Thursday, August 14, 2008

Five Questions with Mike Chartier

Mike Chartier, co-director of the North Shore Milwaukee Volleyball Club, graciously agreed to be the second subject of our "Five Questions" feature. With these posts, we find individuals closely tied to Wisconsin volleyball and ask them, you guessed it, five questions about "the state of the sport in the state of Wisconsin."

Mike has been involved with boys volleyball in Wisconsin for decades. He's coached at North Shore for 16 plus years, a stint that includes a national championship in 2000 with his NSMVC Boys 14 team. He has also served as head boys volleyball coach at both Nicolet and Pius XI. And in 2005, he won the Junior Olympic Outstanding Program Director Award.

Obviously, with a resume like that, he has some thoughts about boys volleyball in Wisconsin. So let's get right to our five questions and Mike's five responses.

Q1: What changes have you seen in Wisconsin boys' high school and club volleyball over the years?

Mike: The growth in the number of players and the quality has been significant. The grade schools are offering the sport as an organized activity so players are starting at an earlier age and that has boosted the quality of play at the high school and club level. This has been more noticeable at the private grade schools. The private grade schools have a nice fall season with league play and tournaments. Teams are small so each player is getting more playing time and repetitions. The public grade schools are hit or miss. Their season, as far as I know, is more of a short, intramural-type experience than a competitive one.

Q2: What excites you most when you look at the future of boys' volleyball in Wisconsin and, conversely, what are some challenges that lie ahead?

Mike: Two things excite me about the future. One, I think there is still momentum and pressure for schools to add boys’ volleyball. I am excited to see the Fox Valley area continue to grow and produce quality high school teams and players. More programs in high school mean more players interested in club volleyball. Having more boys involved in club volleyball is exciting. In the Badger Region we are trying to help growth in areas outside of southeastern Wisconsin. I think we can do this if we continue to add events to the club schedule that allow areas like Madison and the Fox Valley to send club teams without having to travel out of state.

The second exciting aspect is how we have been able to produce teams that can compete with the best in the country. The top talent in Wisconsin has been able compete and win against the best teams across the country. While we may not have as many elite teams as other states like California and Illinois, our elite teams are as good as any coming from those states. That was not the case 9-10 years ago. Ten years ago, if you looked at the top eight teams in an age group, you might have seven from California or Puerto Rico and maybe one at most from the rest of the country. Now, you might get four from California, maybe one from Puerto Rico and 2-3 from the Midwest of East Coast. Each year and each age group will be different, but over the years, there has been a slow shift in this direction. This shift makes Nationals for club more exciting each year.

Q3: What can the average fan do to build the sport on the boys' and men's side?

Mike: We need to continue to develop programs and opportunities at the younger ages. This early support helps build programs at the grade school levels and then high schools. When you get to adding volleyball as a boy’s/men’s sport in schools, you need to deal with funding issues. So many school districts are facing budget issues it's very difficult to add anything. You need to get enough people in a district to push for the addition to gain any traction.

Q4: Who are some of the top high school teams and players to watch this fall?

Mike: I’m not as familiar with the high school teams. In the past, the high schools with a lot of club players have been the stronger high school teams. That is the general pattern. I expect Marquette, Pius and Catholic Memorial to be strong next year. Nicolet is returning several quality players. Shorewood will be improved from last year. New Berlin should be a strong team this year now that they have a few years of growth behind them. At least one team from the Fox Valley conference can be counted on as a top 10 team. That has been Appleton North the past few years, but it could be Kaukauna this year. I don’t know much about the Madison area schools.

Q5: We've been tracking the end of Daniel Mathews' career at Ohio State? What other North Shore alum are out there accomplishing great things?

This past season Ethan Pheister (Ball State, Shorewood HS) and Mike Hutz (Loyola, Marquette HS) had strong seasons. They finished first and second respectively in assists for the season in the MIVA conference. Dan Mathews (Ohio State, Shorewood HS) was fourth in assists while capping an excellent season. Alex Vigansky of Lewis led the league in hitting percentage, while Ian Anderson of Loyola was third in kills and Drew Pickering second in aces for Lewis. It’s nice to see these North Shore and Wisconsin state alumni doing well.

Copyright 2008, Cheese & Volleyball

You may reproduce this post electronically or in a printed form provided you do not alter the wording in any way. Any web postings should provide a link back to this original document. The views expressed in this and future "Five Questions" posts are not necessarily those of Cheese & Volleyball.

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