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March 31, 2010 > Coach, friend lost to cancer

Coach, friend lost to cancer

By David J. Nicolas

Al Roderigues, a Bay Area native and long-time assistant volleyball coach at Cal State University-East Bay and Stanford, was commemorated last week in Union City after losing a 16-month battle with stomach cancer. He died on Friday, March 19, at the age of 67.

In his seven years at Cal State U.-East Bay, Roderigues helped the women's volleyball team reach NCAA Division III West Regional appearances each year. His tenure with the Lady Pioneers amounted to a record of 205-40.

"Al was a dynamic human being who always displayed his positive enthusiasm for people and volleyball," said coach Jim Spagle in a press release. "From the very first day he stepped into Pioneer Gym for practice and matches, he brought a genuine love of training and teaching athletes to be the very best they could be, both on and off the volleyball court."

Before his return to CSUEB, his alma mater, Roderigues flexed his positive coaching style into the NCAA Division I arena. When he was an assistant coach for Stanford, the men's volleyball team collected three conference titles and eventually an NCAA championship in 1997.

His deep volleyball knowledge and numerous accolades made Roderigues attractive for any program hungry to win. But according to Debby De Angelis, director of athletics at CSUEB, his impact as a role model is what caused everyone to gravitate toward him.

"Al was a rare person who always brought something positive to any situation," De Angelis said. "As I grew to know him, it would bring a smile to my face just hearing him in the hallway and knowing he was in the building."

Roderigues sharpened his volleyball knowledge and coaching abilities at James Logan High School where he coached the girl's team in 1978. His 12 Mission Valley Athletic League titles and four North Coast Section championships for boys and girls earned him an induction into the Colts' Hall of Fame last year.

CSUEB alumna Nicole Brandt-Young played for Roderigues in 2003 and 2004. The former captain and holder of Cal State East Bay's highest kill percentage in a single season at .384 said Roderigues embraced his role as an assistant coach who utilized calmness instead of harsh criticism to motivate players.

"He was positive about everything, even when he was upset about a play. You'd look to him at the bench for comfort. You couldn't help to not be around him or talk to him," Brandt-Young said.

"Coach Al" wasn't a brash director. He didn't inspire players by intense ridicule or barks of disappointment. This was the head coach's job. Rather, when his players came back to the bench, according to Brandt-Young, he mixed words of encouragement with precise guidance.

"He was extremely motivating and kind. He was the go-to person when our coach was coming down on us hard during a game or practice," Brandt-Young said.

Junior libero Lauren Massa, a health science major, worked closely with Roderigues during her freshman year at CSUEB in 2007. After tearing her labrum in her senior year of high school, Massa was sidelined from using her serve. When she recovered to get back onto the court, she struggled to regain confidence in her ability to create pace.

Roderigues stepped in and practiced with her every day.

As the 2009 season began and the assistant coach missed more games and practices because of his illness, players like Massa had to endure his absence as a volleyball mentor and friend.

"When we traveled for games, I made sure I was in his van so I could hang out with him and talk to him," Massa said. "He was always fun to be with."

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