Although Wayne Stalick is still the winningest head coach in the history of the Patriot men’s volleyball program and is credited its founding, he arrived at George Mason in 1972 in an academic role as a chemistry professor. In 1973 he was asked to be the faculty advisor to the club volleyball program, and just one year later he was charged with putting together a competitive men’s volleyball program.
Stalick’s efforts clearly succeeded as the Patriots have been a mainstay in the fabric of eastern volleyball since then. But it wasn’t easy at times.
“They offered us the men’s JV basketball uniforms, the women’s volleyball equipment, three volleyballs, and a $150 budget plus travel expenses” Stalick told the George Mason University magazine The Mason Spirit in 2009. With that, he set out to pull together a team for the university. “We hung flyers in the Student Union. It was very much by the seat of our pants.”
From his humble beginnings, which also included he and his wife driving the team around in a van and a car, Stalick amassed a career record of 407-190-11 (.669) over 15 seasons. He led the team to one NAIA Nationals appearance in 1979, claimed two ECVL Championships in 1984 and 1985 and captured the EIVA Championship in 1988.
His 1984 squad became the first-ever George Mason team to reach the NCAA National semifinals, also doing so in 1985 and 1988.
All of that from a man who hadn’t intended on becoming a volleyball coach.
“Dr. Stalick was not only a chemistry professor, he was a student of the game of volleyball,” said Ron Shayka, current George Mason Senior Associate AD and former Patriot assistant and head coach. “He had a great eye for talent and in a short period of time he devised innovative team systems and filled them with talented student athletes.”
“[Stalick] learned his craft along the way and balanced his duties as professor of chemistry and volleyball coach,” said current George Mason head coach Fred Chao. “After taking over the program, I sat down with Coach Stalick and asked for his advice. He shared with me that he was not a great ‘volleyball’ coach, but he made it a point to be a great ‘communicator’ with his players. In my interactions with alumni from that era, they all appreciated this quality. I think this helped make his team smarter since they had to work things out together. This lesson still resonates with me as I continue to place communicating with my players on the top of the priority list.”
According to The Mason Spirit, Stalick knew to get Mason on the map he was going to have to get the team to the Midwest and the West Coast where the majority of known volleyball programs existed. Competing then as part of the NAIA, Stalick managed to get the team first to Kansas City then to the West Coast. In 1983 they won the Middle Atlantic division of the U.S. Volleyball Association (USVBA) and went to the championships in Hawaii, where they played against actor Tom Selleck and his Outrigger Canoe Club team.
“Coach Stalick never backed down from challenging competition,” said Shayka. “He got the Mason program on the map by consistently scheduling the best teams from across the country. When an opportunity to play a Japanese all-star team arose, he brought them to Fairfax. It was this type of leadership that made Mason a national player during the 80’s.
Stalick, now a professor emeritus in the chemistry department at Mason, stepped down from coaching after the 1990 season. However, he remained at the university as a professor until 2004, when he became the chair of the department of biochemistry, chemistry and physics at Central Missouri State University. Stalick missed just one season of coaching when he took a faculty sabbatical to research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. in 1986.
“His success with the volleyball team is the foundation for all we continue to strive for,” said Chao. “He showed a young and growing university what a great sport men's volleyball is, and he paved the way for generations of George Mason Volleyball student-athletes.”
Story courtesy of Jenn Armson-Dyer