At 50, Bob Ctvrtlik, a Newport Beach resident, passes on advice, not volleyballs anymore.
Ctvrtlik, one of the most decorated U.S. volleyball players, was the guest speaker at the 53rd annual Athletic Awards banquet at the Radisson Hotel in Newport Beach on Wednesday night. During his talk in front of the seniors honored — 15 from Corona del Mar, 15 from Newport Harbor and three from Sage Hill — Ctvrtlik stressed the importance of relationships and investing in people.
"You guys and girls are incredibly accomplished, and obviously you wouldn't be here unless someone picked you out and said, 'You're very, very special,'" Ctvrtlik said during the special program put on by the Commodores Club and the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, which also honored four coaches, Newport Harbor's Bill Barnett (girls' water polo) and Jeff Brinkley (football), CdM's Scott Meyer (football), and Sage Hill's Dan Thomassen (girls' volleyball). "Just know that as you go, the better you are, there's going to be a zillion people that made it happen, that are all supporting you in some way, and if you can take the time when you're a superstar to reach down, talk to those people, get to know people along the way. Don't do it for any reason that you'll get something back, but it's just the right thing to do, and you never know who that person will be that maybe could help catapult your career as well."
Ctvrtlik touched on three people — Marv Dunphy, Dusty Dvorak and Rebecca Howard — who played instrumental roles in his success, on and off the court.
If not for Dunphy, Ctvrtlik doesn't play at Pepperdine University in 1985, when he capped his senior season with an NCAA title. Before playing for Dunphy, who can come off as standoffish, Ctvrtlik found out who Dunphy really was. He took an interest in his coach, looking in his office, where a doctorate certificate hung on a wall and where books on John Wooden were on a bookshelf.
Ctvrtlik found out that his coach did his thesis on Wooden and his Pyramid of Success, and it was important to Dunphy. He later learned that Dunphy was a Vietnam veteran, a subject he didn't talk about much, eventually opening up to his player. The two became close, and when his senior year ended and Ctvrtlik went home to Long Beach for the summer, he got a letter in the mail, asking him to try out for the U.S. national team. The coach of the team was Dunphy, and Ctvrtlik began a 14-year stint with the national team, playing in three Olympics, winning gold in 1988 and bronze in '92, and captaining the team in '96.
Before the three Olympic appearances, Ctvrtlik met Dvorak, who was coming off a gold medal with the U.S. in '84. A year later, Ctvrtlik joined the national team, and him and Dvorak, complete opposites, one a Christian and the other an atheist, hit it off. Dvorak wasn't popular with the younger players on the team, yet Ctvrtlik took a liking to the married man who didn't drink.
After the '88 Olympics, Ctvrtlik received a call from Dvorak. It was to join a professional team in Italy, a country Ctvrtlik knew little about. What he did know was that Italy had the best pro volleyball league in the world. The owner of the Milan team was Silvio Berlusconi, whom Dvorak described to Ctvrtlik as the Donald Trump of Italy. He wasn't offering Trump-type money. Nevertheless, Ctvrtlik went to Italy, playing on a small contract, and when the club hit its objectives, becoming the top team in Italy, the contract improved and so did Ctvrtlik's Italian.
As one of the oldest players on the U.S. team during the '96 Olympics, he dealt with media and U.S. volleyball management more. This is when he developed a friendship with Howard, who was nondescript, a widow, someone who rose through the ranks, becoming the first woman president of USA Volleyball in '95. Ctvrtlik learned that Howard was a realtor in Denver, had a rough life and she loved volleyball, dedicating her life to the sport.
"The International Olympic [Committee] right at this same time decided they were becoming out of touch with the athletes," Ctvrtlik said. "They had a quite a few royals on the IOC, they had great industrialists and businessmen, but they were losing touch with the athletes, so they built a commission called the Athletes Commission, which represents all the athletes of the world and makes changes within the IOC. Guess who nominated me and pushed the U.S. committee for me to be elected on the commission?"
It was Howard, and it launched Ctvrtlik's career in which he worked with the IOC for a span of 12 years. Ctvrtlik went on to work with four U.S. presidents while running two different Olympic bids in New York with former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and in Chicago with former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
While doing all of this, Ctvrtlik had a family, a wife, Cosette, and three boys, Josef, Erik and Matthew, who's now a sophomore setter on the Corona del Mar boys' volleyball team.
"Most of you here would say, 'Bob, you did a great job of raising the boys.' Well, you'd be would be wrong," Ctvrtlik said. "Working with the International Olympic Committee and playing on the U.S. Olympic team for 14 years, I was traveling at my peak about 200 days a year, so the one who really raised my boys … and got [Josef] into Stanford and [Erik] into Vanderbilt is Cosette, my wife. Who by the way, if you are getting married, that is your No. 1 biggest decision."