With all of the supporters he has, having an uninterrupted conversation with Chris Reid is no easy task.
Reid, the boys volleyball, girls basketball and boys soccer coach at George Washington, has had an inordinate amount of athletic success at the school in his seven years. His accomplished Eagles soccer program has won two Public League titles and is usually a mainstay in the league championship game.
Reid will be the first to tell you that soccer is his top sport, but it’s what he’s done with the volleyball program that has so many people inside Washington buzzing. While boys volleyball is far from ubiquitous on the high school athletics radar of most, that hasn’t stopped the Eagles from racking up a 76-10 overall record since 2009, with four of the 10 defeats coming in the state tournament.
They’ve won four consecutive Public League titles, and this year took it one step further, winning the first true city championship over La Salle on May 22 (the Catholic League added boys volleyball as a competitive sport this year). Four straight league titles and Class AAA championships represents the real deal.
“His kids have a willingness to work hard for him,” said Washington counselor Adam Bachmann, the school’s former girls tennis coach who crashed an interview with Reid to offer his support. “I took my four kids, ages 8, 4, 3 and 1, to go and support him in their state playoff loss (May 28 against Hempfield) because I love to watch what he’s done with these kids. He teaches them that when they get knocked down, they don’t have to stay down.”
Bachmann even rounded up three G.W. alumni — former baseball players Jake Wright and Corey Sharp, as well as former class president Alvin Oommen — who happened to be walking the halls that day, to share their own positive memories of Reid. Mike McKinney, a Washington wrestling coach, also popped his head in to say Reid should be named a coach of the year for something.
For Reid’s part, he lets his players — 27 of them from 16 different countries — and their skills on the court do the talking. He is not boastful, despite his team’s dominance during his tenure. For a guy with no volleyball background to speak of, the results have been stunning.
“I studied and had a lot of fun. I really fell in love with the sport that first year,” Reid said. “Soccer is my sport, but when volleyball hits, it’s just stress-free. It’s been very rewarding, and I’ve been blessed with great kids that want to play, work hard and get better. We all help each other out.”
Reid has indeed been blessed,, and some strokes of good luck have also been involved. He’s gotten some kids who have had prior experience in the sport, be it from Baldi Middle School’s feeder program, or transfers/transplants who have played it in their native country.
Danny Pareskevov is a four-year starter, and this year’s league MVP; he and teammate Alex Polyak have won four consecutive titles together. Other key players have been sophomore captain Joffy Joseph, the team’s setter who “runs the show on the court,” according to Reid; there’s also the Most Improved Player, sophomore Mark Poberezhnyuk, junior defensive specialist Kakra Sang and senior front-row hitter Edison Wilson.
In volleyball, the players on the court operate as independent cogs in one big machine. There are defensive specialists on the back line who are skilled passers, and setters whose job it is to put the ball in good position for the front-row hitters, who are charged with spiking the ball over the net. Reid has received a ton of guidance and tutelage from volunteer assistant Aliyar Sherif, an experienced volleyball mind from India, where the sport is very popular.
“We have passers, hitters, blockers … we take each kid’s strengths and mish-mash them together,” Reid said.
Reid’s players, both younger and older, have had the time of their lives under his watchful eye.
“My freshman year, there were 14 or 15 players; now, there’s 27,” said team member Jithin Paul. “It’s become more popular every year.”
“He’s always on our side, always fired up, always wants to push the team to do better no matter what,” said Pareskevov.
Added senior Igor Radov: “What sets him apart is that he forces you to be better, even when you’re on top. There is no complacency. It’s always fun. I wish I had gotten here sooner.”
Reid hopes high school volleyball continues to grow and expand in Philadelphia. The Catholic League should help, but the coach said there needs to be more clubs and opportunities for kids to play at a younger age. When they find the sport, they’ll fall in love with it, the same way Reid did.
“I want the kids to enjoy themselves and get better,” he said. “It wasn’t about winning titles when I started and it isn’t now. It’s a fun, lifetime sport you can keep playing as you get older. We’re all a part of this thing together.” ••