Florida A&M University’s volleyball team has a new head coach with years of experience behind him . Gokhan Yilmaz started playing volleyball in his hometown of Istanbul, Turkey until he was told he was too short to play anymore at age 17.
He had a vision of becoming a doctor, but it got replaced with his calling as a coach. He was given the opportunity to spread his knowledge and love of the game after he stopped playing.
Yilmaz started off coaching younger kids in a major club in Europe and then went on to coach junior and national professional teams. In the summer of 2008, Yilmaz became a part of the volleyball coaching staff at Florida State University. While he was at FSU the Seminoles became No. 3 in the recruiting class and made several appearances in the NCAA tournaments.
In 2014, he became the head volleyball coach at UNC Charlotte, a program that had not had an appearance in a conference tournament for five years until Yilmaz came.
Before becoming the head coach at FAMU, Yilmaz was the associate coach for two years.
He spoke on why he loves to coach and what it means to be a team.
“You are teaching a bunch of individuals to be a team, I think that is the important part. You are trying to accomplish a goal together …that always brings different challenges. Like every new coaching staff we are just trying to change the culture of what they have been doing. We are trying to make a whole group more of a team; understand what you need to do to be successful.”
Fourth-year mechanical engineering student Michael Johnson said this year’s volleyball team is headed in the right direction.
“The volleyball team is full of talent and they seem to be getting the right pieces in administration,” he said.
This season has not been looking good for the team — the Rattlers dropped their first nine matches — but Yilmaz thinks they are still capable of turning the season around.
“We started slow, we were expecting this because of the change in the roster. Several players are playing different roles on the team and it takes a while to get used to,” he said. “The level of play has been improving, so it’s better right now then it was the first week.”
Yilmaz is looking forward to conference plays and reaffirms his thoughts on the change the team had to undergo.
“I keep telling our girls we’ll be fine and I can see us doing really well in the conference. Every time change is not easy, you have to go through the process of figuring out yourself, finding what you need to do for the group, getting outside of your comfort zone and that’s what we’re going through. Eventually, we’ll figure it out.”