Matt Frankenstein (or coach Frank as his players call him) has been a part of Bay to Bay for over a decade, first as a player and then as a coach since 2009. Starting as an assistant for a number of teams while in college, Frank then progressed to the head coach of some of our top "2's" teams, before finally taking over as the 14-1's coach in 2013.
In that role as 14-1's head coach, Frank took the helm of not only his team, but the entire 14-under program (coach Frank likes to call them "the youth"). He watched all of the 14-under teams, provided advice to younger coaches, and set a standard for excellence for our youngest players that helped set them on the path towards success within the club.
The first few years were not easy. Frank's teams stayed in the Gold division, but were unable to crack the top-5. Mind you, when Frank took hold of the 14's age group we had only two teams in the division, that was it, 14's was the start of the pipeline and most Bay to Bay teams didn't start to experience "success" until 2-3 years later. Frank was determined to build that pipeline. We added youth clinics to bring in new players, Frank scoured the gym for athletes on teams that were not continuing past the Fall, and most importantly he built relationships that would last (this is Frank's super power).
Seriously, we mean it when we say super power. Coach Frank is a master at building and nurturing relationships. Whether it be with his players, parents on the team, or coaches in the area; Frank is on top of it. As a gifted communicator, Frank wrote the metaphorical book for Bay to Bay coaches on how to introduce not only a player, but a whole family, to club volleyball as a concept. He would spend as much time on the phone as needed to walk parents through their questions, assuage their fears, and provide the support they deserved before ever coming to check out a practice.
Side note: coach Frank might also say that his second super power is coaches fashion. He will always look good on the sideline. You can only imagine the look on his face the Summer we gave all the coaches sleeveless hoodies (hint: it looked like this 🤢).
After 3 years with Frank at the helm of the 14-1's, we had seen tremendous growth in the 14-under age group. We were now fielding three 14's teams, one 13's team, and one 12's team.
At Junior Nationals in 2016, Coach Frank and Allie's team finished 17th in the country. At the end of the tournament they came to us and asked if they could do "double duty" and be the coaches of both the 14-1's and 13-1's teams starting in 2017. This way, they would be able to strengthen the foundation of our pipeline and give our athletes two solid years of consistent feedback, training, and encouragement as they moved up in the club. No brainer, we absolutely said yes.
In their first year doing double duty (2017), their 13's finished 5th in the country and their 14's finished 15th. You could already see the upward trajectory in our younger teams, but nobody could predict what the ceiling would be.
The following year, coach Frank and Allie's 13's team was in the top-4 of the NCVA Power League and the 14-1's team was constantly finishing 1st or 2nd. As we headed into Junior Nationals, coach Frank and Allie had their teams ready to rumble. The tournament started with the 14's team coming out of the gate firing. They went an impressive 7-1 and broke their way into the Gold division to face Balboa Bay in the quarterfinals with a medal on the line. It was an intense match with Bay to Bay jumping on Balboa in the first set winning 25-12, then Balboa bouncing back and taking set two 25-21 to force a decisive third set. It was a back and forth third frame as each team traded blows, the lead never went more than two points. Balboa Bay clinched the match on a trickle serve ace, but coach Frank and his team held their heads high. You could tell they were close -- the flywheel was gaining momentum.
Coach Frank and Allie didn't have time to wallow, their 13's team was getting started the next day. Following suit, the 13-1's came out hot in the tournament going 8-0 and steamrolling their way into the National Championship match (this would be coach Frank and Allie's first BJNC medal together). The 13's lost a three set battle to 949 (24-26, 20-25, 9-15) and walked away with a Silver medal. The foundation had been set, the 13's would have coach Frank and Allie as coaches again the following season.
Excited about another year of training with the core group of players from their 13's team, Coach Frank made the push to move the 14-1's into the 16-under division. He surmised that by seeking the best competition each weekend his 14's team would be better prepared for the end of the season. That Power League season the 14-1's made their way between the Bronze, Silver, and Gold divisions. They had some good wins but a lot more losses than they were used to. "Good", said coach Frank. They needed to learn to struggle, to be pushed, and to go against athletes bigger and stronger than them.
This strategy paid dividends as the 14-1's team found it's way into the Gold division of all of the 14-under tournaments they played in during qualifying season. Finally, when it came time for Junior Nationals in 2019, the 14-1's team was ready and entered with the #2 seed. They took on all challengers and met adversity with strength. The 14-1's again pushed their way into the Gold division and into the National Championship where they would face off against a familiar foe: Balboa Bay (the club that knocked coach Frank and Allie out the previous year).
Balboa Bay took the first set with relative ease (19-25). Just as they had done in the Fall, they were going up against a team that was bigger than them. Coach Frank and Allie's team changed sides, took a deep breath, and reset themselves. Set two went in favor of Bay to Bay (25-22). It was déjà vu to one year earlier. Bay to Bay 14's vs Balboa Bay 14's in a third and decisive set. When the teams huddled on the sideline prior to the start of set 3, I couldn't help but watch coach Frank.
In that extremely stressful moment, Taylor Swift's "You Need To Calm Down" started to play on the stadium court speakers. A massive smile spread across Coach Frank's face, he did a couple dance moves, and his team followed suit. They were ready. The team huddled, reset, refocused, and then took the floor for the final set of their season -- a moment that was a decade years in the making for coach Frank.
23 points later coach Frank and "the youth" were crowned National Champions. The seeds that were planted by Coach Frank and Allie in the previous years had finally come to bear.
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