Living Legend

The sound is unmistakable.  Sneakers squeaking across a gym floor. Volleyballs spiked on the floor echo off the high ceiling in the gym.  Non-stop chatter fills the spaces between the relentless movement during a volleyball practice – and then you hear it.... 

fwheeeeet!!

The distinct sound that instantly rises above it all.

fwheeeeet!!

Suddenly, everything stops.  Silence takes over the gym in an instant.  The only sounds you can hear now are the low hum of the fluorescent lighting and that of a single man’s voice.  

That man, is Academy Volleyball’s Coach Bill Kropp.  The man whose whistle can silence a gym in an instant – even though he’s never carried one.

If you’ve ever played for Coach Kropp or have been at one of his practices, you know the sound – and it IS unmistakable.  If you’ve been around Coach Kropp’s practices, you would also know that what comes after the whistle was always worth its weight in gold.  That’s because Kropp is the consummate teacher, dedicated to making those around him better every day.  

For those of you who only see Coach Kropp on game day, you see an intense competitor. A passionate and demanding coach with high expectations.  You don’t always see the coach who cares deeply about the players who play for him.

Ask anyone who has played for Kropp and they will tell you that it is not always easy, but is always for the better. A coach who never stops teaching no matter how late in a game, or how late in a season. He knows that it is always a good time to get better.  Players who have played for Coach Kropp have the highest volleyball IQ and are among the most prepared players on the court.

This past fall the Boys Volleyball Suffolk County Coaches Association honored Coach Kropp with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  As the recently retired Sachem East High School history teacher had also retired from coaching high school volleyball.  

 Academy Head Coach, Rick Cole, presents Bill Kropp with a SCHVA Lifetime Acheivement Award.

Academy Head Coach, Rick Cole, presents Bill Kropp with a SCHVA Lifetime Acheivement Award.

Honoring Kropp with a Lifetime Achievement Award must have been an easy decision to make.  

If there was a Long Island Volleyball “Hall of Fame”, then he would be in that too.  

That’s because Bill Kropp has blazed a trail of success in volleyball on Long Island that may never be duplicated.  It would be a difficult task to find someone who can match the success that Kropp has had throughout his coaching career.

But for those who are wondering, Kropp is far from retired.  In many ways, he’s just getting started. But before we get to that, let's take a moment to reflect on what has led to this point in Kropp's coaching career.

And Then, There Was Volleyball

Growing up on Long Island, Bill Kropp was an athlete.  An avid cross country runner, he was a tall, lean, and fast young man.  Not a hint of volleyball was on his radar.  After graduating from high school, Kropp enrolled at the State University of New York at New Paltz.  While at the university, Kropp continued to run cross country on the school team. Until IT happened.

One day, on a fateful walk through the gym, Kropp noticed the New Paltz men's volleyball team practice. It was not long before the team would spot this tall, lean kid and invite him to give the sport a try during their practice.  Instantly, he was hooked.  The athletic left-handed cross country runner soon developed into a talented right side and quickly made a name for himself as a dominating blocker.

The stars seemed to be aligning as Kropp did what you might now have expected him to do, he started coaching.  While still in college, Kropp began coaching a local New Paltz high school cross country team and hasn’t stopped coaching ever since.  That one fateful walk through the gym would set him on a direction that would affect not only his life, but the countless other lives of the people who have played for him the next 35 years.

Blazing a Trail

Kropp and one of his Sachem teams.

Upon graduation from college, Kropp moved back to Long Island and accepted a position at Sachem High School as a history teacher.

His effusive personality quickly made him a popular figure in the classroom with his students as well as his peers.  His Halloween costumes would become the stuff of legends.

His passion for volleyball still strong, he took a position as the Assistant Girls Varsity Volleyball coach.  It was not long after that, that Kropp would move up to the head coaching position.

Then, in 1989, Bill Kropp started a boys varsity volleyball program at Sachem High School.  For Kropp, coaching became a year-round endeavor.  

