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Shymansky forges ‘bonds’ at Marquette

April 20, 2012

Photo Courtesy of Marquette Images

Marquette women’s volleyball coach Bond Shymansky is calm — as calm as a coach ever gets. He sits by the volleyball court with his right leg crossed over his left as he watches his team battle with in-state rival University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This being a spring season game, score is kept, but it acts more like a time-keeper than a true measure of success. The goal is to give his girls experience.

Today he seems to be focusing his coaching toward Lindsey Gosh, a sophomore outside hitter and sweet-swinging lefty who will be asked to pick up a lot of the slack left with the departures of Ashley Beyer and Ciara Jones. After Gosh makes a hitting error and sends the ball sailing out of bounds, Shymansky looks straight at her.

This is where his coaching style differs from most high-major Division I coaches. Instead of laying into Gosh and letting her know she messed up royally, he smiles straight at her, clapping twice before telling her to keep swinging.

He’s locked on her now, following her every movement on the court. After three or four more points Shymansky finally stands — as he is prone to do during the season in the fall — and walks near the backline where Gosh is currently stationed. He is constantly supporting her, whether the ball lands in play or not.

“He’s calm, cool and collected,” Jack Smith, father of defensive specialist Jalyn Smith, said. “He didn’t seem to get overly aggressive with the girls.”

Bond is no Buddhist monk though. Shymansky has been around the game long enough to know the type of motivation each player responds best to.

“I’m not necessarily a screamer, but I will yell at my team at times,” Shymansky said. “I’m not really big into swearing, but I do get mad sometimes. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older to be more like the horse whisperer. I like to pull players aside and whisper things to them more than I like to yell at them.

“Like anything, you have to figure out each different player each different year. They just require a tweaking of motivation or inspiration or whatever it is.”

That is his gift.

The players love him

Shymansky is able to forge connections with each and every player on an individual basis and extract every ounce of talent both in and out of the Al McGuire Center.

“Our players know that he’s going to take care of them, not just on the court but also in all aspects of life,” said assistant coach Michaela Franklin. “If there’s anything off the court, academically or anything at all, they’re able to go to him. They know that he wants the best for them.”

No player exemplifies this better than former outside hitter Ashley Beyer.

A standout volleyball player at Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Ill., Beyer was heavily recruited by Shymanksy, then Georgia Tech’s volleyball coach, after setting the school record for kills in a season, 375, and in a match, 22.

To become a Yellow Jacket, Beyer went to junior college at Kishwaukee College in Illinois, where she would win an NCJAA Division II National Championship, be named tournament MVP and an AVCA Two-Year Colleges First Team All-American.

She was left with a tough decision though when Shymansky left Georgia Tech for Marquette. Would she still go to Georgia Tech or would she follow Shymansky to Milwaukee?

“Honestly, I chose Marquette because of Bond Shymansky,” Beyer said. “He’s the reason why I went to junior college. I wanted to play for him so badly. So then when he transferred I looked at some other schools. But then I came on a visit here with him, and I really liked the campus and the atmosphere. I loved the gym, and I wanted to have him as a coach.”

Beyer would go on to lead Marquette to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and victory last fall before continuing her career overseas, playing professionally for the Lindsberg Volley in Sweden.

“He’s such a great guy, and he just gives everything to us girls,” Beyer said. “He spoils us. When we went to New York City, no other team would have had their coach take them into the city. He just wants us to have a great experience. He respects us, and he’s fun to be around. He’s a great, great coach.”

Midwest, born and raised

Shymansky was raised in Iowa City, Iowa, next to the University of Iowa campus where his father worked. Shymansky described his upbringing as fairly “Leave it to Beaver.”

He dabbled in all the sports, playing a bit of baseball, basketball and wrestling before diving into football and volleyball.

“I played volleyball, but I really loved football,” Shymansky said. “I was a quarterback and a cornerback, but I clearly wasn’t good enough to play at the next level.”

He settled into the men’s club volleyball team at Iowa, a time he described as a segue into the coaching world. He stopped playing volleyball his senior year and began coaching at a local high school instead, a job he continued while getting his master’s degree in secondary education.

“I enjoyed the coaching more than I enjoyed the playing,” Shymansky said. “It was then that I realized that in most ways, coaching is an offshoot of teaching.”

A ninth grade B team tells you all that you need to know about Shymansky’s character. It’s the story behind his first coaching job.

