College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

College of DuPage's Student Newspaper

The Courier

Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 25
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 24
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 25
Title Art by ADHL
“Eva's World” Page 24

Coach of the Week: Tolis Koskinaris

An exclusive interview with Tolis Koskinaris, who coaches both the women’s and men’s volleyball teams, is the latest Coach of the Week.
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Photo provided by COD Athletics

Tolis Koskinaris

Men’s and Women’s Head Volleyball Coach

 

Lily Goodfellow: When did you start coaching volleyball?

Tolis Koskinaris: Oh wow, a long time ago. My first coaching assignment was in 1999 when I was a student at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and I worked for the Champaign Park District. That was my first coaching assignment, and I also worked at many club and school programs. I started at the College of DuPage in 2015, and I’ve been there ever since.

 

LG: What do you love most about being a coach?

TK: In the end, the drive to help players reach their maximum potential, especially those players who might not think they are as good as what they are. Helping them get to that level has always been what has driven me. The alpha males and females are always self-motivated. It’s fun to have them on the team, no doubt about it. And they make winning happen. However, those players who might not know what their actual potential is, and seeing them get to that, really is what I live for when it comes to coaching. 

 

LG: What are the challenges with starting a new program like the men’s volleyball team? 

TK: Breaking ground is always the hardest. Having a vision for it, having a plan, having support from administration… There’s a lot of trust that comes into that. And a lot of that trust was placed with me, Frankie [Frank Martinez] and Coach Braden [Woods] to make it work. Any time you start a new program there are risks, and nobody had to start a new program, but they did. 

 

LG: Are there any differences between coaching the women’s team and the men’s team?

TK: Oh yeah. Wow. There are many, in my opinion. And most of it has to do with the management of group dynamics. Every group is different. Every team every year is different. It evolves as the season progresses. But the different way you have to manage group dynamics is where, at the college level, that is really what a college coach is there for. I truly believe that being able to manage those group dynamics is what enables success or prevents it. That’s where it’s all at. That was a wonderful question.

 

LG: Thanks! What was your favorite part of last year?

TK: Obviously, winning the Women’s National Championship is tops for sure. However, on the men’s side, hosting the National Invitational was pretty cool too. It was a pretty special year. I will always look back at the 22-23 academic year very fondly. I can’t say enough about both teams. It was a wild ride.

 

LG: That’s great. What are you looking forward to most for both the women’s and men’s upcoming seasons?

TK: The women’s team: we have a very new group, and I want to see what we can do. We have very high-character kids on this team. The practices so far have been very spirited. It’s a group that wants to compete and do well. On the men’s side, I think they are ready to take the next step. It was their first year, and we all had to feel out the circuit and see what it was going to be like, but I think especially with the returners and the incoming recruits that we were able to bring in, I think they are going to try and go for it this year. I think they’re going to try and win it. I don’t know if we’ll be able to, because there are some very competitive programs out there, but I think they are going to try and make a push to win this thing in ‘24. 

 

LG: What is your proudest moment?

TK: Never quitting. Every coach goes through those moments, especially when a team goes through a down point, and every team does. And, to date, I’ve never quit anything – coaching, day job, anything. And that’s kind of where at the end I’m like, “Man, I could have really just thrown it in there, and I probably would have been a happier person.” But just gutting through it and never giving up. We preach that too. We haven’t had a player quit, especially on the women’s side, since we got hired in 2015. We have not had a single girl quit the program, and that’s a pretty remarkable stretch. We try to give players just about every reason not to sign up before they do because we tell them there is no quitting if you’re here for volleyball. We may not win every game, but you are not allowed to quit. And I’ll tell you, there are some times when that challenges me personally too.

 

LG: Did you play any sports when you were in school?

TK: I played volleyball. I was at Waubonsie Valley High School, part of the inaugural team there. And then I spent two years playing at the College of DuPage before transferring down to U of I. I helped with the women’s team, and then I played on the University of Illinois club team when I was down there as well.

 

LG: Who is the coach that had the biggest impact on you and why?

TK: Probably Al Lagger at Waubonsie Valley. He was my first true coach, and there are many mental toughness aspects from him that I still incorporate to this day. Gutting through and working towards a goal, that’s definitely stuff that I picked up from Coach Al Lagger.

 

LG: Do you have any fun summer plans?

TK: I visited my wife’s family in Colorado, and I am going to Greece to visit my parents at the end of the month. Obviously, I’m Greek, and we have a few houses down there. So all I have to do is really get there and then it’s not that expensive for me because we have cars and everything to go around. I’m looking forward to that. 

 

LG: What is your favorite holiday and why?

TK: Halloween, because I have a kid and she’s going to be four soon and experiencing Halloween with a kid is pretty cool. Just having her wear a costume and seeing how she thinks that’s absolutely hilarious. In the old days, I would have said Thanksgiving because it’s something that’s very different from Greek culture.

 

LG: What one word best describes you?

TK: Hmm. Wow. One single word? That’s a good one. You’ve actually got me at a loss of words, I can’t believe it. Caring. Probably at a fault and too much. Sometimes I’m a little too caring. I’d say if you ask other people, they’d probably say caring. They’d say something like “Tolis gives a damn.” I know you probably can’t print that, but that’s what they would say. Something along those lines.

 

LG: Well, we’ll try to print it! 

TK: My boss would laugh, because he would agree. He’d be like “Yeah, you do care too much  and it’s a problem, Tolis.” In a funny way, he would say it. 

 

LG: Thank you, Coach!

TK: Thank you for doing this! Have a wonderful day!

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