“I was telling my wife last night it feels like I’m still my mid-20s,” said the Illinois high school volleyball legend, national collegiate champion and seven-year member of the U.S. National team. “Time passes too quickly for me, I guess.”
Hein was back in Chicago last weekend for the Winter Volleyball Championship at McCormick Place.
“It’s always good for me to come back here (to Chicago),” said the former West Chicago star. “This tournament has grown so much since five, six years ago when they used to have it up Milwaukee. It’s become the biggest qualifying tournament in United States.
“It’s pretty awesome to see that growth in this area because there are a lot of good athletes here,” he added.
Sixteen years have passed since Hein last stepped on the volleyball court for West Chicago. As a junior in 2001, the 6-foot-11 middle hitter led the Wildcats to their first state finals appearance. West Chicago finished fourth, losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Wheaton Warrenville South.
The following season, West Chicago stunned the defending state champions in the sectional finals 16-14, 4-15, 15-10. However, the Wildcats lost in the state quarterfinals to Lake Forest, which went on to finish second to Marist.
Hein then headed to Pepperdine, where many of his records still stand today. He ranks first all-time with a .483 career hitting percentage and ranks first and second for his single-season hitting percentages for the rally scoring era with a .529 in 2005 and a .516 in 2006.
A two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American, he also ranks first and second for hitting percentage in a single match with a .909 against Long Beach State in 2005 and a .882 against University of California, San Diego, in 2004.
Hein was a member of Pepperdine’s 2005 NCAA championship team, and had 7 kills and 7 blocks in the title match against UCLA.
After graduating, Hein was a member of the USA Volleyball National Team from 2006-2013 and simultaneously played professionally in Switzerland, Greece, Puerto Rico and Russia. After his tenure with the U.S. National Team ended, he played professionally until 2015 in Europe.
But once his playing career ended, Hein had to figure out his next move.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after I was done playing,” said Hein, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Pepperdine and an Master of Business Administration at DeVry University Keller Graduate School.
“I got into coaching on the recommendation of (former Pepperdine coach) Marv Dunphy,” he said. “I love it. I plan to do it for a while.”
Hein joined the coaching staff at California Baptist University in 2016, but the school cut men’s volleyball in favor of beach volleyball after the 2017 season. That’s when new Pepperdine coach David Hunt invited Hein to join his staff.
Hein was in Chicago last weekend on a recruiting trip.
“The first thing that kids love about Pepperdine in the location (Malibu, California),” Hein said. “Then we try to do a good job with the volleyball stuff, and the school does a great job being strong academically and all that.
“When it comes to the total package, Pepperdine is up there,” he said.
Hein and his wife Mary have been married six years. They have a daughter, Marilyn, who is almost 2 years old. Last weekend was his daughter’s first encounter with snow.
“I have a picture of her actually crying in the snow,” Hein said. “She’s used to the warm weather. But it’s fun for me and my wife. She’s from Minnesota. We grew up in the cold and all that, so it’s fun for us to be here.”
Deerfield boys volleyball coach Eugene Chung gave up coaching girls in the fall to spend more time with his family.
Last weekend, Chung spent a lot of time with his son, Nathaniel. The younger Chung’s club team, Chicago Bounce 15 Red out of Deerfield, was competing at the Winter Volleyball Championship at McCormick Place.
Chung coaches his son’s club team.
“I left girls volleyball so I could spend more time with my family, so coaching my son gives me an opportunity to spend time with my family, stay involved with volleyball and have a direct involvement in his development as a player,” Chung said.
“It really wasn’t a hard decision,” the coach added. “It certainly didn’t give me much reprieve, much time off that I was originally looking for. But I like it. I enjoy what volleyball allows the kids.”
Chung isn’t doing himself any favors, however. Eight members of Bounce 15 Red are students at Central Suburban League rival Glenbrook North.
“These are great kids,” he said. “I love being able to promote volleyball in general and in the area. It’s exciting. It’s fun.”
Chung expects the fun to continue this spring. Deerfield will try to build on last year’s 27-11 record with the return of leading attacker Jake Shapiro, a 6-foot-3 middle hitter/opposite who plays for Adversity 18 Purple, and Adversity 18 Purple setter Caeden Hsieh.
“We should be very tough,” Chung said. “We have a lot of good players returning. We have a lot of depth at a lot of positions. On top of that, we’ve got a really good group of juniors coming up who have only lost five games in two years. A lot of them play at Bounce.”
Chung and Chung didn’t do too bad, either. Chicago Bounce 15 Red went 6-2 over the weekend and finished 11th in the Boys 15 Open division, losing to SPVB 15 Elite in the Silver semifinals.