June 20, 2014
By Erika Loomer
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) -- When Mike Gee first told his Mom that he was going to coach volleyball while a student at the University of California, she was skeptical. With her concern that her son's focus be on academics, he assured her that coaching would not be a lifelong endeavor.
"I never thought I'd be coaching women's volleyball," Gee said as he recalled the conversation with his Mom. "She said `This is not something I want you doing and taking up all of your time. Your education and studies have to come first.' We were in the kitchen and I said `Mom, it's not like I'm going to do this the rest of my life.' I remember it like it was yesterday. That was in 2003."
Fast forward 11 years later and Gee is in his first few months at UCF as an assistant coach. And it's beginning to look more and more like that statement may not completely accurate.
From a young age, Gee was an athlete but volleyball was originally not on his radar. Growing up a gymnast, he decided to transition from the sport after nine years. He started to play basketball, but realized that sport wasn't for him as he entered high school.
One summer day would change that all. When a full basketball court at his father's gym prohibited Gee and his friends from getting a game, they came across the outdoor volleyball court.
"The three of us, we had never seen a volleyball. Tossing the ball around, I instantly fell in love with the game," Gee said.
Once school started, he knew that he had to pursue being a part of the volleyball team. He tried out and made the team. The rest is history. College provided the big break for Gee as he emerged into the volleyball coaching field during his time in college. With prior experience mentoring young gymnasts beginning at age 14, Gee had already gained a passion for coaching.
"To see how good it feels as a coach to help somebody else was something that I was drawn to right away," he recalled. "For me, growing up, I've had this ability to help others be in a good place, to see and think clearly, to support them when that's what's needed or to offer up a different way of thinking about things, perspective. For the team, bringing people together, selling them on the idea that what's good for the team is what's good for you."
Starting out in the Golden Bear Volleyball Club, Gee quickly excelled in the coaching realm as he was the lead tryout coach for the USA Girls' High Performance program starting in 2005, just two years into the profession. This is where Gee and UCF head coach Todd Dagenais first crossed paths.
"Todd has been a mentor of mine for a long time," Gee said. "I think we first met in 2005 through USA Volleyball's National High Performance pipeline"
"Having never met Todd before, he just came up to my court during this tryout and said `Hey, you're doing a great job.' I knew of him and knew where he worked," Gee continued. "To hear that from him was like the ultimate compliment for a young coach. That really made an impression on me for sure."
When Dagenais first approached him with the opportunity to join his staff at UCF five years ago, Gee turned him down. At the point in his career, he believed that he wasn't ready to do a good job for him, having never coached college before. But when the chance arose again to work with Dagenais and be a part of the Knights program, he did not hesitate to take the next step.
"When Todd asked me again, it was an opportunity that I absolutely could not turn down, because I have always been thinking about it in the back of my mind," Gee said. "I'm excited about a lot of what everybody on the UCF campus is talking about and thinking about. It's the family atmosphere. It's the education."
Looking forward to the upcoming season, the defensive side of the game is where most of Gee's focus will be placed. Creating an effective team defense that will allow the backcourt players the ability to be very successful is a main component of his duties.
With the success that Gee has enjoyed over his 11 years of coaching, it comes as no surprise that he can now tell his once-doubtful Mom that this career path has proved to be more than he ever expected.
"It's more than working out. I'm very lucky," Gee said. "I feel like I'm following this career that continues to just open up more opportunities to take me to new places, to offer up something different and absolutely an opportunity to grow. It's very fulfilling. I'm going to keep chasing it."