For Tom Read, It's a Triple Play : Teaching and Coaching Two Teams Is Fun and Games

Times Staff Writer

Tom Read thought about it for a minute, and, scratching his head, was hard-pressed to answer.

The question was why Read subjects himself to three sets of headaches and a 60- to 70-hour work week in his triple life as a junior high school teacher and coach of the men's and women's volleyball teams at Chapman College.

"To be honest, originally it was for the money and it still isn't bad," Read said.

Read looked around his office, and thought about it some more. Then it hit him.

"Guess I just like to teach," he said. "Guess it's just the association with the kids. If I had to deal with a bunch of jerks every day, I'd be gone--from all three things."

Simple enough. If you like to teach, why not spend your days--and a good part of your nights--teaching.

Be it square roots or long division at La Paz Intermediate School in Mission Viejo or blocking, setting and spiking at Chapman, Read, 37, a former U.S. national team and pro volleyball player, is doing what he likes.

"Just look at this," he said, pointing to a bulletin board full of his messages in his cramped Chapman office. "I'm worried about one of my guys' sore ankles and here's a girl with a housing problem and another with a scholarship question. Sometimes I lose track. It can get a little mind-boggling at times."

And, he worries about shortchanging his students.

"There are papers to grade, I've got the women on my mind in the men's season, and vice versa," he said. "I wonder if I'm taking something away somewhere."

Apparently not, says Walt Bowman, Chapman athletic director.

"It's a real joy to see what he's done with both programs," Bowman said. "He's returned the women to national prominence and created a solid program overnight from a kind of come-as-you-are men's team."

Read was hired to create a men's program two years ago. This past season was his first with the women, who finished 24-15 and were ranked as high as 10th in Division II before falling to 14th after a fourth-place finish in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.

The women enjoy some of the perks of big-time college sports--five scholarships and at least one plane trip a season. The men, however, do not have such amenities.

But Read is making do. The Panther men--all nine of them--have more than tripled last year's three-win total with an 11-22 record.

Without scholarships to attract talent, Read sometimes resorts to recruiting athletes who are relative volleyball novices.

"He has to be more like a teacher than a coach because we have so many people without experience," said Ben Schmidt, the team's captain.

"He has so much knowledge about the game . . . positioning, technique, shot placement, even how to warm up," Schmidt said. "Some of it just has to rub off."

Read knows a lot about getting a late start on volleyball.

An All-American basketball player at Whittier College, the 6-foot-6 Read grew tired of the sport and began playing volleyball on the beach until "it became something I was very good at."

So good, in fact, he played for the U.S. national team from 1974 to 1976.

"That was a lot like what these guys here are going through," Read said. "There's more money and it's more structured now, but back then we were all working full-time while trying to play volleyball, just like a lot of my players today."

After the U.S. team failed to qualify for the '76 Olympics at Montreal, Read began a three-year pro career in the International Volleyball Assn., playing and coaching for the El Paso and Salt Lake City franchises.

"It was a pretty nice deal for me," he said. "The season would start right after school got out in June, so I could teach and then go live where I was playing for the summer."

By 1979, the IVA became another professional sports league to succumb to financial difficulties, and Read went from player-coach to coach.

He coached at Santa Ana College from 1979-81, worked as an assistant coach for the national team in 1980 and as head coach of the boys' junior Olympic team in 1984. Then came the Chapman job.

"I knew starting a new program would be a challenge but look at Pepperdine," Read said. "When they started in '74 and '75 they were awful, now they're a power."

But Read may leave the Chapman men's team to someone else. Like it or not, he admits the rigor of coaching two teams is trying; he's leaning toward coaching the women solely.

"It is getting pretty hectic and I'm starting to burn out a little bit," he said. "If I was here full time I could probably handle both.

"But the women's program is where most of our financial emphasis is placed and I'll probably end up going that way."

Still, Read says he is not in a hurry to give it up. After all, the triple life is interesting.

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