Aug. 15, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Coaching wasn’t originally in the plans for Danalee Corso. A four-year star on the indoor volleyball courts at Loyola Marymount from 1989-92, Corso spent 13 years traveling the world as a professional sand volleyball player after college before creating her own swimwear company. The Honolulu, Hawaii native instructed recreational players on the side to make some extra cash for years. As her playing career wound down, she found herself coaching more. Soon, she discovered coaching was her true passion, quit her business and began coaching some of the country’s top players on national and junior national teams. Corso has coached Olympians and some of the world’s top professionals, and now one of the United States’ most accomplished coaches is ready to lead Florida State’s emerging sand volleyball program.
The sand volleyball schedule hasn’t been finalized yet, but the squad is expected to begin competition in the spring. Until then, Corso will work diligently to improve FSU’s inaugural sand volleyball team, while recruiting across the country in search of future Seminoles.
The first-year head coach recently sat down with Seminoles.com to discuss her career and Florida State’s sand volleyball program.
Can you describe the differences in sand volleyball compared to indoor volleyball?
The biggest difference is having two players instead of six on the court. The type of player is similar, but slightly different in the sense that you need someone who is more of a thinking player – someone who can solve problems. If the problem is: `How can I get the point with this different type of opponent?’ Then they find a way to side out. It’s actually suggested in studies of the sport that it is good to play chess as a young kid because you are problem solving. As a coach, I find that very interesting and when I recruit players I consider that. Sometimes in indoor
(volleyball) you can be coached to a high level. The coach in indoor volleyball can coach the entire time. In sand volleyball, the coach can only give instruction during timeouts. You need to rely on players who can strategize on their own. Sand volleyball is a lot like tennis – where your anticipation is great. The elements can be a factor, too. Again, you have to be a problem solver. In indoor, you are playing on a flat surface. In sand, you have different types of sand, different types of wind. Sunlight is a factor. You can play in the rain. There are all these different elements that you have to be trained in.
Can you describe the plans Florida State has for its sand volleyball facility?
We are building five courts. That should be done by the beginning of the school year. We’re hoping to be able to host various events and possibly a national championship in the near future. It’s going to be more of a casual seating environment. There may be some temporary bleachers, but it’s going to have a beach environment. It will have a bring-your-own-lawn-chair-and-umbrella vibe. Initially, that’s how FSU is going to start the facility.
What was life like as a professional volleyball player – a career you had for 13 years?
In the beginning, it was my dream and it was everything that I thought it would be. There was traveling, fun, competition, and I met a lot of new people. The lifestyle was great. My favorite thing about it was the travel. I was fortunate to get to play on the world tour as well as the domestic professional tours. I traveled to 25 different countries. I was a member of the senior national beach team. That was my favorite part – and it was also one of the hardest parts about it. But in the end, it’s tough to make a living off of it. A few people – maybe less than five (professional volleyball players) making a really great living. The rest of us make enough to sustain a good lifestyle. It ends up being a lot of work over the years. If you could make a ton of money off of it for a long time, I’d probably still be playing.
How did you get involved in coaching sand volleyball?
Actually, I was playing some of my best volleyball and I had started a bathing suit company called “Vollydolly.” It was wildly popular and (Olympic gold medalists) Misty May and Kerri Walsh wore it their first year. They were friends of mine. It was doing really well, so I retired to pursue my business. I figured I would coach some on the side. When I started playing professionally, I starting coaching recreational adults – just for money on the side. I had been coaching for a long time, but when I retired in order to stay involved with the sport and to market my swimwear, I decided to coach at the professional level. I started coaching some national team players and I met my husband, Brian, around the same time. He was also a professional player and a personal trainer. We started Aloha Ball Club (a beach volleyball academy). So I was basically starting two businesses at the same time. It got really difficult to sustain, and they were both doing well. It was more fun to do the beach volleyball academy because my husband and I could do it together. And then the economy got tougher and tougher so I quit doing Vollydolly and stuck with coaching. I never thought I would be a professional coach. I was a business major with an entrepreneurship emphasis. I think the swimwear ended up being a means to coaching. I’ve always enjoyed coaching. Now I’ve got a position in sand volleyball coaching that is secure. I enjoy working with this (college) age group. I take very seriously being a role model for my athletes.
Can you describe your experience coaching Olympians and players on the national and junior national levels?
I think my specialty as a coach – my niche – is to take top level indoor players and make them really good in sand volleyball very quickly. When I got Makare Wilson, Tyra Turner and Nicole Branagh, they were former indoor national team players with no sand experience. It was an amazing process because they latched onto the sport so quickly. It’s the same with junior national team players. I coached high school age boys too. It’s really easy to get good fast in sand if you have the proper training. My main team was Tyra Turner and Rachel Wacholder for one year. They were the No. 2 team in the country at the time. It’s a very different dynamic to train just two players – rather than 15 players. I traveled the world with them. The psychology part of it is huge. It’s harder to see big results. I realized one of the things I love about coaching is being able to see improvement. When you can see big gains that’s the most fun part for me. I love to develop players. That’s my strength. That’s why I think college sand volleyball is perfect for me. I have 15 players to develop.
What process will sand volleyball go through as an emerging NCAA sport?
The first step was a voting process with the indoor coaches. It’s been a bit controversial. They’ve taken away the ramp-up time. Usually an emerging sport has a year to get started, but an appeal took away that ramp-up time. They decided to just get the sport moving. That’s why there are only 17-20 teams this first year. You need 40 teams – any division – to sign up for a varsity program for two years in a row before it can be an official NCAA sport. The first year, we will have an AVCA Championship. There will be AVCA All-Americans too. A lot of schools are getting their ducks in a row this year and plan on starting teams next year. There are 14 teams in the southeast doing it this year.
What makes Florida State a premier destination for sand volleyball?
The growth of sand volleyball in Florida is bigger than anywhere else in the country. That, coupled with the weather and the fact that Florida State has such a great overall athletic department. If you are going to be involved with an emerging sport, you want to be at a school that can support that sport, and you want to be in a region that can support the players. Florida State has all of that.
Do you expect Gabrielle Reece – a former Florida State and USA volleyball star and model – to attend a sand volleyball match this spring?
I know Gabrielle on a professional level. I have not talked to her, but I plan on extending an invitation to her. I hear she still comes to football games on occasion and still keeps in contact with (former Seminole volleyball coach) Cecile Reynaud – who is now a teacher on campus. We may name an event after her. We’d be silly if we didn’t try to incorporate her in some way.
Do you think the United States’ success in sand volleyball in recent Olympic Games has served as a catalyst for the sport?
Our success in the Olympics makes the young athletes in America want to pursue the opportunity. Now that I have been here three months, I’ve seen the level of play is dramatically better than when I played in college. There is so much depth in our country in the sport. There are tons of opportunities for good players to get scholarships. In the past there haven’t been enough scholarships for good players because there was a finite amount of aid available for indoor volleyball players. If you ask indoor players who their favorite volleyball players are, you’re probably going to hear: `Misty May’ or `Kerri Walsh’ rather than someone from the indoor national team. Sand volleyball sells out of tickets the quickest at Olympics. The sport got the most primetime television coverage at the last Olympic Games. It’s very successful in that regard.