Meet Austin Linford: Herriman High’s new volleyball coach
May 13, 2020 10:23AM
By Travis Barton
Austin Linford takes over the Herriman girls volleyball program. Though 54, Linford can still jump, reaching 10 feet, 10 inches without an approach in December. (Courtesy Herriman Athletics)
By Travis Barton | [email protected]
During a volleyball game long ago, Austin Linford had just blocked the ball. But felt something odd in his hand. When he lifted it up, his pinky, at the first joint, flopped backwards.
It had torn off.
One of his teammates threw a towel around the hand and Linford left the game, got 15 stitches (some crazy glue was involved), taped it to his other finger and returned to the game.
That story has followed him too.
Linford was coaching at a camp when he started talking to a boy whose dad played on that same volleyball team with Linford. The boy’s dad would always tell the story of a teammate who snapped his finger and played again, he just wanted to know if the story was real or not.
“I showed him the scar on my finger,” Linford said laughing. “His dad was the one who grabbed the towel for my hand.”
Linford, now 54, was recently named the Herriman High girls volleyball coach. And he’ll have plenty of injury stories to share with his new team.
Originally from Southern California, Linford played junior college before going to USC where injuries cut short his Trojan career (knee surgery and multiple shoulder surgeries through the years).
Now in Utah for the last 20 years, Linford is a regular on the volleyball circuit, whether assisting at Bingham, most recently Lone Peak, running the boys program for Club V or refereeing.
He’s had a few opportunities to take over a high school program, but Linford said they weren’t the right fit. But coaching with Reed Carlson at Lone Peak the last few years “kind of pushed me over the top,” he said. “I feel I’m ready to do this.”
Though Herriman may be closer to home for the Daybreak resident, it’s the program’s potential that has Linford excited. He noted how Herriman has dozens of new families moving in each year, something the east side schools don’t enjoy.
“That to me is very attractive,” he said. “The idea of growing a program when you get new blood all the time is really good.”
Carlson has known Linford for years and expects him to have an immediate impact at Herriman.
“He is super passionate about helping athletes and cares about their success deeply,” Carlson wrote in an email to the Herriman Journal. “He will put in the time to make sure they are growing right out of the gate. I imagine he will inspire the whole program to increase their commitment level and workload.”
Linford, who already has his assistants set and a person to run the junior high program, is a big believer in the technical side of the game.
“If you can serve and pass and play defense, everything else is fairly simple,” he said.
If the pandemic subsides enough for summer programs to be held, Linford said workouts would focus on improving skills and knowing how to perform.
“Volleyball is a super-athletic sport,” he said. “But at the same time, it is really technical. Because of that, even if a great athlete just walks onto the floor, doesn’t mean they can play.”
Carlson described Linford as a positive and upbeat coach.
“He does a wonderful job explaining what he wants athletes to do and stays committed to helping them,” Carlson said.
His positivity helps him connect with the athletes, Linford said, but coaching also requires honesty.
“It's much better to be very consistent, positive and be helping them understand when they're performing and executing correctly,” he said. “So, when you need to correct them and help them, it's not one of those things where every word out of your mouth is negative. My voice is the same as when I'm correcting them as when I'm telling them they're doing great.”
While correction can be negative for some people, Linford emphasized how important it can be.
“If you can't correct then you can't get better, and volleyball is all about change, and change is hard,” he said. “But if we can make change a positive experience then what it really ends up doing is ... if they can make a change on the volleyball court, [then] they can make a change in the classroom, they can make a change in their life. And that's the goal.”
That extends to himself as well. Linford said there are instances when he’ll realize that if he’s explained something 30 times and they’re still not doing it right, maybe it was his fault for not teaching it correctly.
“I love those moments when I can catch myself needing to do the learning,” he said. “That's my favorite part of coaching.”