Even when Joel Walton isn’t in the gym with the Ball State men’s volleyball team, he can be found on a volleyball court.
The head men’s volleyball coach was selected to serve as the head of delegation for the United States Youth National Team, which puts together the country’s best volleyball players, ages 19 and under, to compete in the World Championships in August.
It’s a role that peaked Walton’s interest a year ago, while he was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida coaching a USA High Performance Championships.
It was there that Walton was approached by Jonah Carson, mentor coach during the High Performance Championships. Carson worked with coaches by observing, giving feedback and ensuring engagement between players and coaches.
“Jonah came up to me one day and said, ‘Coach Walton, I think you would be a great person to be head of delegation for one of our national team programs,’” Walton said. “I took that as a great compliment.”
After expressing his interest, Walton soon realized what came with, rather, what didn’t come with the role. Like a stipend that the coaches will earn.
“The reality is that most of the USA Volleyball coaching opportunities, you’re not going to get rich doing those things,” Walton said. “There’s a little bit of pay, they’re typically going to cover your expenses and pay you a stipend.”
Still, after meddling the role over, finding out the dates and asking his wife’s opinion, Walton decided it was an opportunity he wanted to pursue.
As the head of delegation, Walton will travel to Bahrain and have the chance to meet potential Ball State recruits from across the world. In his role, Walton will focus on the day-to-day tasks of organizing travel and managing money as well as smaller roles, like ensuring the team has its laundry done.
“I’m supposed to be the liaison between the coaches and the people who are running the tournament,” Walton said. “If I do my job well, everything will go smooth and our coaches and players will be able to concentrate on competing at their highest level.”
While Walton won’t be coaching at the World Championships, he will be able to provide his advice to coaches Sam Schweisky and Brad Keller, NCAA coaches at Princeton and UCLA, respectively.
While the 24 invitees will be all together in Lake Placid, New York from August 13-23, 15 of them agreed to play on the national team during the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships from July 18-22 in Fort Lauderdale.
The competition will host several regional teams from the United States as well as several international teams. Walton will be in attendance as a coach in that tournament before traveling to Lake Placid to join the national team on August 12.
Having a chance for the players to get some preliminary experience together is something that Walton said usually hasn’t happened in the past.
“Typically, what happens is our youth teams that are put together have a two-week tryout camp and some training and then they go to a major international competition to compete,” Walton said. “They have very little time together as a team and very little experience together and now they’re trying to play with the best players from around the world.”
The early time together should give the United State a better chance to compete with international teams who have spent more time playing together in various championships.
After selecting the final 12-man roster, the United States will join 19 other national teams in Bahrain for the World Championships from August 18-27.