His modesty is undeniable. His candor, unequivocal. His benevolence, simply true to the word. But it’s his commitment that inspires.
There are coaches and athletes in this world that make you stop and watch. It’s not only because of what they represent on the playing field, but what they represent off it. Sports figures that grasp the attention of the masses have as much between the ears as they do between the lines.
They don’t bother with hype or extravagance. They smile at the fans, wave at the kids. They are aware of the surrounding world and choose to embrace it, not ignore it.
There are coaches and athletes that fall into that category. There is a list somewhere.
Brett Favre is on it. His combination of a down-south-aw-shucks attitude with his football savvy put him in the hearts of millions. Mickey Mantle was the same way. He was so humble, in 1956 he told Shirley Povich that Babe Ruth’s 60 HR record would be broken in the next four or five years, “but not by me.” He was honest too. The closest he got was five years later when he hit 54 in 1961 – the same year Roger Maris hit 61.
Closer to home, I’m Oregon State Head Volleyball Coach Dr. Taras Liskevych on that same list. But, he’ll ask you to call him Terry. While his resume is full of more Accolades than a Babbage’s, Terry doesn’t flaunt it. He has an Olympic medal, earned a Ph.D and if you try to get him to elaborate, he is most likely going to steer the conversation elsewhere.
He coached Olympians from 1985 though 1996. For the better part of a decade he dealt with egos and politics, greed and corruption. At the Olympic level, egos and money rule. “In the Olympics you are only paid to win,” Liskevych said. “And it is very difficult to take the best of the best and make them into a team.”
But he succeeded. During the eleven years he was involved with the USA National team, he collected a Bronze medal at the World Championships and the Olympics and in 1995 won the World Grand Prix. He coached the best volleyball team in the world, it was composed of three and four-time All-Americans. But after working with Olympians for more than a decade, Terry wanted a change.
If you ask him why he decided to come to Corvallis a few years ago, he’ll tell you he wanted a challenge. He once said on The NickelBlock, “I liked the fact that [Oregon State] had never been good in volleyball, because there’s nothing but up.” Terry conquered the world of Olympic volleyball and wanted to return to the college scene and conquer a different beast.
“I wanted a chance to teach again.”
Terry has had his opportunities to teach. Not in the classroom but on the court. In his first few years at Oregon State he has taken a team that was a regular in the bottom of the Pac-10 to a team that is winning at 10th-ranked Hawaii, at fourth-ranked UCLA and at 15th ranked California. The team even cracked the top 25 this year after beating fourth-ranked USC and No.13 Wisconsin. While the team may not win a national title or contend for one, Terry isn’t disappointed.
It’s not his style, words like that aren’t in his vocabulary. The only dis-word he knows is discipline. His command is calm and collected with a vision and a plan.
“I tell my kids, I’m going to teach you life skills, you’re going to graduate and you’re going to be a great volleyball player.” Liskevych said.
And he believes that.
“You can’t legislate ethics and morality,” he said. “If I want to cheat and I want to do things outside the purview of the NCAA guidelines, I could do it everyday. And no one is going to catch me. I think you need to say ‘What am I here for as an educator slash coach?’”
Terry Liskevych is an NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Head Coach that is here to be an educator first. Win games second. He preaches it everyday when he says, “success breeds success.” A successful student makes a successful athlete? When was the last time you heard a coach say that? Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it?