From playing for the men’s club team at Sacramento State, to manning the sidelines as a coach, volleyball coach Ruben Volta’s love for the game has not wavered.
Born in San Jose, California in 1967, the seventh year head coach overcame a number of obstacles at an early age to achieve his dreams.
“I had a disease in my hip when I was a kid so I was on crutches for about three and a half to four years,” Volta said. “I always said that I had Forrest Gump braces and I literally did. That was probably the hardest because kids tease you a lot when you’re on crutches.”
Despite the setback, he was able to recover and went on to compete in a number of sports in high school including wrestling and football. It was at this time that he discovered volleyball; an interest that would expand after he graduated.
“I liked it a lot when when I played in P.E. in high school,” Volta said. “It was probably not until after high school that I really seriously started playing it.”
He remembers his first encounter with a volleyball team at his junior college.
“I was in junior college and I was in the weight room working out and this team came in and they were actually kind of rude and arrogant,” he said. “They started cutting in and messed up my routine so I finally said, ‘Who are you guys?’ and they said they were the volleyball team.”
Volta said he and the volleyball team verbally jousted about sports, including the legitimacy of volleyball as a real sport.
“I said volleyball wasn’t even a real sport,” Volta said. “We kind of got into a little trash talking about sports and I was a football player and wrestler, so I was convinced I could pick up volleyball pretty easily.”
That same weekend, he would enter a tournament in which he won with his team. The wrestler and football player in high school would eventually master volleyball.
Volta’s knack for the game landed him at Sac State, where he would play for and eventually coach the men’s club team.
“I played on the men’s club team here and we had really competitive teams all the years that I played,” Volta said. “We were able to go to the Santa Barbara tournament and compete against Division I teams, so I really enjoyed playing on it.”
After his time playing in college, Volta decided that coaching could be the route to pursue.
“I always felt like I was interested in coaching,” he said. “It wasn’t until I was playing here that some parents approached one of my teammates and wanted him to coach our club team. He asked me to do it with him.”
The success of his team would leave Volta with the realization that coaching a college team was a challenge he could tackle. His first shot at doing so was signing on to volunteer under longtime Sac State volleyball coach, Debbie Colberg.
“I don’t think I had any huge expectations because I think the lifestyle of being a college coach worried me because it is a commitment to decide as a career path you want to go down,” Volta said. “But getting involved and being a part of Debbie’s program had a huge influence on me, so I just fell in love with it from there.”
Upon Colberg’s retirement in 2008, Volta knew there were going to be challenges taking over as head coach, but he had a vote of confidence from Colberg herself.
“I felt like Ruben would do a really good job and I knew he was a knowledgeable coach,” Colberg said. “When he was an assistant, he knew how to handle college athletes and that was one of his biggest knowledges of the game.”
His current players also have faith in their coach, citing his drive to succeed as well as his laid back demeanor as a source of inspiration.
“He was a really good player back in the day, so seeing how hard he’s worked and how much knowledge he has to share in different situations has always been my motivation to pick his brain,” said senior setter and co-captain Hannah Hettinga.
Sophomore outside hitter Sloan Lovett shared similar sentiments about the veteran coach.
“He’s a coach that always knows what to say and what we need to hear,” Lovett said. “So if we need motivation, he knows what to say to get us in the mindset and play the game.”
As much as winning is important for Volta, he understands the need to be calm in the face of adversity and enjoy his time.
“He has a great sense of humor and a passion for volleyball,” Colberg said. “He’s a hard worker who was just easy to work with.”
Volta has obtained a knowledge of the sport that he has passed down to his players. In his sixth year at the helm, he is hoping that knowledge will continue to spread amongst this young but formidable team.
“I think his talents show because he has to sort of develop his own legacy to attract the recruits that he needs,” Colberg said. “I feel like he’s got some good freshman recruits to build with so if he keeps going in this direction, they’re going to be good.”
This season, the team is aiming to return to the Big Sky Tournament and NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. If they are able to do so, Volta will have built upon his already impressive resumé as head coach of Sac State.