If you would have told Barry Goldberg that he’d eventually amass 500 wins when he first took over the American University women’s volleyball head coaching position in 1989, he likely would have asked you if your Gatorade was spiked. At that point, he was just hoping for a full-time job.
“It was almost like a brand-new program here,” said Goldberg, who became the 42nd coach in NCAA history to eclipse the 500-win plateau when the Eagles beat New Jersey Tech on Sept. 12. The victory came almost 20 years to the day after he earned his first career win over Clarion University.
“They had restarted the program in ’85, and they were cutting this position back from full time to part time when I came. I didn’t really have much of a vision other than I’m going to coach a D-I team and see if I can do well with what we have here.”
More than two decades later, Goldberg is an AU institution. He’s led the Eagles to 10 conference championships in the past 12 years, and posted a record of 111-5 since AU joined the Patriot League in 2001.
“It’s a phenomenal accomplishment in terms of longevity, success,” Athletics Director Keith Gill told AUEagles.com. “He’s been absolutely fabulous for our program and really for our entire university. Hopefully he’ll win 500 more here in the future.”
Goldberg played volleyball at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also earned a master’s in education while working as an assistant coach for the men’s team. After trying unsuccessfully to land a job leading a men’s program, he moved to Washington to work as a counselor at Second Genesis, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
“I honestly thought volleyball was finished,” he said. “When I got this job, I was still working full time at Second Genesis. We’d practice in the evenings. When this became full time in 1994, I became part time over there. I left at noon every day, and we practiced from 2 to 5.”
Goldberg was tough on his players in those early days, but it was discipline most of them thought was sorely needed to improve the team.
“We had some challenges before he came on,” said Karin Churchfield-Tyson, who played on Goldberg’s first team. “He was firm, but competent. Barry’s background was working in a group therapy situation, so he understood the team on a unique basis. He was constantly trying to find what that light was in each of us, and turn that flame up. It was just what we needed.”
As Goldberg got the program rolling in the mid- to late-’90s, his style began to mellow.
“I’ve certainly lightened up over the years to be much more of a coach that’s trying to understand the players, what’s going on with them,” he said.
Today Goldberg is a rock to student-athletes like Rebecca Heath, a key sophomore on this year’s team.
“Barry’s such a good coach because he really looks out for the team,” she told AUEagles.com. “He has a big picture in his mind and will really push the team to get there.”
This year’s squad might be one of Goldberg’s toughest challenges in years. Just one starter from the 2008 team is starting in the same position this season. That they began the season by dropping their first five matches, against some terrific opponents, didn’t worry Goldberg; the way his players performed in those losses did.
“Right now we’re on the edge still of trying to figure out what is it going to take for us to be really good,” he said. “Time will tell in these next few weeks. October has traditionally been the time when we have found our groove, shall we say. We’re not as deep as we have been. The other teams are going to pressure us, and we’ve got to learn to put some pressure right back on the other teams.”
Five-hundred six opposing teams have felt that pressure during Barry Goldberg’s career. Five-hundred six—and counting.