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Volleyball head coach Genny Volpe discusses family, journey to Rice

Courtesy Rice Athletics Head coach Genny Volpe is entering her 20th season as the head coach of Rice volleyball. Her tenure has brought much success to the volleyball program.

By Kathleen Ortiz     8/30/23 12:35am

After 20 years at Rice, Genny Volpe seems to have her routine down to a science. Her day begins with a large coffee, a workout or some emails and then the inevitable commute to downtown Houston.

“The drive in is pretty long,” Volpe, who lives in Cypress, said. “I’ll listen to some podcasts or make some calls on the way in and try to make the most of sitting in Houston traffic.”

At work, she helps prepare her team for their goals this season and every season:  to compete for a conference championship and to go as deep into the NCAA tournament as possible.

In her senior year of college, Volpe was a two-year captain, three-year team leader in digs, with her name already in the record books for her career as a student athlete at Texas A&M University. Working as a student assistant to the volleyball team during her fifth year was, she said, when Volpe recognized she wanted to coach collegiate volleyball for a living.

“I just always felt like volleyball came pretty naturally to me,” Volpe said. “I love the game and how it’s played and all of the challenges that come with it.”

Her professional career began as an assistant coach at Rice in 1995, eventually moving to Southern Methodist University and back to A&M for jobs as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. In 2004, Volpe was back at Rice — this time as the head coach.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” Volpe said. “I am so thankful to Rice for giving me the chance to begin my head coaching career.”

So far this season she has led the volleyball team to win their first two matches, one of which was a sweep of No. 22 University of Southern California. Non-conference matches, like the one against USC, and playing in the American Athletic Conference for the first time are what Volpe said she is most looking forward to this season. 

“I have already seen players step up and work out of tough situations,” Volpe said of the first two matches.

After a day at work, she enjoys just being a fan at her daughter Alice’s matches. Alice, a senior in high school, is committed to play volleyball at Texas Christian University after she graduates.

“She is having an amazing career,” Volpe said. “I’m embracing watching her play as much as I can before she heads off to college.”

Her husband John, son John Joseph and daughter Alice are three of Volpe’s biggest inspirations, she said.

“They are my ‘why,’ and I just want to be the best version of myself for them,” Volpe said.

As a family, the Volpes love sports and anything outdoors. Specifically for Volpe, the sport she gravitates toward the most outside of volleyball is golf. 

“[My best non-volleyball memory of the past year] was probably going on a women’s golf trip to Idaho,” Volpe said. “It was such a fun trip with friends in a beautiful place of the country that I had not been before.”

Still, though, her life is surrounded primarily by volleyball. Whether it’s her players at Rice, who she says are tough competitors but also fun-loving people off the court, or her daughter, who she makes a point to see off to school every morning, Volpe is around volleyball from sunrise to sunset, which is exactly how she likes it.

“I’ve spent so much of my life coaching here at Rice. There is no way that I couldn’t write about my journey as the coach of this program,” she said. “I have met so many wonderful people and coached so many amazing student athletes here.”

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