“This guy that’s here on the wall (Maurice Batie) was coaching at the local high school, and they had a position that was open for (coaching) the ninth grade B team,” Shymanksy said. “Back then there were no cell phones. There were tape answering machines, and I left him at least one message a day for two straight weeks until he finally called me back.

“He said, ‘I guess I have no choice. I have to give you the job because you’re freaking relentless.’”

That small-time, small-town job laid the foundation for what was to come. It helped Shymanksy understand what the game was really about and helped develop his own methods of teaching on the court.

“(Batie) had a great energy, enthusiasm and passion for the game,” Shymansky said. “I realized that’s the coach I want to model myself after. He was a great mentor in a lot of ways.”

While working the college camp circuit in the summer, Shymansky decided to take the plunge into full time coaching when he was offered a position with the Iowa State coaching staff. It wasn’t smooth sailing from there as he was unexpectedly thrust into the head coaching position amid chaos two years later.

“It was a brutal introduction to college coaching because the wheels had come off so badly at the program,” Shymansky said. “There was shrapnel flying everywhere. I was probably part duck and cover and part trying to be the leader at the time. I was fortunate to kind of weather those grenades as they went off and came out on the other side of it.

“It was a real education in the school of hard knocks about learning what not to do and watching others fail and having to learn that way. I was happy to leave there. I was eager.”

From Iowa City the Shymansky family ventured into the unchartered territory of Atlanta, as Bond took a position as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech.

“I wasn’t just a Midwest guy, I was a small town hay seed going into a big city like Atlanta,” Shymansky said. “I had an hour commute each way. It was 12 lanes of traffic on the major interstate every day. I thought, ‘How do people do this? I can’t do this.’”

Once he adapted and the roots began taking hold, Shymansky blossomed. He became the head coach in 2001 and found immediate success, posting a 172-64 record in his seven years at the helm, including a trip to the Eilte 8, two Sweet 16s and two ACC regular season championships.

“The highs were super high, the lows weren’t that low,” Shymansky said. “But it’s like anything. I compare winning in coaching to an addiction. You need to get your fix all the time. Sometimes you come back after that high, and if you don’t quite get there, it can feel like a low.”

And so Bond began looking back longingly to the Midwest, sending out feelers and testing the waters for available positions. One school that was hooked was his alma mater Iowa, but it wasn’t the right fit. A year later Marquette found itself coachless. Shymansky was intrigued.

His Marquette story begins

“My wife has a lot of family here in Milwaukee so that was something we started looking at, that we liked the city of Milwaukee,” Shymansky said. “I knew a little bit about Marquette, but I didn’t really know. When I came here on my interview, it was so crystal clear to me.”

Awed by the Al McGuire Center and the people inside it, he decided to leave a program he had led to elite status for one that had never been to the NCAA Tournament.

“Knowing how hard we worked to win at Georgia Tech, but all the things we didn’t have, then I came here and said ‘Wow, look at all the things they have, but they aren’t winning yet. We could make this thing win,’” Shymansky said.

“It really became a no-brainer for me, almost into it — 10 minutes into it. I kept asking them to pull the curtains back and said what’s the catch, where is the punchline here. The only punchline was that the team wasn’t winning.”

That is not the case anymore, as Shymansky has amassed a 65-32 record and taken Marquette into the uncharted waters of playoff volleyball.

Yet for all the wins and accolades, Shymansky believes the true measuring stick of his success is not the banners hung, but the success of the people that leave the program.

“I want to be a great coach, and great coaches don’t just win. Great coaches really build stronger character in the people that leave their program.”

Former setter Nikki Klingsporn epitomizes the type of player Shymansky wants to mold.

Klingsporn transferred from University of Wisconsin-Madison after her sophomore year to play for Shymansky. With Shymansky’s team she reached unprecedented heights, garnering a First Team All-Big East, AVAC All-Northeast Region and Honorable Mention All-American nod her senior year.

Klingsporn became a student assistant coach for Marquette last season and was hired at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in March to become a full-time assistant coach.

“Bond is such a great mentor,” Klingsporn said. “He is such a great person to learn from and be around.”

Coach, teacher, father, mentor, friend. Bond Shymansky puts on many hats for many people, always giving the person in front of him his utmost attention.

“He is passionate about whatever he does, whether it’s golfing or it’s spending time with his family and certainly his job here at Marquette,” assistant coach Craig Dyer said.

It hasn’t been easy, but Shymansky has finally settled into a comfortable job in a cozy town.

“In some ways I feel my road hasn’t been bump-free,” Shymansky said. “It’s been really rocky at times. It’s been very random at times. It’s really been a great ride so far.”

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