Typically, athletes work hard their whole careers in hope of becoming a member of the hall of fame after retirement; however, Lance Walker thought his profile picture would look a lot better without the graying hair and wrinkles.
At age 33, Walker is a newly-inducted member of the California Community College Hall of Fame and 2013 Coach of the Year recipient in his first season as head coach of the men’s volleyball team.
The award was announced on April 20, right before the championship game between Grossmont and Long Beach City Colleges.
“It’s humbling because they awarded me for being a good player and now they are saying, ‘hey here is your award for being a great coach’,” said Walker.
Walker joins a small group of coaches who have won coach of the year at Pierce College, but he stands alone as the only one to win this award and get inducted into the hall of fame in his first season within community colleges.
Andy Aguila, outside hitter for Pierce, wasn’t surprised at Walker’s awards since it was his leadership that led to such a successful season.
“We have been working hard all season, and he been pushing us to do better, advance our game and come together as a team,” said Aguila.
Since Walker’s junior year at North Hollywood High School, he hasn’t put the ball down yet as one can usually find him twirling around miniature volleyballs whenever he is relaxing in his office chair at Pierce.
However, Walker’s transformation into an elite player and coach wasn’t a smooth ride to the top.
“My first two years at Pierce didn’t look good,” said Walker. “My third year, I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden I just broke out.”
He went from discovering his athleticism in the sport in high school, to red shirting his first year at Pierce, playing in his second year and helped Pierce in winning the 2000 state championship as the league’s most valuable player in his third year, while recording 68 kills in a single game.
Impressed, Pepperdine University snatched up Walker on a full scholarship to play opposite alongside fellow Pierce alumni Beau Daniels.
“I got lucky,” said Walker. “I have been real fortunate, Pepperdine has a really good program and a great coach in Marv [Dunphy].”
After Walker’s two year career at Pepperdine, he took his talents overseas to play eight years of professional volleyball in countries like Switzerland, Greece and South Korea.
He was a member of the United States National Team during the 2003 World University Games, even though he was hardly called upon to perform.
“I was really a reserve, just in case somebody got injured, so I really didn’t play much,” said Walker. “It was still a great experience.”
Though Walker ended his first season as Pierce’s head coach on a high note by taking third in state rankings, he is still trying to take it one step at a time when it comes to the improvement of his volleyball team.
“We have a great coaching staff here,” said volleyball player Evan Bender. “They preach that it’s all about trying to get two percent better every day, that’s all you can hope for.”
With veterans like Bender, Daniel Williams, and Lucan Yanez transferring next year, new leaders have to step up and Walker feels as though Corey Pitt just might be the one.
Pitt red shirted last year to hone his game, so in his first actively playing season on the team he made All–Conference second team.
“He is progressing kind of like how I did when I was a player for three years,” said Walker. “He is really learning that situational thinking of what you can and can’t do with the ball. Hopefully he can get us back to state.”