Building a championship state of mind

Nabil Mardini used his talents as a former college volleyball player and CEO of the Los Angeles Volleyball Academy to make Pierce College’s women’s volleyball team undefeated this season.

Mardini has worked 18 years as a full-time CEO and majority owner of the Los Angeles Volleyball Academy. LAVA is a private club that holds 70 teams within southern California for girls and boys ages 10-18. They travel and compete locally, regionally, and nationally.

Mardini started playing volleyball when he was 8 years old. He continued the sport playing for the men’s volleyball team at Santa Monica College and University of California, Los Angeles.

“Being a student athlete, not having a lot of money, not having a car, and just what I had to go through to get to where I am today to me is more valuable than the college degree that I have,” Mardini said.

Mardini originally worked in engineering after graduating UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, but decided to pursue his passion.

Turhan Douglas was Pierce’s former coach who recruited and mentored Mardini as an assistant coach. Mardini later filled the head coach position at Pierce College in 2000.

“We went from being one of the worst programs in the state to being one of the best,” Mardini said. “To go from 0-20 in 2000 to winning multiple championships, I’m very proud of that. I think it’s important we don’t get caught up in the success and we keep working hard.”

Mardini explains that hard work, perseverance, learning and bouncing back from failing are what makes progress.

“[If] you want to be a champion you have to surround yourself with people who think like a champion otherwise it’s not going to work,” Mardini said.

Mardini has been coaching for 15 years at Pierce, and has built a solid reputation for himself as well as his teams. He has also built a friendship with the Bakersfield College Head Coach Carl Ferreira. Ferreira admires Mardini’s conviction on the court and morality off of it.

“I respect him, I admire him, and I appreciate him,” Ferreira said. “He’s honest, trustworthy, and respectful, and that’s what I like in people.”

“As a coach I think he’s built the best women’s volleyball program in the junior college system in the state of California; hands down,” Ferreira said.

“I think Pierce is the benchmark people look at for success and he’s humble about it,” Ferreira said. “He doesn’t do it in an entitled or arrogant way, he does it through work and he holds his athletes to a superior standard of morals and values. If you can’t uphold the Brahma way, then don’t play for Nabil, because he’s not going to sacrifice standards for talent.”

Callie Kruse is one of the 18 volleyball players on the women’s team at Pierce College. She shares that during the summer the team has done bonding activities such as hikes, bowling, and staying connected.  

“He’s really big about having the team as a family,” Kruse said. “We’re all connected, it’s a chemistry. Without that trust out on the court and outside of the court, you’re not going to be successful in volleyball or any sport for that matter.”

“You wear different hats,” Mardini said. “You got to be a brother. You got to be a father. You got to be a friend. You have to be a psychologist. You have to be a nutritionist. It’s very rewarding, there’s no question about it.”

During the off-season, Mardini conducts the women’s volleyball team to have ongoing recruitment and training.
“Coming in I thought I was a hard worker and I wasn’t at all,” Rachel Lods said, captain of the women’s volleyball team at Pierce College. “Practicing everyday and holding myself to the standards that he holds us to has made me a much harder worker in all aspects of my life.”