Princeton has been one of the cornerstones of volleyball in the East for more than 30 years, and Glenn Nelson is one name synonymous with the Tiger program. A successful coach for both the men’s and women’s programs, Nelson collected more than 1,100 wins across both platforms. But perhaps more notable that what he did was how he did it. Nelson, known for his unique coaching style and his personality off the court, built a significant alumni base fueled by his character and that of Princeton volleyball.
“Glenn has accumulated hundreds of fiercely loyal Princeton Volleyball alumni who would do anything for the man who guided them into adulthood,” said current Princeton head coach Sam Shweisky. “He taught them how to compete, how to be self-confident, and how to find out who they would eventually become in life. Any success that falls upon Princeton Volleyball is a direct result of the thousands of hours that Coach Nelson poured into the program. We stand firmly on the foundation that Glenn build and we could not be more grateful.”
Nelson, who retired after the 2008-2009 academic year, guided Princeton to a No. 11 national ranking in 1998, a season that culminated with a loss to top-ranked Pepperdine in the NCAA National Semifinals, knocking off two nationally-ranked teams in the process to win its only EIVA Championship. He also because the first coach to advance both a men’s and a women’s team to the NCAA Tournament in the same academic year (1997-1998).
“Princeton Volleyball is where is it today because Coach Nelson did everything,” stated Shweisky. “He did all the recruiting, all the coaching, washed the jerseys, drove the van, filled out the paperwork. He did everything. For most of his 30-year career he was without an assistant and was also coaching the women’s program.”
For Nelson, his sense of pride lies not in the accomplishments and accolades, but in sustainability.
"I am proudest of the fact that we were able to preserve the men's program over the years," Nelson said. "That is a credit to our players, fans, alumni and administration. There were a lot of Eastern programs that once played varsity men's volleyball that don't play anymore. I think it's great that we're still playing varsity volleyball at Princeton."
And not only playing, but also excelling. The current Tiger men’s squad has been mentioned in the national picture throughout the year, including after a four-set win over UC Santa Barbara to open the season.
When you mention Nelson’s name, there are very few people who don’t respond with a smile.
“Glenn Nelson is certainly unique there is no doubt about that!” stated Shweisky. “Every coach in the EIVA from his era has their favorite Glenn Nelson story. Glenn has a magnetic personality that everyone wants to be around. He’s the cool kid in the cafeteria that everyone wants to sit near so they can be part of the action. When he speaks you want to listen, you don’t want to miss a single word, because so often they are golden. Current Princeton head women’s volleyball coach and former Nelson protégé Sabrina King described Glenn’s coaching style as ‘as a delicate balance of raging maniac and cool kid indifference,’ which sums him up perfectly.
“Coach Nelson is a good fit for the EIVA HOF because of his longevity in the conference and history of success,” continued Shweisky. “To coach at an institution for 30 years and to have the level of success that he did deserves to be recognized and we are so honored to take part is this celebration. He built the name of Princeton Volleyball from scratch and sustained it for three decades. Without a doubt, Princeton Volleyball is where it is today and will be where it goes tomorrow thanks 100% to the legendary coach Glenn Nelson! We cannot thank you enough Glenn. THANK YOU!!”
Story courtesy of Jenn Armson-Dyer