The new hip-hop-loving, energy-filled, sports fanatic at the helm of IU volleyball comes into his inaugural season with one main goal:
Get 1 percent better each day.
Since his hire in late December, Steve Aird has brought much more to IU than a new coaching style.
Instead, Aird has brought a new vibe and a new hope to a program that has had just one winning season since 2011.
With his first regular season game less than two weeks away, the message this season is not about wins and losses. Rather it is about beginning a process to turn IU into one of the nation’s top volleyball schools.
“We spend a lot of our time in practice talking about the how and the why," Aird said. "The results will take care of themselves. I want the kids to be pros, to take care of their bodies and to understand film and scouting.”
With 10 national championships to its name since 2000, the Big Ten has earned a reputation as one of the top conferences in collegiate volleyball.
“In the Big Ten we have an obligation to have a premier women’s volleyball program, and I think the administration agreed,” Aird said. “I’m not going to spend this time, energy and effort to be mediocre. We want to be elite.”
A large part of Aird’s rebuild is centered around his love for the fans and community he came into less than a year ago.
At the team’s annual Cream and Crimson scrimmage on Aug. 18, it was clear that Aird would go through with his promise to create an exciting environment at games.
Music blasted through Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall between each point. The student section was constantly engaged, despite the game virtually being an open practice, and fans were frequently reminded through the PA system that there would be tailgates prior to each home game.
“It was fun," Aird said. "When you have a couple thousand show up for a practice, it’s pretty good new. There’s good energy around the program, and we’re excited."
The concept of rebuilding a program is nothing new to Aird.
Following a 13-19 season in 2013 for Maryland, Aird came in as head coach. In his final season last year, the Terrapins finished at 18-14.
Although he spent much of his assistant coaching career at Penn State, a school that won two national titles during his tenure, the idea of rebuilding struggling schools is what grabs Aird's attention.
“It’s something that’s attractive to me,” Aird said.
It was not simply the concept of a rebuild that brought Aird to Bloomington, however.
With three kids -- Mackenzie, 7, Caelan, 5, and Padraic, 3 -- and a wife, Brandy, Aird had to consider what move would be best for his family.
“It’s not as simple as packing up a Jeep and moving to a different state,” Aird said. “It’s a huge decision that affects my family.”
Moving has become something normal to the Aird family, as his pursuit of a career has taken them from Pennsylvania to California and other stops in between.
After moving to southern California in 2008, Aird got involved in different businesses while his wife continued with her passion for cooking.
Aird helped with volleyball clubs, took part in a uniform company working with people in China and wrote a children’s book in the process.
After the birth of his first daughter, Mackenzie, the family went back to Pennsylvania where he returned to coaching Penn State and then later Maryland.
In 2017, Aird helped coach the Big Ten All-Star team over the summer, where he met current junior outside hitter Kendall Beerman.
“When I took the job it was cool because she knew my wife and my kids and we had a cool relationship,” Aird said. “She was really excited about the transition and she was someone I could talk to and get information about stuff.”
Aird consistently uses the word “everyday-er” to explain the constant effort he wants from his team.
Rather than simply caring about what goes on during game days, he wants his team to care about all aspects of their lives ranging from education to gratitude.
He lives up to the term himself.
“He’s an everyday-er,” Beerman said. “His energy is off the charts. He’s completely bought into us and everything in the program. He has our backs.”
Aird's energy and humor are clear from his Twitter account as well.
Aird likes to remain calm and avoid highs and lows while he is coaching. However, he does not shy away from being himself off the court.
“I’ve been in some massive matches in my career, so it’s about being steady and providing feedback,” Aird said. “The rest of my life is pretty live. I like to have fun. I like to surround myself with people that have good energy.”
Amid the hectic nature of his everyday life, Aird stays close to his roots and remembers where he came from.
Growing up in Canada, he understands how hard his parents worked for him to reach this point.
When he played volleyball for Penn State, he recalls being surprised and thankful when he received a pair of free shoes in 1997.
Because of this, he hopes his new team can continue to give back to its community and those that helped them reach this stage of life.
“There’s a lot of people who work hard to give them a whole bunch of stuff,” Aird said. “If we only come through when we’re worried about wins and losses and that’s the only thing we’re worried about, then we’re missing the whole point of this."
A large part of that comes from helping his players develop as people in addition to developing as players.
“I want them to be a better human being with me in their life than before they met me,” Aird said. “I want them to set their goals higher. I want them to think bigger and have more energy.”
All these small pieces — energy, environment, play on the court, gratitude and more — come together in the end to form what Aird hopes can be something great.
He does not shy away from the challenge.
“I want it to be better than when I found it,” Aird said. “I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to do it.”
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