Pepperdine Women’s Indoor Volleyball Head Coach Scott Wong celebrates in the background after his team scored a point against USF on Oct. 29, at Firestone Fieldhouse. Wong said he tries to help his athletes in all areas of life, not just volleyball. Photo by Colton Rubsamen
Pepperdine Women’s Indoor Volleyball Head Coach Scott Wong has coached the Waves for the past eight seasons. As head coach, Wong said he tries to teach his athletes lessons his former mentors taught him and develop lifelong skills on and off the court.
Before becoming the head coach, Wong was a student athlete at Pepperdine (’01) and spent five seasons as the assistant coach for both Pepperdine, and then for the the University of Hawaii.
“[Wong] makes a meaningful impact on all of his players,” freshman middle blocker Vanessa Polk said. “Everyone that plays for him—we definitely all appreciate him as a coach immensely.
Wong said despite the success the Waves have had in recent seasons, he still wants to emphasize the importance of the program, continue to grow athletic abilities and be a resource for other areas of life that may not be volleyball-related.
Continuing to Grow
During his tenure as head coach, Wong has had a 144-87 record and made it to the NCAA tournament four of the past five years, according to Pepperdine Athletics.
Wong said he is proud of seeing the growth of his players, especially when the team played in Nebraska during the 2022 season.
Wong said one of his goals for the rest of his time here is to have a deep run in the NCAA tournament that hopefully results in a championship.
“We’ve been a consistent top 25 or 30 team in the country, and we don’t want to be content just getting to the NCAA,” Wong said. “We want to win a bunch of games in the NCAA Championship.”
Polk said Wong taught her how to grow and learn from past mistakes.
“You can’t succeed if you don’t fail,” Polk said. “That’s something that he emphasizes in practice throughout games is that failing is OK.”
Student Athlete at Pepperdine
Wong played volleyball as a student athlete for Pepperdine from 1998-2001 and was a three-time all American, according to Pepperdine Athletics. Wong said one of his most memorable moments as a player was getting to see his work pay off during his first collegiate match.
“That was a fun one for me to start on the road against Penn State against a good team and to have some success,” Wong said. “All this work and effort put in to see what the end result is. That was really memorable.”
Another highlight during his time as a student Wong said was traveling to Hawaii, where he is originally from, his freshman year and beating the University of Hawaii.
“To beat Hawaii was just a blast,” Wong said.
Coaching after Playing
After playing at Pepperdine, Wong became the assistant coach of the Pepperdine Men’s Volleyball in 2005 under Marv Dunphy. That season, Men’s Volleyball won their fifth national championship in the program’s history.
From that experience, Wong said he enjoyed watching the fight his players put up during their championship run.
Wong then moved to Hawaii, where he coached for five years at the University of Hawaii from 2010-14.
While at Hawaii, Wong coached under Dave Shoji. While coaching under him, Wong said, he gained exposure to women’s volleyball and learned how to expect high levels of performance from his athletes.
“There was a sense of accountability if excellence wasn’t happening,” Wong said. “And not perfection. Just high focus, high effort, which leads to excellence.
Athletes Off the Court
Wong said helping players on and off the court has been something he has worked to emphasize.
“We want to keep on growing our team culture,” Wong said. “We want to keep developing these young ladies on and off the court. It’s something we take a ton of pride in.”
Ammerman said, while she does take volleyball very seriously, Wong has helped her know not all of her time has to be dedicated to volleyball.
“Life is more than just volleyball,” Ammerman said. “As someone who really cares about the sport and is super competitive, he’s taught me there are other ways to, as he says, ‘Fill your bucket and just branch out and try new things.’”
One area in which he emphasizes the character of his athletes is during the recruiting process, Wong said.
“We try hard to not only look at volleyball talent but to look at what kind of people they are,” Wong said. “We try to get to know them in the volleyball setting and out of the volleyball setting from various people.”
Specifically, Wong said he likes to talk to the parents of recruits. He said he does this because athletes often have similar paths of character as their parents, and it can be a good indicator of how an athlete is off the court.
Wong has seen success with this method as he has coached three consecutive Waves to winning West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year honors. First was middle blocker Meg Brown in 2020, then outside/opposite hitter Grace Chillingworth in 2021 and, most recently, outside hitter Emily Hellmuth in 2022.
Another area where Wong said he emphasizes the importance of what happens off the court is mental health. This past season, advocating for athletes’ mental health was a theme for the Women’s Volleyball Team as, and they wore green hair ties and shoelaces while also wearing shirts that said “Be Kind To Your Mind.”
Wong said, while he wants to demand excellence from his players, he also wants his athletes to know he cares about them for who they are.
“I always want them to feel they’re getting the most out of their volleyball experience, but they’re loved,” Wong said. “You want to demand great things, but I always want them to think ‘I have no doubt that coach loves me.’”
Polk said, so far, Wong has done an excellent job helping the team out with any mental health struggles they have.
“Everyone struggles with mental health at times,” Polk said. “[Wong] is a champion at helping people work through things in their life that they go through on and off the court.”
Ammerman said she is glad volleyball players that come to Pepperdine will experience the same positive experience she has had.
“It makes me happy for the next generation of Waves,” Ammerman said. “They’ll get to experience the same thing I did while I was at Pepperdine. The sense of community and family he has created here, and that isn’t going anywhere.”
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