Vivek Voleti grew up in Southern California, playing volleyball for all four years of his high school career. “More than just the game itself, the life lessons we learned were really cool,” Vivek remembers. “I learned not to define your success by wins and losses, but rather how you approach each day, and the gradual improvements you see.”

This fall, Vivek, a UC Berkeley student, began volunteering with Coaching Corps. Now, he’s helping a new generation of athletes learn the game – and important life lessons – by coaching at Oakland’s Starlings Volleyball Club, a unique program serving girls from low-income at-risk families. As a trained volunteer, Vivek helps run drills and demonstrate technique. As the season progresses, he will eventually start coaching his own team.

At a recent Starlings practice, Vivek worked on serving drills with his team, telling his players to stay balanced, and point their bodies to where they want the ball to go. According to 14-year-old Samantha, having a trained coach pays off. “He’s nice and he’s very specific about what he wants,” she says. “He shows you and if you don’t do it right he won’t criticize you, so I think that’s good.”

But the rewards aren’t just for the players: Vivek says he gains something, too, when he sees his players make gradual improvements, sometimes even during the course of a single practice. “At first a lot of the kids were having trouble actually hitting the ball over the net,” he says. But even after 10 minutes of serving drills, they started to understand when they missed, and why his serving technique made sense. Watching them make this connection feels good, Vivek says. “It shows that you’re not just telling them what to do,” he says. “You’re teaching them.”

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