Rey Castillo tells his students athletes the importance of “switch mode,” being able to transform from an offensive to defensive player in a fraction of a second.
But the esteemed Michigan-based volleyball coach practices what he preaches in his own unique way. Castillo juggles two full-time jobs as assistant coach for Calvin College, the defending NCAA Division III national champion, and as founder and director of Impact Dynamic Training, a JVA club volleyball program Grandville, Michigan, with 29 teams and a four-court facility.
“I have to be realistic, coming from a faster tempo in college to coaching athletes that are 14 or younger,” Castillo says. “I have to be more patient, and I have to make that switch in less than 30 minutes. But I’m just blessed and thankful that I’ve been able to help kids, year after year.“
A native of the Philippines, Castillo learned to play volleyball on the streets of Manila. In 1988, while his family lived in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb, Castillo played in the USAV Junior Olympics. He played collegiately at Grand Valley State University, and he played USAV men’s volleyball for 14 years. Over the last 20 years, Castillo has coached volleyball at multiple levels.
“Impact Dynamic Training was founded in 2010 by Rey Castillo upon the belief that through positive reinforcement, a player can achieve their best,” it reads on the program’s website. “We strive to make each athlete an important part of the team, and help them to achieve their highest potential.”
Here are three observations and trends among current athletes Castillo has noticed as a lifelong volleyball advocate:
1. Lack of Accountability
It’s important for a parent to protect their child; Castillo has three of his own, including a daughter, Keilahna, who plays at Calvin College. But Castillo says parents have become too protective of their daughters, in particular.
When their child coughs on the court, parents come rushing up to check on them. When a kid makes a mistake or cries, parents make excuses and blame others.
“But they don’t tell their kid, ‘The other team played better,‘ or ‘You didn’t play well.‘ They don’t let their kids go through pain by themselves.”
But there are other troubling trends, Castillo says.
2. Lack of Commitment and Ability to Embrace Challenges
Athletes’ commitment to their teams are flimsier — and parents are complicit. Castillo says it’s common for conflicts with practices or even matches based on hair and nail appointments.
“We’ll hear, ‘I’m going to a school dance on Saturday,‘ ” he recalls. “Ten years ago, you don’t even dare ask your coach that. It’s really bugging me. Parents don’t hold their kids accountable for those commitments.“
Castillo implores his players to embrace struggles.
“That is when you need your teammates most,” he says. “When things don’t go our way, that is the time to talk to your team and embrace the next challenge.“
Balance is best — Castillo says teams in his program are not defined by wins and losses. The goal is to help the players become better people, not self-serving individual athletes. To that end, he yells at athletes who will ask or signal to their parents to fill their water bottle for them.
“Move and fill it yourself!” Castillo will scream at them. “This is such a trend now.“
Castillo says the popularity of volleyball is due, in part, to the accessibility of the sport. It’s not focused entirely on height, speed or strength. But he believes it’s important that players in his program aren’t one-dimensional, excelling in school and serving in the community — not spending all their free time on social media.
Parents who don’t push their children to be balanced suffer, Castillo says, once they reach college.
“We see them suffer most in their school work,” he says.
The athletes who reach the collegiate level have to ramp up their commitment to the sport, with more practice and conditioning time. So they have to be very disciplined to handle their school work and proactively manage their schedule.
The ones enabled by parents have difficulty with all of it. Free time might be spent on social media or napping.
“School work is tough and demanding,” Castillo says, “and they really stress out, unfortunately.
3. Lack of Versatility
Not versatile enough — At the club level, Castillo gets lots of athletes who have played volleyball, yet don’t really know the sport. Too often, the young athletes are placed into a specific position and taught one or two fundamentals.
“I’ll get 13 or 14 year olds who played school sports, and they say, ‘I only want to be a hitter,‘ ” Castillo says. “They might follow a specific player and what they do. But they don’t even know the sport itself.”
The challenge for Castillo is convincing the athletes and their parents that they need to learn the basic skills.
“Learning how to be in the front and in the back, especially at the younger age,” Castillo says. “The other responsibilities of being a setter. Trying to command the court itself. Trying to be the focal point of the team. Those are parts of the game that they don’t understand.
“They just don’t comprehend the game itself — the how to’s — because they were only taught one thing.“
For instance, some athletes may be taught one swing technique, which becomes automatic and robotic. The word lost on many of the improperly educated players is “finesse.”
“They don’t understand how to have a dynamic swing,” he says.
So instead of blasting the ball as hard as possible, the athlete may swing fast but strike it with an open-hand tip.
Such an adjustment is essential at the higher levels, particularly in college and above, where rangy 6-foot-2 blockers are the standard.
“You have to go around them,” Castillo says. “And those decisions have to happen in a split second.”
Impact Dynamic Training Volleyball Club is a member of the JVA. To learn more about a JVA membership click here.
About the Author
This article is written by Sean Jensen from SportsEngine, the official technology partner of the JVA. SportEngine offers special pricing and packages exclusive to JVA member clubs. More than just a website, SportsEngine can help you solve serious challenges you face with tryouts, billing and collections, team communication, tournaments, and more. For more information click here.
Sean was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he’s always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. He’s earned distinctions from the Illinois Associated Press, Minnesota Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Pro Football Writers of America and Associated Press Sports Editors. In 2006, he received a special achievement award from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In 2014, along with BroadStreet Publishing, he created The Middle School Rules children’s book series, which tells the inspirational childhood stories of famous athletes such as Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman, Skylar Diggins and Jamaal Charles. He is a passionate author, speaker and content creator, working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and YMCA. Sean lives in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, two children and dog.