New IU volleyball coach Steve Aird teaching Hoosiers how to grow

Steve Aird is focused and fiery, impassioned and ambitious, and he’s tying to make Indiana’s volleyball program nationally relevant.

But first, he’s committed to teaching.

That’s teaching the finer points of the game, teaching his players how he wants them to train, teaching them accountability and teaching them gratitude for the opportunity they’ve been given in the NCAA’s top conference.

To elevate what has been a middling Big Ten program, IU’s new coach is rebuilding the Hoosiers under his vision. He acknowledges such a process will take time. Wins and losses, he says, aren’t the priority this fall.

For Aird, the 2018 season is about installing the system and beliefs he feels will get Indiana up to speed.

“I want everyone in the program at the end of the preseason to know what we do and why we do it,” Aird said. “That just takes an extraordinary amount of time to teach and talk. It’s a brand new staff, a brand new team, brand new support staff, managers — everyone around the program, it’s their first time that they’re interacting together. We’re spending a lot of time on teaching.”

Aird, who came to IU from Maryland in December, was in full teaching mode during Thursday morning’s practice, stopping play to make corrections and explain directions. Other times, when he didn’t hear enough communication on the court, Aird made sure his players got the message.

“It comes down to the small things that make the big things happen,” senior Elizabeth Asdell said.

Right now, IU is very much focused on those small things.

For Aird, that includes breaking down the day-to-day approach he wants from players — areas such as training and rehabilitation, nutrition and time management.

He also wants players to become tougher and more versatile. Rather than focus on specialties, Aird wants his middle blockers to be able to set the ball. He wants his setters to be able to block and defend.

And so on.

“It’s about teaching the game — all of the game,” Aird said. “If you have one or two weaknesses in a conference like this, other teams will find it and bleed you because they know that’s where they can attack.

“… We need more kids who can do more stuff. So it’s skill acquisition, mindfulness, structuring practices so we’re more worried about the process than the result. The wins and losses, for me, are irrelevant. It’s about are we building the foundation of something that’s going to be good for a long time?”

In the Big Ten’s annual preseason poll, Indiana was picked to finish No. 12 in the league. But the Hoosiers’ eyes are very much fixed on the future.

Anticipation continues to build for the completion of Wilkinson Hall, the $17 million multi-purpose facility which will house IU’s volleyball and wrestling programs on 17th street.

That project is approximately two months behind schedule, and it’s unknown whether the Hoosiers will be able to host a match there this season. The hope is that the arena will be ready for the end of the regular season.

“The brass tacks for me is people have asked me if I’m disappointed we’re not in there from the jump,” Aird said. “My response is pretty simple. I’d be really disappointed if we weren’t getting a new ($17 million) building. … A little micro-patience from us for macro-complete happiness in the building that we’re in is an easy trade-off.”

Meanwhile, Aird senses that his vision for building a competitive Big Ten volleyball program is shared by his players on the court.

He says he feels an energy and attentiveness that illustrates to him that the Hoosiers want to get better.

Aird sees it every day.

“It’s super exciting,” Asdell said. “I’m very thankful to be a part of it. Steve always talks about someday five years from now, we’re going to be in an airport and someone’s going to see your (IU) sweatshirt, or I’m going to see the team and it’s like, ‘I was a part of that. I was able to build that.'”

The next step in the rebuilding process comes this weekend, when IU will host its annual Cream and Crimson scrimmage at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Doors open at 6:15 p.m., followed by the scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.

“I’m excited to see the town get behind it,” Aird said.

He’s also excited to build something great. Most of all, Aird is excited to teach.

“I think the kids want to come to practice, and when they’re done, they could’ve gone more,” Aird said. “I think they’re thirsty for it. I think they’re learning quickly.”

2 comments

  1. I wonder why the news of the construction delay wasn’t disclosed earlier? The two month delay didn’t just occur in the summer months, the I U Capital Projects personnel should have known months ago. Any late penalties for the contractor? Its a big disappointment for the team and the fans that were expecting a new facility for the 2018 season.

  2. Go 4 or 5 miles west and you find I-37 transforming into I-69 – 4 yrs behind schedule. Must be something in the water.

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