Jeff Thomas Announced as 2022 AVCA Diversity Award Recipient
Madison, Wis. (November 7, 2022) - Edgewood College men's volleyball head coach Jeff Thomas has been selected as on of the 2022 AVCA Diversity Award Recipients. Thomas will attend the 2022 AVCA Convention and participate in a series of education seminars. The convention will be held December 14-17 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Thomas is set to begin his third season with the Eagles after leading the program during its inaugural 2021 season. He has led the men's volleyball program to many thrilling wins through his first two years at the helm, including three 3-0 conference wins during the 2021-22 season. Thomas also served as the assistant coach with the women's volleyball team during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
"I am so honored and humbled to be recognized for such a prestigious award from the AVCA that words cannot almost describe," said Thomas. "As a coach and mentor of color in a sport that doesn't often see an abundance of such, I understand my opportunity I have to impact change with this next generation. Providing a welcoming environment that feels passionate, dedicated & unbiased and allows opportunities for growth as players and people is what drives me."
"Diversity within itself is often such a multi-layered topic that can create cultural, religious & gender disparities. Working to understand each other's backgrounds, beliefs & personal experiences helps us all to better shape the world we live in for the future," Thomas stated when asked about what this experience meant to him. "I remember growing up here in Wisconsin playing youth sports, I was always typically the only or one of the only few black kids on my teams not including my brother at times. I rarely thought about it though as I just wanted to be in the moment I was in with my team getting better each chance I got. Now being in a role of a mentor & coach myself, I often reflect back on some of those teams I was a part of and how those types of environments really helped to shape my perspective on how things could be rather than how they weren't in terms of the color of my skin or my upbringing. It's also wonderful to see that a lot of institutions in higher-ed as well as in the private sector are steadily implementing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives within their values and mission statements making it more mainstream. This is ongoing work in which with more intentional efforts in places that can impact our younger generations, we can really make a difference as a whole."
Thomas will be one of 18 recipients to attend convention and the diversity program in December. The program is in it's seventh year. "The AVCA does such a masterful job of creating opportunities for coaches of various levels, experience & backgrounds to improve on their skills and knowledge to then bring back to their communities with the intent to pass it forward," added Thomas. "There are so many different ways to connect with great coaches in the game at the convention that it's hard to pick just one to go to. There are workshops, on court training, luncheons, socials and more, all with chances to ask questions and network as a way to grow your knowledge and passion for the game."
"It is exciting that our award recipients will have the opportunity to join the volleyball community in Omaha this December to learn from all the great coaches and practitioners in attendance," said Nickie Sanlin, McKendree University head men's and women's volleyball coach and chair of the AVCA Diversity Development Team. "We are grateful for the contributions of many generous supporters - from universities and industry partners to individual coaches - who continue to assist with our efforts to advance the sport of volleyball."