Mike Villafane, the new Head Coach for the Girls Volleyball team, knows the importance to a sports program of a good coach.
“Volleyball is one of those sports that most people in New Jersey are introduced to in high school. I never considered it as an option until a coach recommended that I try it,” he says. It was that recommendation that would begin a lifelong love for playing and coaching the sport.
While Villafane may be new to the Princeton Day School community, he is no stranger to the Princeton area. As an eighth grade social studies teacher in nearby Hopewell, NJ, he knew that the Head Coach opening for Volleyball could be a perfect fit. “I had a former colleague who had some experience with Princeton Day School’s Athletic Department and he told me that the Athletic Director, Katie Fay, was really passionate about building the program and was an amazing support system. Now that I’m coaching here, I can affirm that she is a phenomenal person to work for.”
Both Villafane and Fay’s coaching philosophies place paramount importance on growing a positive and fun culture within the program. Growing that culture is easy, Villafane says, when there are so many players who are excited to improve: “Last year was all about competing and proving to other schools that we aren’t a pushover, easy-win team. This year, we are seeing that everyone is excited to be better players and win the matches, not just compete in them.”
He also notes that even though last year’s season was pushed to the spring due to COVID-19 protocols, the entire team plus many newcomers were ready to return only a few months later to compete in the fall. Villafane says, “Last year, we had around 30 players. This year, we are at 40 players. We took a huge jump. We even have JV 1 and JV 2 teams this year!”
Just like the volleyball team’s roster, opportunities for players have also increased thanks to officially joining the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). The NJSIAA has made a huge difference for his team, Villafane says: “With NJSIAA, we have so many more opportunities this year for our players to have success with the postseason and ultimately compete for State championships. NJSIAA has opened up so many doors for these players to be successful.”
On the subject of success, Villafane contends that the definition of a “successful season” is multidimensional. He explains, “I love being able to create an environment where kids enjoy being there. Last year, we didn’t have a strong year if you look at the statistics from the season, but if you look at how much the players learned from that season and from each other, it was an incredibly successful season.”
To see our Volleyball team in action, check out our Volleyball Flickr album!