McCutcheon inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame

On Saturday evening McCutcheon was inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, but opted out of the ceremony to stay with his team.

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon speaks to players during a time out at Maturi Pavillon on Saturday, Nov 3, 2018. The Gophers won 3-2 against Michigan State.

Tony Saunders

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon speaks to players during a time out at Maturi Pavillon on Saturday, Nov 3, 2018. The Gophers won 3-2 against Michigan State.

David Mullen

When you think of New Zealand sports, rugby or cricket may come to mind — but not volleyball.

On Saturday, the International Volleyball Hall of Fame inducted Gophers volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon into the hall as the first Kiwi to have the honor. 

“It’s just so surreal and it’s such an incredible thing, and maybe one day I’ll be able to describe it for you,” McCutcheon said. 

McCutcheon, instead of going to Holyoke, Massachusetts for the ceremony, changed his plans and stayed with his team as they took on No. 12 Purdue.

“The fact that he stayed with us showed us how he really believes in us this year, so it was cool to see that,” said outside hitter Alexis Hart after Saturday’s match. 

Earlier in the week he had committed to being at the ceremony but woke up early last Tuesday morning and contemplated the decision. He said that the potential risk of leaving the team for a banquet across the country better suited him to be on the bench for a nationally-ranked Big Ten matchup. 

Former Gophers volleyball player and Olympian Daly Santana said that McCutcheon staying showed everyone on the outside who he really is.

“It shows his commitment to the team and shows how he is 100 percent with the team at all times,” Santana said. 

Although McCutcheon was not at the ceremony, he got to celebrate his accomplishment with his team and Gophers fans as a video of former players and coaches congratulated him in video montage. 

A Hall of Fame career

McCutcheon began his volleyball career in in 1985 after a small interaction with his basketball coach. 

“I thought volleyball looked cool, I knew the coach, I thought he was a cool guy. He was my physics teacher and the guys on the team seemed like a good bunch of dudes,” McCutcheon said. 

He eventually decided to come to the United States to reach his volleyball potential. McCutcheon enrolled at Brigham Young University in 1991 and was a standout for the Cougars as he earned All-American honorable mention in 1993.

After his playing career, he began coaching while working towards a graduate degree at BYU “as a means to an academic end.” Coaching instilled in his heart in the process. 

“I ended up doing two masters and after my first one, I realized I like academics, but I really had a much stronger head-and-heart connection to coaching,” McCutcheon said. 

Although there was never a clear pathway, McCutcheon gained opportunities through the United States National Team boys’, men’s and women’s teams. Through his time with the national team, McCutcheon accumulated two Olympic medals, a gold medal in 2008 while coaching the men, and a silver in 2012 with the women. 

Shortly after the Olympics in 2012, McCutcheon join the Gophers as their head coach. 

Player-Coach Relationships

Although McCutcheon has a lot to be proud of, his players say he’s just Hugh.  

“He’s a normal guy who’s committed to you and your improvement as a player, but will also be a mentor in life, in school, or anything,” Santana said. 

Setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson said that this relationship helps each player on the court as well.

“I think we all need something different from a coach and he can be that for us, and I think it’s because of the investment he makes off the court in getting to know us,” Seliger-Swenson said. 

For McCutcheon, seeing his players progress is the biggest satisfaction for him.

“I think there’s some pride in that,” McCutcheon said. “Not that it’s about me, because they’re the ones doing the work, but just the idea that you can help them figure that stuff out. I think that’s been a really good thing.”