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The Life of a Coach in a World Record Breaking Sport

In every magazine issue, we present someone's passion outside of work. This time, we meet Zach Grennan in our US team, who spends most of his free time coaching a sport that is rapidly growing in the US, recently breaking the world record for a women's sporting event.

First, could you tell us what you do at Jacobi?

I'm on the Americas team, and my job title is Service Project Coordinator. I work closely with both our service and municipal departments to handle the service for distributors and other clients.

Recently, I also started getting into some projects for prospecting and seeing how we can expand our service business over the next year or two.

Are you back at the office or still working at home after Covid?

I still work at home, but I try to go to the office once every week or two weeks; I think our team has some great camaraderie. But many people I work with are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and California rather than in my town, Columbus.

But the Columbus team has so much energy that it makes it worth the effort to go to the office.

Name: Zach Grennan
Job role: Service Project Coordinator in the Americas team
Location: Columbus, USA
Hobby: Volleyball
Passion: Developing people by coaching volleyball

In a huddle discussing strategy during a match.

In every magazine issue, we interview someone about their major interest besides their job; what is your passion when you are not working at Jacobi?

I have read about Victoria, the triathlon queen in Sweden, and Edoardo chasing snow leopards. The latest issue, what was that? Yeah right, Prabhu and his family's farm in India.

I don't do any extreme sports; my sport is volleyball. It's not extreme, but it's fast and very entertaining. At the moment, I coach two different volleyball teams. I have a high school varsity programme where I oversee about forty players and five staff members. The players range from 15 to 18 in age, and the staff members are adults.

I also coach an Athletes Unlimited travel team, essentially like a mini all-star team. I do this for about seven months a year, three days a week, typically from December through May.

These kids' goal is to pursue post-secondary opportunities, find a chance to play in college and make something of volleyball in the long term.

It's cool to see the two different sides. I coach eight to nine months a year, all of it after I finish my full-time job.

Why do you do this?

I do it because I love it; the energy and vibrancy of the community we've started to build around this high school is so cool. We're also improving, and I have learned from coaching high school volleyball that you really must be willing to develop people.

There's a culture you have to find and develop. Going into a culture that wasn't good before, and there wasn't much talent either, it's been about developing talents and people. We've had two relatively successful seasons. The future looks super bright, and I'm super excited about it. 

Zach and his mother Susan.

Where do you find the time? Do you have family, kids and that type of life?

I do not. I'm 27 and single so it helps that I don't have commitments at home. One day, that might change, but right now I fill my time outside of work with a lot of coaching.

What is your background, and do you play yourself?

Not anymore. I'm only 27, so I could still play at a high level, but I have taken the next step and got into coaching. I did play in high school, at the collegiate level. We played at a pretty good level; I got to go to a US national team camp in Anaheim, California, in my senior year of college.

But I kind of knew that I wasn't going to be one of the guys going to make it all the way. It was a really cool experience though, to see how they train and do things. So, for three days, I could say I was a member of the US national team.

Where do you go from there if you reach the top college level?

You advance to either professional sand volleyball, which is semi-prevalent in the United States, but there is only a little money supporting the pro system in the US. If you're good enough indoors, you typically head to Europe – Germany, Italy, England, Sweden, or Poland. Poland's got a phenomenal professional league. If you're at that elite level, you jump the Atlantic Ocean and find a new home in Europe.

The fall of 2024 will be Zach's third season coaching at the high school level.

What have you learned from coaching that you can use overall?

When coaching, you're stepping forward and expected to plan and provide for people's development. That's what's so rewarding for me. I've had some phenomenal coaches willing to help me achieve my goals and become the best player I could be. I want to give back because I know how important sports can be for people's personal development.

I'm not exactly sure how it is in Europe, but in the US, people don't deal with emotions well. In traffic for instance, when somebody gets angry, they throw up the middle finger and start yelling at someone. In my coaching, I wanted to teach kids how to handle emotions without overreacting. And I want to teach kids to work as hard as possible because I know that somebody else will take the job if you're not working hard.

All of the above, I can use in my work at Jacobi. I'm a big fan of the people that I work with. I love coming to work and working hard, trying to make this place better.

So, can you bring your experience from volleyball into your work?

Yeah, 100%.

How will the sport you love develop further?

Right now, in the United States, they're trying to make a push, especially for the women's side, to take it to a higher level of interest. In August last year, Nebraska played against the University of Omaha in front of a crowd of 92,000.

Our sport is growing, and I want to contribute as much as possible. I hope to be coaching for a long time while I'm working at Jacobi. I plan to be doing both for as long as I can.

Zach with a fellow coach after a match.

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