David Adam

Military service helped mold Meyer as a volleyball coach

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 12, 2017 12:01 am

NORMAL, Ill.

It was difficult to notice, but Rich Meyer got a little emotional before Saturday's Class 2A volleyball state championship game in Redbird Arena.

It wasn't because it was the last time he would take the court with his Quincy Notre Dame team. He's been coaching high school and college volleyball since 1981, so don't expect him to get mushy about any team just yet.

Instead, it was because of a ceremony before the game. Fans of both QND and Champaign St. Thomas More who also were veterans were honored on the court before the national anthem was played.

"I could have dropped a tear or two," Meyer said. "Does that give you a hint of what that meant to me?"

Meyer said he doesn't talk much about his experience. He spent four years in the Marine Corps, including an 18-month stint in Vietnam. He was 19 years old when he landed in Vietnam, where he said he slept in a foxhole at night and got shot at during the day.

"The first day I hit Da Nang, I walked off the plane, and there were eight bodies laying there," he said. "I looked back, and there were eight of us getting off the plane.

"That wakes you up real quick."

He said the experience helped make him the person he is now.

"The last six months, I worked in the boot camp on the rifle range, and it was a strict, strict, strict program," Meyer said. "I had to be out in ranks every morning at 5 a.m. for inspection, to see if I had my shoes spit shined, my buttonholes with all the threads cleaned out. If you didn't, you got raked over the coals. It's a learning experience.

"That's why I make my girls work hard. People ask me why I don't do much coaching at the start of my practices, and I tell them it's their team. The girls know what I want. If they don't do what I want, the wrath of God strikes a lightning bolt over them.

"I won't make the girls do anything that I can't do, won't do or haven't done."

He cherishes moments like this weekend, but he didn't get too high about Friday's victory or too low about Saturday's loss. At 71 years old, he merely grins after most matches and simply enjoys the opportunity just to be a part of it all.

"(Being in Vietnam) made me pretty tough," he said. "I found out the easiest thing in the world to do is die. That experience makes you appreciate things a lot more.

"It made me harder as a person. I expect people to work hard, because I expect people to value the time they have here to work and do good things."

He sheepishly told the story about when the national anthem was played at a game he was coaching several years ago.

"There was a guy in the crowd who still had his hat on," Meyer said. "I just turned around, ran up the bleachers and said, ‘If you ever wear a hat while I'm playing the national anthem again, don't come in the door.'

"(The flag) means a lot to me."

The future looks promising for the Raiders, who started four sophomores on the team that placed second in Class 2A. However, when asked after the game if he was looking forward to next year, Meyer kind of scowled.

"I've coached long enough to say that I'll never say, ‘Wait 'til next year,'" he said. "I don't worry about next year. We've got a long time to think before we worry it about next year. Let's enjoy what we've done this year and go from there."

It's a valuable reminder.

Stop worrying about tomorrow. Take time to tell a veteran that you appreciate the freedoms you enjoy today.

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