When the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team completed its best-ever finish at the World ParaVolley Championships in Sarajevo in November, the team did so under the leadership of United States Sports Academy alumnus Greg Walker.
Walker was the Academy’s 2021 Alumnus of the Year because of his decade of experience coaching volleyball at the Paralympic and collegiate levels. In addition to his coaching duties with Team USA, Walker is also the head coach of the Smith College women’s volleyball team in Northampton, Mass.
A native of Huntingdon, Pa., Walker has been active with the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team since 2013 and has served as head coach since 2016. Sitting volleyball is a variation of the original game but designed for athletes with adaptive needs. The sport is governed by the same rules as the traditional game with a few modifications. Players must maintain seated contact with the floor, the net is just over 3 feet high, and the court is approximately 33 feet by 20 feet. Highlights of his service include leading the American team in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro and to a silver medal at the 2017 ParaPan American Championships.
Walker said his Academy education helped propel his career at a time when he was working as an assistant volleyball coach in the collegiate ranks.
“The Academy really showed me how much goes on behind the scenes in an athletic program,” Walker said. “Once I realized I wanted to pursue coaching as a career, I knew I needed a thorough education with more than just formations and plays. The Academy gave me an in-depth knowledge of the ethics, psychology and theories behind coaching and my career has benefited because of it.
“The thing that makes the Academy so great is that it offers sport specific studies with incredibly supportive faculty to help with the distance learning. The faculty and instruction at the Academy are second to none. The faculty also has an extensive amount of work in the athletics field. They are able to really facilitate discussions and actually take the time to really connect with students.
“The Academy also has great resources for students. I learned a lot by reading The Sport Journal and my course materials because I was immediately able to use that information in my career. My education at the Academy helped to fine tune the skills I use every day.”
Walker was named a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association “30 Under 30” class for 2017, an award that honors up-and-coming coaches at all levels of the sport. He said he is excited to be part of one of the fastest growing sports in the United States.
“Volleyball is growing exponentially around the country and it recently overtook basketball as the most-played sport for girls and women in America,” Walker said. “I’m excited to see that around the country, leagues and clubs are opening for younger and younger kids each year. You also have beach volleyball programs beginning around the country and in non-traditional places. Boys and men’s volleyball is also growing – last year 12 new collegiate men’s programs started, including several in Division 1. That’s unprecedented.”
Before being hired at Smith College in 2020, Walker spent the 2019 season as an assistant coach at the University of Southern California. There, he oversaw all recruiting efforts, planned practices, created scouting material and was the point person for admissions, compliance, academic support, strength and conditioning, sports information and equipment. His career also includes coaching stops at Sacred Heart University (Ct.), Alderson Broaddus University (W.Va.), Pfeiffer University, and Mississippi State, and additional time as a volunteer coach at the University of Oregon, Mercer University, and Juniata College.
“I love sports because of the role they play in making an impact in the lives of athletes,” Walker said. “Coaching volleyball, I get to work with young people during one of the most pivotal times in their lives. I’m fascinated with how sport is a microcosm of life.”