By John Grossi
Another year, another historic run for both Long Beach City College (LBCC) and Long Beach State Men’s Volleyball. The two institutions are home to two of the highest-level programs in their respective divisions nationwide. Long Beach State has competed in or won the NCAA National Title during three of the last four competitive seasons. LBCC, a perennial contender at the State Championship, is coming off a state title and runner-up in the last two seasons.
Sometimes, the collegiate talent comes from Long Beach, often (as is common among college programs) it comes from elsewhere, but no matter where the talent originates… when blended with the high-level coaching and gritty competitive culture of Long Beach, the results are top-notch.
Jonathan Charette has been head coach at LBCC for a decade. He also runs one of two competitive volleyball clubs in the city, Long Beach Volleyball Club. He noted that many people (myself included) have assumed that, with all its collegiate success, Long Beach must be a hotbed for youth volleyball. However, historically that has not been the case.
“Compared to the South Bay, southern Orange County and a lot of other coastal areas in California, Long Beach has never really had strong participation at the youth level from a numbers standpoint.”
Randy Totorp, Charette’s predecessor as head coach and the current Dean of Athletics at LBCC, echoed Charette.
“Within California, the coastal areas are your dominating spaces. Santa Barbara, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, San Clemente… those are your hotbed areas. Long Beach sits in the middle of all those programs…we’re a great place for recruitment.”
That being said… Long Beach’s youth volleyball scene is a lot better today than twenty years ago, largely thanks to the efforts of Randy Totorp.
Randy Totorp wasn’t just one of the most successful coaches in community college history during his reign at LBCC, he started the first ever volleyball club in the city, paving the way for many of the local scene’s current movers and shakers.
Totorp attended LBUSD schools and joined the volleyball team in its inaugural year as a high school sport at Lakewood High in 1989. He fell in love with the game and wanted to get better, but there was nowhere - literally nowhere - in Long Beach where he could improve his skills at the sport. As a competitive high school athlete, Totorp used to drive to Huntington Beach to play on a club team, something few other Long Beach area players were willing to do.
Thanks to an undying passion for learning and his dedication to the game, Totorp experienced massive success not only at Lakewood HS but also when he played for LBCC and San Diego State. He coached for a time at St. John Bosco before landing back at LBCC.
Leaving the talented youngsters at St. John Bosco to accept his dream position at LBCC in 2003 was one of the toughest decisions Totorp ever had to make. However, along with his new coaching responsibilities came another opportunity that would not only make Totorp proud to give back to his city… it would influence the volleyball world forever.
Totorp started the first-ever boys volleyball club in the city, Long Beach Highline. He was able to cultivate amazing talent at both the high school and college levels and provide an opportunity for local athletes that was previously unavailable. Although still a far cry from the multitude of club options in a place like Manhattan Beach, Long Beach Highline offered way more training than the youth volleyball scene in which Totorp had grown up.
And if one club is better than none, then who can argue that two clubs aren’t better than one? Carrying on his coach’s legacy, Totorp’s former star athlete Jonathan Charette now runs Long Beach Volleyball Club (LBVC) out of LBCC. The club is committed to providing high quality coaches at reasonable rates to Long Beach residents.
Another of Totorp’s former athletes, Nick MacRae, runs the Pinnacle Athletics Volleyball Club out of Long Beach State. In addition to dedicating himself to growing the youth side of the sport, MacRae is the associate head coach at Long Beach State for Alan Knipe. Besides his role as head volleyball coach at Long Beach State, Knipe is the former USA Men’s National Coach and one of the most influential minds in the history of the sport. MacRae has sensed a stimulus of local interest in volleyball with all the success happening at Long Beach State.
“At every clinic, club practice, and camp our goal is to continue to grow interest and teach
a love for the sport of volleyball to the youth in our Long Beach community. What I’ve seen is there is a direct connection to the success at our college level which can continue to expand the exposure of volleyball within our youth roots in the city.”
MacRae hopes more local families will continue to understand the rare access they have to the highest level of volleyball in the world happening at the Long Beach State Pyramid.
“Our youth have been exposed to Long Beach State hosting Big West and NCAA Championships, which is also a big piece for our community to see our sport of volleyball played at the highest level. This stems from President Conoley and our athletic director Andy Fee supporting our programs and putting in bids to host these events. By hosting these major events, we make a statement that our university wants to bring the top teams in our sport into Long Beach and strive for sustainable success right here in the Pyramid.”
Back at LBCC, Charette sees the next five years as a “tipping point” for Long Beach Youth Volleyball to explode.
“The sport as a whole is blowing up,” says Charette. “I’m getting new calls every day from Universities that are now offering the sport and looking for players. Long Beach families are starting to realize that their kids not only have access to some of the best coaching on the planet right here in the city, but there are also lots of opportunities for boys who excel in the sport.”
Totorp, in his current role as Athletic Director, has not quite stopped making his mark on the local volleyball scene. Last year, LBCC put the final touches on a massive infrastructure improvement to their athletics facilities. Among other amazing amenities now available to students and student-athletes is what Totorp calls, “Probably the best and biggest sand volleyball facility at any college in California.”
There are many ingredients stirred into the recipe that is Long Beach youth volleyball. Coaches Jonathan Charette, Randy Totorp, and Nick MacRae all agree that there has never been a better time to join the crew.
The coaching, talent, location, and facilities are unlike what you will see anywhere else. Charette recommends getting involved in volleyball anyway you can. There are beach camps and recreational programs like the USA YVL (youth volleyball league). If you like the sport, then it’s time to talk about joining a competitive club like LBVC or Pinnacle.
“The thing about volleyball is, it’s such a great sport. Kids fall in love with it and the great thing is you can play this sport forever. Go out to the beach courts in Long Beach by Granada on any given day and you will see them packed. From kids of six years to seniors in their 70s, you see people of all ages and talent levels enjoying the sport. You can’t get that from a lot of other team sports.”
If you’re interested in learning more about LBVC, head to