Sideline prop rewards good teamwork

Players on the bench celebrate a point holding the oar in the win over High Point on Tuesday. Photo by Jon Mirador

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Walk into a volleyball practice or match, and something will stick out on the sideline: a yellow oar. Whether it’s propped up against the bench during practice or in the hands of a player during a match, the oar is always present.

The yellow paddle, similar to those found on a canoe, is more than just a prop for sideline celebrations, it has a deeper meaning. 

Coach Jody Rogers said the oar “means we’re going in the right direction” and that the whole team has to do their jobs to be successful. 

“They have this symbol and it means that they can’t take plays off, they can’t be a bad teammate one day and good the other,” Rogers said. “They need to be consistently growing and being good teammates.”

Rogers brought the oar to Richmond from her previous school, University of Indianapolis, where it was an important part of the program.

“It was our culture, about being a great teammate,” Rogers said. “I just thought it would be great for the situation here at VCU since we always talk about being a great teammate.”

The oar is earned by different players each week based on the kind of teammate they have been the week prior. After each week, the player who has the oar selects who gets it the following week. The recipient might have done something generous, something nice at practice or off the court. 

“It’s never usually the best kid on the team or they had a great game or a great week, it’s more of just being a great teammate or a great person,” Rogers said. 

The oar is being used in a celebration on the bench in the win over High Point on Tuesday. Photo by Jon Mirador

The oar carries expectations of leadership and responsibility. 

“They need to just embody that and be a great teammate for the next person,” Rogers said. “They have to take ownership for how they act and how they treat each other.”

Rogers said the oar has become an integral part of the volleyball program and of their culture. 

At the end of the season, the team gives out the “oar award” which is given to the best teammate, Rogers said. The award is a miniature version of the oar seen on the sideline and the entire team signs it for the recipient. 

The oar is unusual and unique to Rogers and the program, which means it surprises players when they see it for the first time. 

“I first saw it when I was on my visit and I was like ‘What does that have to do with volleyball?’”said junior libero Olivia Martin, who was the first to receive the oar this season.

Martin transferred to VCU this season from Indianapolis.

“When I saw coach with it I was confused, then when she told us what it meant, it connected all the dots,” senior opposite hitter Vicky Giommarini said. 

The oar has become a staple on the sideline of matches, both on the road and at the Siegel Center. 

Rogers said the oar is used on the bench as a prop either saying “swim away” or “do something crazy.”

“It keeps them engaged with the game because sometimes when girls come off and they’re sitting on the bench they’re not paying attention,” Rogers said. “I think that they dial in when they have that oar.”

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