In the fall, he would coach the boys and in the spring, he would coach the girls.  In fact, the only reason he stopped coaching the girls was when they moved the girls season to the fall – which overlapped with the boy’s season.

In the process, he set a standard of excellence by which every Sachem volleyball team would be measured against.  He also set the bar by which every competing program would try to beat.  His programs were so steeped in winning traditions they often drew the ire of opposing teams and players.  

His teams always had a target on their back as opponents often circled the Sachem game on their schedules because they so badly wanted to beat them.

But if you peel back the curtain and look at what drove all that winning, it’s hard not to have respect for it, no matter which side of the fence you sit on.  Kropp was a teacher in the classroom and in the gym.  

He is constantly teaching and guiding.  His belief was that your first job as a coach was to care for every one of your players and your second was to get them to perform at the best of their abilities.  

He is competitive and his expectations are high.

It is not always easy to play for a coach like that, but those that did, left the program with a mastery of fundamentals that were necessary on the court as well as a respect for preparation that is necessary in life on the court or off.  

In addition to coaching the boys and girls high school team, Bill Kropp’s other efforts include running volleyball camps every summer, coaching the boys teams for the Empire State Games (a former intra-state athletic competition event), playing volleyball for the men’s division at the Empire State Games, and coaching at the collegiate level for the women’s programs at Stony Brook University and Southampton College.

His list of accomplishments may never be duplicated:

Coaching Accomplishments -  BOYS

  • Led the sachem boys program from 1989 through 2016 (27 years), amassing 366 wins and only 115 losses (that’s a win percentage of 76%)
  • 76 regular season game winning streak 1992 - 1996
  • Led the boys teams to 10 county championships winning 5 of them
  • Led the boys to 12 Division championships
  • Won Long Island boys volleyball championships in 2013
  • New York State Finalist in 2013
  • Qualified for boys playoffs 25 out of 27 years
  • 8x Boys Suffolk County Coach of the Year
  • Voted as Newsday’s’ boys coach of the year in 2013

Coaching Accomplishments - GIRLS

  • 12 years as Girls Varsity head coach, leading them to an overall record of 222 wins and only 44 loses – a win percentage of 83%
  • Led the girls to 6 county championships, winning 3 of them.
  • 6 league championships (girls)
  • 12 playoff seasons (girls)
  • Led the girls to Suffolk county final four 10 out of 12 seasons
  • 6x girls coach of the year

Coaching Accomplishments - OVERALL

  • Total sachem record 707 wins to 165 losses – a winning percentage of 81%
  • Appeared in 16 county championships winning 8 of them
  • 12 league championships
  • 12 division championships
  • 1 Long Island championship
  • 1 state finals appearance
  • Qualified for playoffs 37 out of 39 attempts
  • 14x Suffolk County coach of the year
  • Coached three collegiate teams
  • Coached 6 years at Empire State games
  • 1 Gold medal at the Empire State games
  • Coached club (travel) volleyball for 17 years (girls and boys)

Indeed, Fewer people have done more for their sport, than Bill Kropp has done for volleyball on Long Island.

Leaving A Legacy

Looking back at Coach Bill Kropp’s high school coaching career, it’s easy to see how he has both set the standard for what it means to be a winning coach and has also changed the landscape of a sport he loves so dearly.  

Coach Bill Kropp has left a legacy of success that will endure and multiply simply by way of all the lives he has affected.  In fact, two of his former players now helm the boys varsity program at Sachem North.  Many of the coaching concepts and techniques they learned from Kropp, they are now passing on to their players.  

Here are just a few things that some of his former players and coaches have had to say:

I am proud to call him a friend, a mentor and a role model. Not only is Bill a great coach - he has developed a cadre of successful coaches under his mentorship that have gone on to build on his legacy. We have the great fortune to stand on his shoulders to reach new heights - the shoulders of a giant in our game.
— Rick Cole, Academy Volleyball Head Coach

Coach Kropp’s passion for teaching and ability to inspire are truly the bedrock of Mens Volleyball on LI. His influence has not only led to the rapid growth of the sport but his competitive nature continues to push the standard of excellence.

