The passing of a Legend

It is with great sorrow that I let you know that Mike Hulett, the founder, owner and coach of Adversity Volleyball passed away yesterday. 

Mike was an inspiration to thousands of athletes, coaches, parents, and officials both on the local, national, and international level. On the local level he worked tirelessly to grow the Adversity Volleyball program as well as being a leader in the Great Lakes Volleyball Region for 20+ years. On the international level he was the 4-time Head Coach of the USA Paralympic Volleyball Teams (1996, 2000, 2004, & 2008) winning the Bronze in Athens 2004 and the Silver medal in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

As a coach, he’s as decorated as they come. He was the 2004 Paralympic Coach of the Year, and in 2012 he was selected as USA Volleyball’s Harold T. Friermood “Frier” Award recipient for lifetime achievement. The Frier Award is the highest honor USA Volleyball can bestow on an individual.

His life’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you understand the health challenges he had. He was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 13 which lead to him becoming a quadruple amputee. Later in life he was confined to a wheelchair. But he didn’t let this slow him down for one minute. He dedicated every waking moment of life to his students and the sport of volleyball.

To me, he was my personal mentor and dear friend over the past 10 years. When I met him, I was coaching a couple times a week in a small facility, winding down my professional badminton career with Team USA, with no real thoughts of a future career in coaching. At the time I was in debt from flying around the world chasing my Olympic Dream. There were no dedicated badminton clubs in the Chicagoland area and as my degree is in graphic design, I was attempting to be practical for a change. But Mike dazzled me with ideas of a coaching career, and convinced me to join him as he opened up his new facility in Vernon Hills at a time when most facilities wouldn’t even consider adding badminton.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made and I never looked back. Throughout our partnership over the past 10 years he continually dared me to grow my business, and helped me to scale 30 times over. We would regularly stay up way too late at night after coaching and spitball coaching strategies, club development ideas, and the latest results of our students.  He liked to give me a hard time about the sport of badminton not being as hard as volleyball…but the reality was that he truly had a huge amount of respect for badminton, especially when he saw me defeat his pro volleyball players on the badminton court without them scoring a point. He also exposed me to the world of Paralympic sports, and I’ve been hosting para-badminton clinics ever since.

Without his influence, I’m not sure I would have ever started the Shannon Pohl Badminton Academy (SPBA)– the first club with dedicated badminton courts in the Midwest region. Adversity Volleyball Club/SPBA was the home to the first junior ranking badminton tournaments in the Midwest Region, and our
partnership has been a big contributor to the explosion of growth of badminton in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago. His influence and the opportunities he has given me to grow the
sport of badminton has had a big impact. He contributed to the success of thousands of badminton students at the SPBA as well as to my own coaching success winning the USA Badminton Developmental Coach of the Year Award and being a finalist for the United States Olympic Committee Developmental Coach of the Year Award. We used to jokingly compare coaching trophies but of course his were much bigger.

We shared many of the same dreams and ambitions for our respective sports and he was still
pushing me to dream bigger and dare to achieve more even down to his final days. I will miss him dearly.

We will be cancelling all activities at the Adversity Volleyball Center in Vernon Hills for Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week but plan to resume all scheduled activities on Sunday and beyond. Thank you for your understanding.