Strong recruit of Midwest joins Flashes’ volleyball staff
Suburban living, sports fanaticism and work ethic; new Kent State head volleyball coach Don Gromala said these are the qualities of many Midwesterners that makes him love coaching and recruiting in this area.
Gromala has deep history in Midwest volleyball, and said his experience in this part of the country has helped shape him into the coach he is now.
“There’s great work ethic in the Midwest,” Gromala said. “There are great kids with great parents, and the way everyone connects with each other is unique. I’m glad to stay in the state of Ohio and work with those kinds of kids.”
The 34-year-old spent four years on the coaching staff at the recent Mid-American Conference powerhouse Ohio University. While in Athens, the Bobcats won four MAC titles and played in four NCAA Tournaments.
Gromala then gained his most coveted experience at Ohio State as assistant to the legendary head coach Geoff Carlston. He said the things he learned from Carlston throughout his career have made him extremely prepared to step into his first collegiate head-coaching role.
“He’s been a great mentor to me,” Gromala said. “He threw me in the fire while I was working with him. He really let me know, ‘Hey, these are situations you’re going to have when you’re a head coach someday.’”
Before a women’s team coaching job, Gromala both played for and coached the men’s club volleyball team at Iowa State. He was a two-time all-conference selection while playing and led the team to four Top 25 finishes as head coach.
When the Kent State position opened up, Gromala said he was eager to get his name in.
“Being in Ohio for so long, I just kind of knew about the school,” Gromala said. “As soon as I heard about this position, I was all about it. I got my information over here and was looking forward to talking with the administration.”
Gromala signed a deal that would secure his position as the leader of the Kent State volleyball program through the 2015-16 academic year.
“We are excited to have Don onboard and look forward to having him become a part of the tradition of success set forth by Kent State both on the court and in the classroom,” Joel Nielson, Kent State’s Athletic Director told Kentstatesports.com.
Gromala wasted no time getting acquainted with the program and started working with his athletes the week he got the job.
“We’ve been working with the team on communicating to each other,” Gromala said. “There have been a couple differences in terminology here and there, but most of all it’s been just getting used to each other.”
Gromala said he is fortunate to have come into a great group of girls who work hard. He said they have already been receptive to what’s been thrown at them.
“My coaching style is about getting the best out of the girls,” Gromala said. “It’s about them giving 110 percent on and off the court. That builds toward that championship environment.”
Freshman Bridget Grdina said she has already seen improvements in the team.
“He’s a really good coach,” Grdina said. “We’re communicating more and just acting more like a team when we play.”
She said the Flashes won all four matches in a tournament they participated in on Saturday.
“That’s something we haven’t been doing in the past couple tournaments,” Grdina said. “Since he’s been coaching, it’s been really helping us.”
A championship environment is one that Gromala is certainly familiar with one he aims to bring to Kent State. The team has finished in the top four of the MAC’s East Division since 2000 but has been unable to capture a top spot.
“This is a great campus and there are some great programs here athletically,” Gromala said. “I’m looking forward to getting volleyball up there with the rest of the group.”