It is only fitting that in introducing a new collegiate program to Long Island, St. Josephs College chose Coach Kropp who will no doubt continue to raise the bar for everyone.
— Matthew Rivera - Head Coach Sachem North Boys Volleyball & Director/Head Coach Academy Volleyball

Coach Kropp was not only my coach but he was also a role model. He taught me the game of volleyball and also how to work hard, stay motivated and achieve goals. Coach Kropp has opened the path to success for hundreds of athletes he has touched in his life. I’m just lucky enough to be one of them!
— Matthew DiStefano - Director/Head Coach Academy Boys Volleyball & Assistant Boys Varsity Coach, Sachem North High School

When I think about all the successes I have had in volleyball, I am humbly aware that none of it would have been possible without Coach Kropp.

He pushed me beyond the limits I believed I had. He taught me about commitment, work ethic, and always giving 100% every time I step on the court.

The lessons he instilled in me on the volleyball court have stayed with me in my life as a mother, a friend, a teammate, and a person.

It is because of him that volleyball has played such a vital role in my life and I aspire to someday be half the coach he was to me. It is an honor and a privilege to have played for him.

”A good coach improves your game... a great coach improves your life”
— Connie Alamia - Head Coach, Academy Girls Volleyball

Playing for Mr. Kropp was, without question, one of the most rewarding, inspiring, and fulfilling years of my life. Aside from the countless physical lessons we all learned from Coach, like “how proper platform preparation prevents poor passing” or “1 above 2 above 3, 3 before 2 before 1”, what I take most from Mr. Kropp is how he instills in his players just how to be an athlete.

How to compete against yourself and to settle for nothing less than your best; how to never stop learning the game, how to win with humility and lose with pride and regardless of what happens, get back in the gym and work even harder the next day.

Coach Kropp helped me to discover who I was as an athlete, and more importantly showed me the kind of athlete and person that I wanted to be.

Mr. Kropp was so much more than my volleyball coach, but in a sense he was my mirror. Playing for him was the first time as an athlete that I took a good, hard look at who I was and what I wanted to do.

In so many ways, he shaped who I was as an athlete and person, and I could not feel more blessed to have been able to call him my coach.

He is truly one of a kind, irreplaceable, and one who I credit with instilling in me the many values I try to pass on to my student-athletes today.
— Danielle Turner - Athletic Director, Port Jefferson School District

Pioneering A New Frontier

When a man has accomplished as much in his sport as Bill Kropp the question becomes, “what else can he possibly do next?”.  The answer is simple.  Find a new challenge in which to create a new path.  That is exactly what he has done.

For the first time in Long Island’s modern history, there is now a men’s volleyball collegiate program as a varsity sport.  This is a tremendous opportunity for a sport that continuously sends players off Long Island to compete at the NCAA level.  The college that introduced this new program in 2017 is St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. The man they trusted to establish and lead this new era… Bill Kropp.  

Armed with the man with the legendary record leading them, the challenge ahead is daunting. A new program, playing in the Skyline division with a coach and players who have never played together,  playing alongside established programs.

Additionally, their roster boasts two juniors, one sophomore, and eight freshmen – no seniors.  Despite the challenges, Kropp has led this group to an excellent 18-10 overall record, including 4-3 in their conference.  In the school’s first ever Men’s Volleyball playoff game, Kropp guided his team to a 3-1 victory over Sage and is now headed to the Skyline Conference Semi-Finals against perennial powerhouse, Kean University.  Safe to say that Kropp and his team have burst on to the NCAA stage and are positioned to do some damage over the long-term.  And once again, Kropp is in the familiar place of being the standard bearer for which future programs to follow.

Academy Volleyball would like to congratulate Coach Kropp on his outstanding high school coaching career and wish him continued success in his collegiate career.  Academy is honored to have a coach of Bill Kropp’s caliber on its current roster of coaches.

UPDATE:

Coach Bill Kropp has just added to his legacy with another coaching accolade as he was named the 2017 Coach of the Year for the Skyline Conference (St. Joseph's College, NCAA III).