“Tyler Hildebrand Returns to Long Beach State as the Sixth Coach of the Women’s Volleyball Program.”
The headline is still a little surreal to me.
Being able to come home to my alma mater as a head coach, nearly 16 years after graduating, is both humbling and exciting.
Long Beach State helped shape me into the person I am today, and I’m thrilled to be back.
In high school, I played five different sports.
One day, during my math class, my teacher asked me to come up to his desk. I thought I was in trouble for something, but instead, he asked me if I had ever considered playing volleyball and gave me a hall pass to go speak to the head volleyball coach, Jayne Fuerbacher.
As I walked to Jayne’s classroom unassumingly and just happy to get out of math class, little did I know that this walk would be the start of the journey I have been on for the past 20 years in this sport.
Thanks to Jayne, I started playing and she taught me how to love the game.
I owe her a lot, and she is a great friend to this day.
The next year, my parents drove me to and from practice all the way down in Tucson, Arizona, because that was the only competitive travel club team in the state.
Playing on this team is what allowed me to get on Long Beach State’s radar, and eventually get recruited to come to LB.
I will be forever thankful for my parents’ sacrifice and everything they did for me to make my dream of volleyball a reality.
When I committed to Long Beach State, we had five setters on the roster. I didn’t necessarily expect much playing time early on, but within a few months, the number of setters went down to three, then two, and well… eventually down to one.
I feel very fortunate because I was literally playing every single point in my freshman year — something that had a massive impact on my journey.
My mindset shifted from “I’m just happy to be here” to “Let’s go win a National Championship.”
During my four years, we never got that elusive championship, but I had built lifelong friendships, memories, and found a home in Long Beach.
And that was worth more than anything else.
The sting of defeat
When I think back on my time at Long Beach State as a player, there’s one memory that sticks out.
Spoiler, it’s a loss.
After winning, you don’t usually sit back and dwell on missed opportunities or think about things you could have done differently.
Losses can haunt you for years, though.
And the 2004 NCAA National Championship game against BYU is the loss that still haunts me today.
We were up and had our opportunities. We thought we had the match at times. But we just couldn’t do it — it still hurts today. Truthfully, I probably wanted to bring that National Championship to Long Beach State more than anything else.
It may sound crazy, but I wanted it more than I wanted to go to the Olympics or play on the national team. I had built a bond with my teammates, other student-athletes, and the community that was unlike any other.
That’s how much Long Beach State meant and still means to me.
Grabbing the clipboard
When my playing career had ended, I wasn’t one of those players who instantly had the urge to be a coach. But when Alan called to coach alongside him at Long Beach State for the first time, I decided to take it seriously.
He convinced me that coaching was in my blood.
I got the pitch to join his staff full-time, and that’s where it all began.
It’s been ten years since I started coaching full-time.
I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve experienced a lot.
And I’ve made a lot of memories, including winning a National Championship with Nebraska and a gold medal in the Olympics with April and Alix.
But it was time to come home.
Coaching for me is more than the wins and losses. I know that might sound cliché. But to me, it’s about being able to positively impact the lives of the players, staff members, and everyone else involved.
And I was ready to make that happen where it all started for me.
Coming back as a head coach wasn’t something that I actively planned for. However, in the back of my mind, it was always a dream.
Walking around the gym and the campus is nostalgic. Some of the same people that were here over 15 years ago when I first arrived on campus are still around.
For a first-time head coach having that support in the community is priceless. That community is what makes Long Beach State the place to be. And that’s why we’re going to be successful.
My vision for the program
I remember what the community was like when both the men’s and women’s teams were ranked highly — it was so much fun to be a part of.
The buzz around volleyball was contagious.
I want to bring that back.
On the court, the game is changing.
We want to play fast. We want to be smart. We want girls that will show up ready to learn and work from day one. But most importantly, we want girls that will put a winning team culture first.
To me, that’s a learning-centric culture. It is one where the team feels that their teammates and coaches are all there for them both now and in the future. That support off the court will translate to success on it.
I also want our alumni to feel like they still have a home at Long Beach State. We have one of the best alumni groups in the nation, without a doubt.
By tapping into our alumni group, we will help our current players not only while they are here, but when they transition out of college.
I want our alumni to always be proud of the program and excited about the future.
The road to the Sweet Sixteen and a run in the NCAA Tournament starts with our own conference. We need to get back to being consistently a force in the conference.
It’s time to return to the top of the Big West.
It’s time to get the women’s volleyball team at Long Beach State back in the national conversation.
I’m excited to be home, but the work is just beginning.