Head of the Class
Published: May 23, 2013
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Lackawanna Trail volleyball coach Deb Joyce saw the potential in Richard Pollock when she suffered an untimely bout with laryngitis a few years ago.
"I was sick the week the girls team prepared for districts," Joyce said. "I told him, 'you have to be my voice.' The girls started calling him 'coach.' He became the assistant to the assistant."
In a few years, if the Lions senior's life goes as he hopes, kids will be calling him "Mr. Pollock" as he stands in front of a classroom.
"He is talented in every aspect of life," Joyce said. "He's a fun kid to coach, and it's fun to see him excel at all the things in his life."
Pollock, a senior volleyball player at Lackawanna Trail, found his passion at an early age, discovering he was a quick study in music and math. But for as much as he enjoyed playing the tenor sax and how well he performed in both music and the classroom, Pollock learned that he was cut out for being more than just a student.
As he looks forward to pursuing a math and music education major at Mansfield University this fall, he is putting some final touches on the volleyball court for the Lions. His knack for teaching and understanding the learning process has come in handy as a captain on the court, driving the Lions toward the postseason.
"It went a little better than I expected," Pollock said. "We pulled some unexpected wins, and took some games off some tough teams. We lost nine seniors (from last year), and we were a young team."
His path to being a teacher began simply enough when he wanted to emulate an older brother, starting some seven years ago when he first picked up the tenor sax.
"I've been playing since fifth grade. I took after my brother Kyle," Pollock said. "He quit after a couple of years, so I took his horn and stuck with it."
Saying that Pollock is good at playing the tenor sax is an understatement. His credentials are impressive.
"I made the all-state ensemble three years in a row, and I placed first all three years," Pollock said. "I received a music scholarship, and going to states three years in a row couldn't have hurt."
As he learned and practiced the instrument, Pollock's ability to pick up math quickly lingered in his mind. That ability gave him his first chance pursuing the student-teacher dynamic from the teaching standpoint.
"It started in ninth or 10th grade," Pollock said. "In math class, I understood it quickly, and I got to tutor some other kids. I found out I enjoy teaching."
So much so that he plans to focus more on the teaching than the playing.
"I'm going for education," Pollock said. "I'm sure I'd improve my skill, but I'm happy with where I'm at. I plan to teach. I love to teach. If I need to, I have the talent, but I want to teach others."
On the volleyball court, he learned a wide variety of skills as he shuffled from position to position over his three-year varsity career, adapting his game in order to help the team.
"I played all around. At the beginning of the season, I was one of the hitters, but now I'm more of a setter," Pollock said. "We had some good people step up; I've been very impressed. Last year I played libero. I didn't have a lot of experience hitting, so I was perfectly fine with that [changing positions]."
"He's tall for playing libero, but he's a fantastic passer and did a great job," Joyce said. "This year, our personnel changed, but he did what we needed. He's got a nice block, he's a nice hitter. He's very versatile."
Different positions meant different skills, but the learning process was the same for Pollock. Listen to the coach, do as he's told and improve by practicing a lot and, just as important, practicing correctly. He knows what it's like on the learning end of the equation, and that will play a part in his future path as an educator.
It's all about honing a skill, taking care of the little things, because they add up to a lot.
"Passing is tough, but my serve receive, I got that pretty easily," Pollock said. "Setting is the hardest of the positions, because the pass isn't always great and you have to chase it down."
Knowing what you are doing is a big part of the education process, and in sports, having that credibility puts you in a leadership position.
"Tutoring definitely helped me. I'm able to help and it helped me become a captain," Pollock said.
Seeing the game and reacting with a quick insight also gains one respect on a team. Pollack has that.
"He's got a great court sense," Joyce said. "I try to point something out, and as I'm trying to a player's attention, he's already telling them what I was going to say. He's quiet, but he has a calming effect. They listen to him."
Whether it is in music, math or sports, it all sounds like Pollock has the makings of being a great educator.