It began as a sideline in 1975 and has became somewhat of an addiction. Jack Trotter's stint as coach of the Glendale High boys' volleyball team had an inauspicious beginning 13 years ago. Trotter, a teacher at Glendale, had a minimal knowledge of volleyball when a group of students asked him to act as faculty supervisor for the first-year sport.
Trotter agreed to coach the program and headed for the bookstore in search of instruction. Trotter discovered two things: a book by UCLA men's coach Al Scates and a growing love for volleyball.
Trotter is currently in his 14th season at Glendale, which is ranked No. 4 in the Southern Section 3-A Division poll. But as much as Trotter has changed, so has the type of player he has attracted.
Initially, the program featured players who had little interest in the conventional sports--baseball, football and basketball. Many viewed it as more of an extracurricular activity than an athletic outlet.
Trotter can boast of having athletes from the conventional sports, including the starting quarterback on the football team, Rick Callister. The 6-0, 170-pound junior plays the pivotal position in volleyball as well--setter. He operates the offense, determining who gets the ball and which play to run. As in football, Callister is the second person to touch the ball on almost every play.
"I get a lot of satisfaction out of volleyball," Callister said. "I don't know if being a quarterback helps me in being a setter, but I think football helps my volleyball. There is so much pressure in football.
"Not as many people know or care about volleyball. But this year it is a little more popular because we're doing well."
The popularity is inspired, in part, by the presence of basketball players Brent Hoxie and Chad Blatchley. Hoxie, a 6-2 junior, starts at middle blocker. He is the team's leading blocker with 79 solos and 73 assisted blocks. He is also leading the team in hitting percentage at .301.
Blatchley is a second-year starter as an outside hitter. The 6-4 junior leads the team in kills with 155.
"We still make some mistakes but we pretty much have the skills down," Blatchley said. "At the beginning we really hadn't played that much together. There aren't a lot of guys that play before the ninth grade."
Joey English is only in his second season of volleyball but is starting at outside hitter. The 6-1 sophomore is second in team kills with 140. English would have seen a lot less playing time this season had Gil Brenner not been declared academically ineligible. Brenner, a junior, twice broke the school record for single-match kills with consecutive performances of 24 and 25 last season. The 6-3 outside hitter is one of the best in the Southern Section, Trotter said.
Unfortunately, Glendale's academic problems did not end there. Three more players, all reserves, have been declared ineligible, paring the roster to nine players, Trotter said.
Trotter has tried to make the best of the situation, stressing team unity instead of depth. It seems to be successful.
"Gil was really a plus to the team," Blatchley said. "And when the other guys got in they really helped the team. But these are the guys that we have and we're going to have to do our best."
Although Glendale (9-2, 4-1) is one of the top teams in the 3-A Division, a Pacific League title this season is hardly assured. League rival Arcadia is ranked No.1 in the division.
Glendale will have to rely heavily on the play of senior middle blocker Trent Parkin and outside hitter Troy Leach. The 6-2 Parkin is the team's second-leading blocker with 61 solo and 44 assisted blocks. Leach, a 6-0 senior, is the team's captain.
Glendale is looking to gain its fourth league title after championship seasons in 1978, 1980 and 1985. Trotter said that the 1985 team, which advanced to the quarterfinal of the Southern Section playoffs, was his finest ever.
But that, too, could change.
"Defense has been our weakness so far," Trotter said. "We are not as quick, but we are bigger than most teams."
And Glendale possesses the ability to adapt, much like Trotter.
"When they asked me to coach I said 'You're talking to the wrong guy,' " Trotter said. "But then I started reading Scates and going to matches and I fell in love with it. It's been one of the greatest learning experiences for me."