Donors boost support for men’s volleyball program
Endowed coachships honor legends Al Roderigues and Shoji brothers.
Alumni and donors have joined together to make gifts for the two men’s volleyball assistant coach positions, providing lasting support for the program at Stanford. The Al Roderigues Assistant Men’s Volleyball Coachship and the Kawika and Erik Shoji Associate Head Men’s Volleyball Coachship recognize the impact of a longtime coach and former student-athletes upon the program.
Galvanized by the since-reversed decision to discontinue the varsity program, generous supporters have now endowed all three of the men’s volleyball coaching positions, including the head coachship.
“Over the past year and a half, we have seen an incredible outpouring of support for men’s volleyball,” said Bernard Muir, the Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics. “I am thrilled that alumni and friends have come together to demonstrate their commitment to the program. The three men honored with these endowments each made their mark on the program and built a strong foundation for future generations of men's volleyball student-athletes.”
Assistant coach Daniel Rasay will serve as the inaugural Al Roderigues Assistant Men’s Volleyball Coach, made possible by gifts from Bryan Cameron, MBA ’83, and the Kissick Family Foundation. Associate head coach Ken Shibuya will serve in the position honoring Kawika and Erik Shoji, funded by men’s volleyball alumni Don Brewster, ’79, John McColl, ’80, Dave Saeta, ’81, and First Point Volleyball Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the growth of boys’ and men’s volleyball across the U.S. that has supported multiple collegiate programs.
Al Roderigues was a longtime assistant men’s volleyball coach who volunteered his time at Stanford; as a middle school P.E. teacher, he dedicated his life to mentoring young people. During the 2007 season, in which the Cardinal went 3-25, it was he who said to the players, “Don’t worry, someday you’ll go worst to first.”
For four seasons, Roderigues’s motto became a mantra, however, Roderigues didn’t live to see his “Worst to First” prediction come true. He died on March 19, 2010, of stomach cancer, only 11 days after Stanford rose to No. 1 in the national rankings for the first time in years. Stanford kept his memory in their thoughts and played the 2010 season with “AL” sewn into the sleeves of their uniforms. He was with them when their “Worst to First” journey culminated in a national championship.
Cameron says memorializing Roderigues with the endowment was an easy choice.
“It is an honor to be one of the donors to Stanford men’s volleyball and among a group contributing toward building long-term continued success for the program,” he said. “The program has a long history of excellence on the court, and, as importantly, the development of many outstanding student-athletes in their athletic, academic, and career pursuits. Al Roderigues was an inspiration to many of these student-athletes and is properly being recognized for the impact his life had on many others.”
Two of the student-athletes Roderigues coached, brothers Kawika Shoji, ’10, and Erik Shoji, ’12, are honored with another endowed assistant coachship.
Kawika was a member of the Cardinal class that went “Worst to First.” His younger brother Erik joined the program in 2009. A three-time All-American, Kawika was the AVCA National Player of the Year in 2010 – just the second in program history and first since 1993. Erik, often regarded as one of the best liberos in the world, was the first men’s volleyball player in history to be a four-time AVCA First Team All-American.
“We’re excited to provide this long-term support for the men’s volleyball program and honor two of the program’s most distinguished alumni,” said Brewster, one of the alums who provided support for the Kawika and Erik Shoji Assistant Men's Volleyball Coachship.
Vice-chair of First Point Volleyball Foundation Marin Gjaja added, “First Point’s Board and donors are honored to make a contribution to sustaining the Stanford men’s volleyball program. Stanford is a flagship program in our sport that needs to be a part of our future and our growth. It has produced so many talented young men and volleyball players, including several Olympians, Kawika and Erik Shoji among them.”
The Shoji brothers are two-time Olympians, winning bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and playing in the 2020 Games in Tokyo last summer as members of the United States National Team. Both continue to play volleyball professionally overseas.
“I am so thankful that we have an opportunity to honor the legacies of Kawika and Erik Shoji as well as Coach Alfonso ‘Big Al’ Roderigues with the two coachship endowments,” said John Kosty, who is the Birkhofer Family Men’s Volleyball Head Coach. “No brother combination has ever accomplished more on the volleyball court than Kawika and Erik, and Big Al inspired us all to find the good in people and in life. I am touched by the kindness of our donors who have made these gifts in their honor.”