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Coach Cindy

Photo Credit: Virinda Moessner 2015
I, Cynthia (Cindy) Dang, am the founder of Core Values VBC. I would like to share my volleyball story and the inspiration behind Core Values with you. 

If you've met me in person you know that I am a towering 5'3" (hahaha!) and I am not the "typical" volleyball player. I didn't begin playing because I was athletic, or because I thought volleyball was cool, and because my "parents made me". Growing up my parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol and I ended up in foster care. In the 6th grade my science teacher noticed I was socially awkward and thought I should try volleyball as an outlet. After convincing my foster mom to let me play I soon learned that despite my small stature (yes, I've been 5'3" since the 6th grade! UGH!) I was actually kind of good at volleyball. It soon became one of the only consistent, positive things in my life.  I spent the 6th and 7th grade playing for Sterling Middle School and then 8th grade I moved and played for Broomfield Heights MS. When I moved to Broomfield I was super nervous about making a team there, but luckily my training was solid and I not only made a team I was named MVP for our district tournament at the end of the season. Later in the year I was the team manager for the Broomfield Boys Volleyball Club who became district champions. Helping coach and manage boys was an incredible learning opportunity for me. 

Fast forward to my freshman year of high school.... I moved, again, but this time I was fortunate to move into my grandmother and aunts home in Aurora, CO. I had missed tryouts but the athletic director there allowed me to join the freshman level volleyball team. It was my first practice at Hinkley HS and I thought my life was officially over. The girls were all a lot taller than me, and obviously already the best of friends. They seemed so comfortable with everything- how was I supposed to compete with that?! Practice started and I my mind was set at ease.... I was the only girl on the team that could serve overhand; the coach seemed pleased and the rest of the team was in awe. My fundamentals were strong and I was soon named the captain of our team. At the end of the season we found out that we were getting new coaches for next season and I was once again fighting my nerves. I would have to prove myself AGAIN to people that didn't know me and that would probably judge me because of my size. I worked out all summer and when I found out about the open gyms with the new coaches I did whatever I had to do to get to there (even if it meant walking over 5 miles to school). 

As it turned out, the new coaches DIDN'T really care about my height and my skills carried me onto the JV team. This was an amazing year for me and I decided that I wanted to play volleyball in college. I practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more; my aunt would often throw volleyballs for me in the backyard. I went to any open gyms that I could after the HS season- even at a rival HS! I thought my teammates would support me in my endeavor, but I soon learned I was wrong. The reality of my size hit me hard as my teammates proclaimed that no short people would play in college. My JV coach new of my aspirations and supported me by focusing on conditioning and consistent skills.  My Junior year I made Varsity as a defensive specialist, but soon became a "utility player". I did whatever my coach asked and gave 100% every practice, every game, every tournament. I decided that I wasn't going to let my past and the challenges I'd faced control my future.  Volleyball had become so much more than a sport for me- it was a way of life. It was a positive outlet and it pushed me to physical and mental levels that nothing else could. At the end of my Junior year I was awarded with the "Yes, they still make them with big hearts award". As silly as it sounds, knowing that my coaches recognized my hard work, dedication, and love for the game was enough to push me towards my goal of playing in college. That's when I discovered club volleyball.

I mentioned the desire to play club volleyball to my grandmother and my coaches. I soon discovered that there was NO WAY my grandmother could afford this... and even if she could, I would have felt guilty for the rest of my life if she spent the money and then I didn't make a college team. That's when my coaches decided to come together and fill a need for not only me, but other girls at my school that could also benefit from club. After the regular season ended my coaches formed a low-cost club. I was introduced to an entirely different level of volleyball and I was addicted to it. 

My Senior year of HS I made the varsity team and despite a near season-ending injury was named an All-State Honorable Mention Player in the 5A Continental League. This was a HUGE deal for me due to my size and position. At that time, the Continental League produced more Division 1 scholarship athletes than any other league in Colorado. Although it was very late, I created volleyball audition tapes and sent them to all of the schools I had applied to. I received a scholarship to play for the Gateway 17's Elite club after the HS season ended and we became regional champions. Then one day it happened.... I came home and there sat an acceptance letter to William Penn University. It was just an acceptance letter; it included an athletic scholarship offer!  Soon after letters and offers came from Peru State College, Hastings College and St. Mary's College. I had done it! All of my hard work and my coaches dedication had paid off!

So you ask, where did I choose to play? My answer, unfortunately, is none of the above. Due to my aforementioned injury and my family's financial situation I chose to accept a full academic scholarship to Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, CO. I played in the co-ed league there and compiled stats for the NJC Volleyball team. I attended one semester, obtained my ASEP Coaching Certification and due to family obligations returned to Denver. 

I have been coaching volleyball since my Junior year of HS. I was an "unofficial"  assistant coach for my JV coach during the boys volleyball season and then my senior year of HS a group of girls and their parents asked me to coach their rec team after the HS season ended. Because of my injury I knew that I had to share my passion for the game. I coached two seasons for the City of Aurora and volunteered for Sterling Middle School while I attended school at NJC. When my life brought me to west-metro Denver I began my adventure with the City of Golden. I have been running their CARA Volleyball program since March 2008. We started as a TINY program and over the years have grown to one of the only recreational programs that offers youth volleyball year-round.  Since 2008 I've led teams to 8 first or second place finishes in their CARA divisions. While any child that plays for me knows that I don't care about winning, I feel my record can be a testament to my coaching. I believe in hard work and keeping a positive attitude to overcome adversity. 

I started Core Values VBC because parents in my city programs tried, and hated, traditional volleyball clubs in our area. It wasn't the positive coaching that they'd become used to from me, and it was so expensive! After a few years and hard nudges I knew that I had to start my own club. I needed to help these kids that wanted to keep playing but not at the expense of failing school and missing family time. Core Values is a way for me to "pay it forward". If my coaches hadn't stepped up and created that club my junior year I may not have ever accomplished everything that I have in my life. 

Confidence, Discipline and Determination make the biggest difference between success and failure in volleyball and in life. This is the reason why I chose the name Core Values for this club. We may not always have the most talented kids, but I teach more than volleyball in my gym. I teach confidence so kids don't feel like I did growing up; I teach discipline so kids understand when it's time to focus and when it's okay to relax a little and just have fun; I teach determination because I never want a kid not to achieve their goals just because they gave up.  I am so excited to offer an alternative to traditional club volleyball and help kids become passionate about this game. It is an honor to be called "coach", and I hope that I can inspire your athlete to do great things both on and off the court. 


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