Olympic gold medalist visits young volleyball players


When learning to play a sport, it’s always helpful to have advice from an expert. And on Thursday, May 19, a group of young volleyball players from the Ponte Vedra area got advice from the best.

Olympic gold medalist Phil Dalhausser visited with the youths, who were enrolled in a series of classes offered by Volleyball1on1 at Nocatee Community Park. He taught them spiking techniques and how to put more power into their game and spoke to them about how mistakes can be used to improve.

The day was divided into two sessions: one for students in grades 4-7 and the other for students in grades 8-12. That evening, Dalhausser joined Volleyball1on1 founders Andor Gyulai and Vanessa Summers-Gyulai for a presentation at the link for parents titled “Better Parenting Through Sports.”

Dalhausser, teamed with Todd Rogers, won his gold medal in beach volleyball at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. At Thursday’s gathering, he showed the youths his medal, the back side of which was inlaid with rare white jade.

He described winning a gold medal as “pretty sweet.”

“It’s the best feeling times 100,” he said.

Though many Olympians start to hone their skills early in life, Dalhausser didn’t get involved in volleyball until he was a high school senior at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. The coach had been asking him for years to try out, but it wasn’t until Dalhausser grew tired of playing baseball that he agreed.

And he found that everything just came naturally.

“I became obsessed,” he said.

He went on to the University of Central Florida, where he earned a business degree, but upon graduation, he told his parents he’d like to pursue a career in volleyball. They were cool to the idea but agreed to give him until he was 25 before he would have to turn his attention to a career more compatible with his degree.

As it turned out, he won his first professional tournament at 25.

In addition to his victory in Beijing, Dalhausser has competed in three other Olympic Games and won several beach volleyball championships around the world.

Dalhausser’s visit to Nocatee was at the invitation of the Gyulais, who met him earlier this year at a private trial in Orlando.

Before founding Volleyball1on1, Andor Gyulai and Vanessa Summers-Gyulai had careers in financial services in Los Angeles.

Andor Gyulai was an experienced volleyball player and world-renowned coach, and in 2009, the Gyulais began to post videos — 3,000 in all — on YouTube featuring the best players and coaches in the world. That evolved into a franchise volleyball coaching system for high school coaches and clubs. Their business, Volleyball1on1, runs volleyball camps around the country.

“We actually want to raise some volleyball Olympians,” said Andor Gyulai.

In fact, they may already be doing so. Their son, Thor, 14, has demonstrated an interest and talent in the sport. He was recently scouted to be a part of the elite Volleyball U-16 team.

In addition to volleyball skills, the Gyulais — who moved to Ponte Vedra in January — incorporate life skills into each lesson. It’s something Vanessa Summers-Gyulai said was her favorite part of what they do.

“We like to say it’s bigger than volleyball,” said her husband.

“We like to teach things like: how to communicate, how to ask questions, how to work successfully, how to set goals,” said Andor Gyulai. “We like to say that when we teach these things we develop excellent goal-setting, communicative, self-directed, critical-thinking, lifelong learners who thrive in competition and under pressure, who know how to work as a member or a leader of a team while being fair and considering others.”

At Thursday’s gathering, Dalhausser helped the Gyulais reinforce these positive ideas with the students.

Later, during the presentation at the link, they sought to establish a partnership with parents so that the lessons they taught on the field would be reinforced at home.

As for Dalhausser, he said he wants to help grow the sport that has been so good to him in Florida.

The bi-weekly volleyball classes offered in Nocatee Community Park (collectively called NocVolleyball) are about to wrap up. But they will be restarted in August.

For more information on Volleyball1on1, go to volleyball1on1.com. For information on NocVolleyball, go to NocVolleyball.com.