2008 Olympic Games under head coach “Jenny” Lang Ping, who elected not to seek a contract renewal for the upcoming quadrennial. Using a roster of eight Olympic Games veterans, Team USA earned its first medal since the 1992 Olympic Games and finished with the silver medal falling to top-ranked Brazil in the championship match. The U.S. finished second in its group including a victory over host China, then went on to defeat second-ranked Italy in the quarterfinals and third-ranked Cuba in the semifinals. The Americans were the only team to take a set away from Brazil throughout the Olympics.
“Jenny proved once again why she ranks among the very top of the elite international coaches by leading the U.S. Women to the Olympic Games silver medal in her home country under very difficult conditions,” Beal said. “She deserves a huge amount of credit for the team’s medal performance.”
Beal indicated that now is the time to build the sport across a broad range of platforms based on the achievements earned during the 2008 Olympics.
“The objective for all USA Volleyball programs is to maintain the remarkable success from Beijing, while at the same time, working to grow the profile of our sport as significantly and widely as possible,” Beal said. “This will be very challenging as both the U.S. and the world head into a period of uncertain economic times. Hugh is very aware of our goals as an organization, and I am confident that in his new role, he will be in a position to contribute to them significantly.”
McCutcheon was not a stranger to USA Volleyball prior to landing his first job with the U.S. Men’s National Team. He served as a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s national team helping out during the 2001 FIVB World League, the 2002 FIVB World Championship and five international tours. He has also served as the head coach of the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team in 2000 and 2001.
According to Beal, USA Volleyball does not have a set timetable to fill the now-vacated U.S. Men’s National Team head coach position other than taking the necessary time to find the most qualified person.
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images