Although the conversation took place four years ago, Emerson men's volleyball assistant coach Ryan Berning said he remembers it well—then-new head coach Ben Read told him, “If ever an opportunity opens up I’d love to have you help out.”
Berning’s response: “Sign me up. Get me in there.”
Berning is now in his fourth year at Emerson.
Read and Berning met playing beach volleyball in Boston the same summer Read was hired at Emerson. Berning was surprised when he heard where Read had been hired—his girlfriend was on the roster for the women’s team at the time. Read brought on Berning as a part-time assistant in his second year at the helm, once Berning’s girlfriend graduated.
Berning said his playing experience has translated well to coaching.
“Playing at a high level—playing beach or indoor [volleyball]—really gives me a good insight of how I can teach our players to have a higher game IQ,” Berning said.
Berning said he thinks much of the success he and Read have had this season as a coaching duo comes from their personal relationship.
“I go to his house, he comes to my house,” says Berning. “My girlfriend and his wife know each other really well, so I think we work really well on and off the court together.”
According to Read, part of what makes the pairing work is Berning’s commitment to the program.
“He’s here every day doing extra things, and helping with the recruiting. He flew out to California, he was in Omaha, and he's helped break down video. He also checks in with the guys,” Read said. “It’s nice to have someone else to have a voice about some ideas for me, and he's kind of a middleman with the players and me.”
Berning is well-liked by the entire team, according to sophomore Andy Kim, a visual and media arts major. Kim, a middle blocker/right side hitter, said he has enjoyed having Berning aboard.
“He’s a funny and a nice dude. He is just a sweetheart,” Kim said. “His best quality is definitely his personality and bringing the team together.”
Berning is not just a good guy, but also a good coach, according to senior captain Jared Gross. Gross has thrived under Berning’s tutelage over the past four years, and said he believes in Berning’s coaching style.
“I would describe it as more laid-back, but knowledgeable.” Gross, a marketing communication major, said. “He's not going to be a guy who will scream at you, necessarily, but it is going to be constant repetition and he is going to make sure you are going to get something right.”
Berning said his past volleyball experience allows him to understand what it takes to lead.
“I think it made me realize building a team culture is so important,” Berning said. “I can’t stress how important it is to get those good leadership roles in the team.”
With Berning assuming his role this season the Lions are currently 2-3, and their most notable win came against Endicott College, who won the New England Collegiate Conference last year.
Berning described the win—the first against Endicott in school history—as his favorite moment so far.
“I thought it was really cool, especially for our seniors, because they play[ed] them all four years,” Berning said. “I feel like it’s the win that can take us to the next level. We’ve been in the middle of the pack the past couple of years. I think that now we have a good chance of competing with the conference.”