BYU assistant coach Grayson DuBose spent time in Russia as the head volleyball coach for the Moscow-Utah Youth Summer Games. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
BYU assistant coach Grayson DuBose sees his time spent as the head volleyball coach at the Moscow-Utah Youth Summer Games as an opportunity of a lifetime.
While competing internationally against highly talented athletes, DuBose and the under-18 Utah team felt like superstars playing in an Olympic venue with over 5,000 people watching. The team also signed autographs and other items after the final match against their opponents.
"The guys on the team were amazed by the amount of people watching the games," Dubose said. "There was so much energy and excitement in the arena."
The games were created last October through a partnership between Governor Mike Leavitt and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The summer games are being held in Moscow, lasting July 19-26, while the winter games will be held next February in Salt Lake City.
For the summer games, more than 250 Utah youth traveled to compete in basketball, baseball, wrestling, water polo, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, track and field and volleyball. The trip lasted 10 days where the Utah and Moscow teams played three different matches.
The men's volleyball team from Utah was comprised of 10 athletes from the state of Utah, one from California and one from Missouri with DuBose as the head coach.
DuBose will be entering his second year as an assistant coach at BYU this fall under head coach Tom Peterson. The Cougars posted a 23-7 record during the 2003 season and earned a 2nd-place finish in the NCAA Tournament. He has 13 years of previous coaching experience on the high school and university levels. Before BYU, DuBose coached at Utah State University (1999-2001) and the University of New Mexico (2001-02) with Tom Peterson.
During his trip to Russia, DuBose and the Utah team were able to see the historical sites in Moscow such as the Kremlin and the Red Square. They found that not only was the culture of Moscow interesting, but the talent and the competition of the international athletes proved to be fierce. The competition seemed more physical to the athletes from Utah, but the experience was invaluable.
"We played against the best teams in Moscow. They were more physical and even bigger, which provided good experience," DuBose said.
The team from Utah played against several athletes over 6'9 who began playing at a young age. DuBose said that international athletes play in special athletic clubs that only concentrate on an individual sport, so the opportunity to play professionally increases as well as the level of play.
Because volleyball is the second most popular sport in Russia, the best athletes pick to play volleyball rather than basketball. The people watching the games were also more interested in watching the final match between Utah and Moscow than other sports.
"It was fascinating that more people would stay and watch the volleyball games than the basketball games," DuBose said.
The Moscow-Utah Games was also a chance to make contacts with athletes and coaches from Russia for future recruiting purposes.
Overall, two things DuBose hopes the kids brought back with them are first, an understanding of the volleyball's popularity in other countries as well as the high level of competition and second, that the U.S. is not such a bad place to live after all. He hopes the team learned to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities that exist in America and in Utah.