Pepperdine athletes excel at Youth Olympic Games

Pepperdine University was well represented at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games last week in Singapore. Former Pepperdine volleyball player and coach Rod Wilde was the head coach of the United States girls volleyball team, and Samantha Cash, who is committed to play at Pepperdine beginning in 2011, was the captain of the squad. Athletes aged between 14 and 18 years from 26 sports competed in Singapore.

While at Pepperdine, Wilde played under legendary coach Marv Dunphy, who led the U.S. Men’s National Team to the Olympic Gold Medal in 1988, and guided the Waves to four NCAA men’s volleyball titles.

“He was my mentor and almost like my second father. He had a big impact on my life,” said Wilde in an interview in the Youth Olympic Village.

Wilde had a successful career as a setter at Pepperdine. He helped the Waves win their first national title, was named a first-team All-American three times, and is inducted in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

After playing, he went into coaching. When Dunphy had to take a leave of absence from Pepperdine to direct the U.S. Men’s National Team, he chose Wilde to take over the head coaching duties, and Wilde guided the Waves to the 1986 NCAA title. He was also an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic squads in 1996 and 2000.

“He is a really good coach,” Cash said. “I feel like he knows everything. If he wants to teach us something, he actually gets out on the court and shows us.”

Cash is a 6’3” middle blocker from San Diego. She also competed and won a gold medal with the U.S. Women’s Junior National Team at the NORCECA Women’s Junior Continental Championship in Mexico in July, and said she is “very excited” to attend Pepperdine beginning in 2011 after her senior year in high school.

“[Cash] is a very energetic, positive person,” Wilde said. “She plays 100% all the time. She is very well respected by the other players because of that.”

The United States squad at the Youth Olympics Games was very tall, often playing with a lineup where the smallest player was 5’11”. However, the team did not have a lot of experience playing together, and Wilde met several of the players for the first time at the airport on the way to Singapore. Therefore, Wilde took the players on team bonding activities, such as on shopping trip and to the water park, so they could get to know each other.

“Being a former player, I have a lot of empathy for the athletes in terms of what things they are going through,” Wilde said. “Having gone through a lot of it myself, I know what they are struggling with, and how to help them deal with it.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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