John Cash’s first recruiting haul exemplifies his mold

Published 2:08 pm Thursday, July 19, 2018

HARROGATE, Tenn. — Life comes at you fast. The once 22-year-old John Cash can attest to that.

It was in Maryland when he showed up fully prepared to play baseball with a group of his Dominican Republican buddies, but then warm-ups took a turn.

“Rather warm-up with baseballs, they were warming up with volleyballs and I thought, ‘Man, that looks like fun,’” Cash said. “So, I jumped in and that’s how I learned to play the game from guys who play baseball. It was a natural fit.”

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Tossing around volleyballs instead of baseballs that 1992 day took the current second-year Lincoln Memorial University men’s volleyball coach’s life for a complete-180, changing what he thought was his plan into the real one.

The sport paired him with his wife, Kelly, meeting her at a volleyball tournament and eventually his two daughters, Abby and Samantha, who were both standout LMU players.

“Volleyball has been woven into my life in a very special way and in a way I didn’t expect, quite honestly,” Cash said, laughing. “You have these plans in your life when you’re younger then plans change and you don’t really know how things are going to go sometimes, and I never thought volleyball would be that path.”

It’s a revealed path that Cash has used to touch the lives of young athletes and help lead them in their right direction much sooner than his 22-year-old self did.

He did it at the high-school level for 24 years, teaching and developing state champion-caliber players. When he received the offer to coach at the collegiate level, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“It’s more than coaching to me,” he said.” It’s making sure that the future understands what they were stepping into and are more prepared than I was. It’s more than volleyball. Volleyball may be the means to get you to that, but none the less, it’s the rest of your life.”

Cash took the life-first mindset paired with the responsibility to put a first-year program’s below-.500 record under his wing on Oct. 27, 2017, in pursuit to put the Railsplitter men’s volleyball program on the map.

So far, so good.

In the program’s second year of existence under new leadership, the Railsplitters worked through injuries, finishing the season just over .500 and with an Independent Volleyball Association Tournament trophy — the program’s first championship of any kind — to build on in the offseason. The men also found themselves on the All-American academic list and just received an American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award Monday.

“It was a learning experience all the way around for all of us because I think how things were done before were drastically changed,” said Cash of his first season. “I think the guys saw what could be in what we were doing and sticking with what we were trying to accomplish. It worked at the end. … They know I made no bones about it. I’m a very brutally honest person when it comes to that and what we are trying to do and where we want to go with everything we are doing; not just what we are doing on the court, but off the court as well, academically, community service.

“They know what they are getting into. It’s not a, ‘Oh hey, the coach just showed up. What’s this guy really about?’ The guys returning know and the guys I’ve recruited know because they’ve actually heard it and they’ll obviously learn more once they are here, but I think they’ll enjoy the whole process we are involved in and try to grow this into a major sport here.”

It’s such an eye-opening transformation under Cash that the longtime volleyball coach made apparent to potential Railsplitters on the recruiting trail.

The standout prep athletes took notice, wanting to buy into what Cash is building in Harrogate and his first recruiting haul speaks to that.Adding to the already third-year men’s volleyball program nine players — losing two to graduation, one to transfer — Cash is bringing in two transfers of his own and five athletes from around the world in which mold what he wants his team to represent.