Head Coach, Elms College (Men & Women)
NCAA Division III
Last summer, after seven years coaching at Newbury College, David Hildebrandt was getting set to start in a new position as men's and women's volleyball coach at Elms College. He was looking forward to the challenges of a new job and working with the players on his new teams.
Then in August, tragedy struck. On a camping trip with some friends just before the start of fall practice, Hildebrandt slipped and fell into the Swift River in Albany, N. H. The fast moving water swept him downstream and, sadly, he drowned.
The loss of Hildebrandt, 29, was a shock to his family, friends, co-workers and players at both Newbury and Elms.
"Dave was a role model for not only his players, but for all other coaches as well," said Katie Greene, assistant athletic director and head women's basketball coach at Newbury. "He set the bar in terms of recruiting, positive attitude and overall team success. Dave would run through a wall for his players and they would do the same in return for him, which led to great success in his programs. Dave made an impact on every single person he came in contact with and has made a difference in so many young athletes' lives. Dave is missed every single day in the Newbury community and his memory on the court will always live on."
When the call for nominations went out to the AVCA membership for the new Thirty Under 30 award, Christopher Wright, head coach at Emmanuel College, who had known Hildebrandt since they played against each other in their college days, sent in a nomination for Hildebrandt requesting that he be considered for the award posthumously.
Even before his tragic death, I was going to nominate him for this award," Wright said. "He was a part-time coach during his tenure at Newbury, and took his team to the NECVA Championship finals last year. He made the most of his situation when the team needed to take a bus to another college to practice and play games. He made the most of every situation and did it with a smile. He studied the game to strengthen his coaching and leadership skills. His accomplishments at Newbury speak for themselves. Because of this, I thought he was the ideal candidate for this honor."
Hildebrandt began coaching at Newbury in 2001, when he was hired to coach both the men's and women's programs. He led the women's team to winning records in five of the seven years he was there. In five of those seasons, he set school records for the number of wins, highlighted by a 23-win season in 2006. In addition, he took the team to the NCAA Division III Northeast Independent Championship in 2006 and 2007. In that 2006 championship match, he posted his 100th career victory with his women's team.
On the men's side, he guided the team to wining records the last five years he was at the school. The culmination of his time coaching the men was winning the NECVA New England Title in 2008 and winning a school record 33 matches that season. On January 22, 2008, Hildebrandt also posted his 100th career victory with his men's team.
In addition to wins and losses on the court, Hildebrandt was proud of his team's educational achievements. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, his entire men's team was named to the NECVA academic team with a combined GPA of over 3.0.
Recently, Wright ran into a former player of Hildebrandt's and the two talked about him. It was a conversation that Wright says shows exactly the type of person Hildebrandt was and why he will be missed.
"Just recently, I was on the train when I noticed one of Dave's student-athletes who recently graduated," he said. "He told me how Dave recruited him to come to the east coast. He also talked about how Dave instilled hard work and never let him become complacent on or off the court. What I witnessed during my conversation with thisstudent-athlete is that Dave's love went beyond the sport of volleyball. Dave was a wonderful coach and mentor to his student-athletes and cared about them on and off the court."
Hildebrandt was, without question, one of the rising young stars in the coaching ranks of collegiate volleyball, and it is with honor that the AVCA presents this award to him in his memory.
To read a very nice tribute to Hildebrandt by his friend Justin Mokerzecki, Director of Sports Information at Elms College, go to: http://athletics.elms.edu/news/2008-09/HildebrandtTribute