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Leader of the pack

How Shane Davis (BA ’03) took the team he once played for to the NCAA Championship—and won


Shane Davis (BA ‘03) redshirted for Loyola his freshman year and then played for the Ramblers for four years.


hane Davis (BA ’03) was 23 years old when he took over as head coach of Loyola’s men’s volleyball team. He had just graduated with a degree in marketing. “I said I wasn’t that interested in it,” Davis says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to

coach. And I had no idea what I’d be doing if I did. I said I’d take it for a year until they could find someone qualified to do it.” This year, after 11 consecutive seasons as coach, Davis led the Ramblers to

win their first-ever NCAA championship—in their home stadium, no less. It wasn’t the first time a change of plans had worked out pretty well for him.

“My first love was football,” Davis says. “I come

from a small town in Iowa. The whole town shuts down to watch a game. I played every sport, just so we’d have enough players to make a team, but I re- ally wanted to play football. And I was pretty good.” Colleges started recruiting Davis, but he became

interested in volleyball and thought he might have a brighter future in that sport. He redshirted at Loyola his first year and then played for the Ramblers for four years. When he took over as head coach, he had three years of experience as team captain under his belt. “The AD said, ‘Here are the keys. You know where

the office is,’” Davis recalls. “I unlocked the office and sat on the other side of the desk. In front of me was the chair I sat in for many years as a player. The old coach had given me a running list of what I should be doing and getting together and planning, and I jumped in.” Many of Davis’s players were also his former team-

mates, but the transition wasn’t as difficult as one might think. “These guys were my best friends, and now I was

coaching them,” Davis says. “I did have to create some separation. I moved out of the area. I didn’t spend time with them off the court. But I was a three-year captain, so I was used to leading. That didn’t change much. Giving them instruction, telling them how to do something, finding the right word- ing—that came naturally.” What didn’t come naturally was recruitment. Da-

vis, who had been immersed at the college level for years, was unused to evaluating high school players. “It wasn’t what I was used to,” Davis says. “I

thought no one was talented. I couldn’t believe where people were going. That was the biggest chal- lenge. And when I did get kids on campus, and their parents are sitting across the desk from a 23-year- old, that was another challenge.” But he got the hang of it. He talked to other

coaches. He watched more kids play, and got a better sense of what to look for. He watched old re- cruiting tapes from previous coaches, remembering where those players eventually went and comparing them to what they looked like then.

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