For Loyola Chicago's Berzins, volleyball is a family sport
LOS ANGELES -- If there is such a thing as volleyball royalty, Dainis Berzins would come from it.
His father, Aldis, was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic Volleyball team that consisted of stars Karch Kiraly and Steve Timmons. Aldis Berzins was a star outside hitter from Ohio State and was recruited to the Olympic team. They competed in the Summer Games in Los Angeles and the team won the gold medal.
Berzins’ three sons Kris, Mik and Dainis were all blessed with his height and passion for the game.
Kris, who is four years older than Dainis and two years older than Mik, was the late bloomer to the sport. He didn’t play until his junior year of high school on a club team. He walked onto Loyola and earned a spot on the team as an outside hitter, claiming All-Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association three times.
Mik played in high school and was recruited by his father’s alma mater Ohio State. He was part of the school’s NCAA championship team in 2011 and is the university’s career leader in digs.
"We were definitely a competitive family,” Dainis Berzins said. “We were always challenging each other to get better. It worked out for me.”
It didn’t matter if it was volleyball or soccer, the older brothers always made sure Dainis was playing hard.
“They never eased up on me growing up,” Dainis Berzins said. “They always went all out. It definitely made me a better player. I remember my older brothers yelling at me to move around and if they weren’t hard on me I wouldn’t be the player I am now.”
If Berzins is slipping, he only has to look over to the Loyola bench for motivation. Kris Berzins became an assistant coach for the Ramblers and has worked with his younger brother and the other outside hitters.
“I think from a coaching perspective he’s a great coach and really knows what he’s doing,” Dainis Berzins said. “He definitely doesn’t go any easier on me, maybe a little harder on me. He’s giving me pointers all the time. I don’t see any negatives with this. He’s a great mentor.”
Kris Berzins said trying to keep the relationship of coach to athlete and brothers separate has been difficult.
“I think it’s impossible to look at it as just coach and athlete,” Kris Berzins said. “In reality we are still family. You have to be impartial and view it like that, but it’s not always possible.”
Dainus Berzins doesn’t view the relationship as problematic at all and welcomed his brother when he was named assistant coach after a year of playing professionally overseas.
"Right from the beginning I was excited it was happening,” Dainis Berzins said. “Him being my brother, it’s nice to be able to play for him as my coach. He’s really become a good coach. “
Kris Berzins brings the same fiery style he had as a player to his coaching philosophy.
“I would like to think I am rough with all of our outside hitters, just because that is the position I played as well,” Kris Berzins said. “Maybe more so than an other position that maybe I don’t have as much experience with. I think if you ask anyone they will say I’m a pretty intense guy. I take it seriously and I enjoy players who have a passion for the game.”
“He’s a really fired up coach, he gets into it,” Dainis Berzins said. “When practice is over we are brothers again. We’ll talk about the day and he’ll tell me things he saw. He’s totally just my coach on the court.”
Kris Berzins is starting to see the maturation of his younger brother.
"I think Dainis has that passion,” Kris Berzin said. “He really wants to get better at the sport. I think very much of what we are instilled with comes from our dad. I don’t know if I am bringing anything new to that, but I think it is the same things he taught us. Volleyball has changed and if I can instill a few new things that is something I see I can bring.”