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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 6, 2004

Stanleys on doorstep of Olympics history

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

When Jon Stanley and his 1968 Olympic volleyball teammates upset world power Russia in what was later trumpeted as one of the sport's greatest moments, it marked his second remarkable feat in that Olympics.

Have a blast with our past

Learn about Hawai'i's sports history and those who figured prominently in it in this fun and informative feature. We'll ask a question Thursday and present the answer in a profile Friday.

Q. When the Olympics begin next week, this former Olympian, far right, will become part of the Games' history. Who is he and what historic achievement will he be a part of?

A. Jon Stanley and his son, Clay (pictured next to Jon), will become the first father-son duo to compete in the Olympics in the history of USA men's volleyball. Jon was a member of the 1968 and 1972 Olympic teams, and is enshrined in both the National and International Volleyball Hall of Fame.
The first came when Stanley dragged himself to his starting middle blocker position after contracting a severe stomach illness in host Mexico City, Mexico.

The illness zapped his strength and appetite, and caused Stanley to eventually lose 25 pounds off his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame.

"They told us not to drink the (Mexican) water, but they didn't tell us not to brush our teeth with the water," said Stanley, who lives in Kuli'ou'ou. "I got Montezuma's Revenge and I struggled so much. Fortunately, (the Russians) was our first game. Even though I was sick, I could still play. I was out for the next three games. ... I mean, I never wanted to die before this."

That episode was just one in Stanley's sparkling Olympic, professional and recreational volleyball career that now spans 40 years. He made two Olympic teams (1968, 1972) and was inducted into the National and International Volleyball Hall of Fame, and the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame.

Next week, Stanley, 61, will make history again when his son, Clay, 26, plays in the Olympics, making the Stanleys the first father-son duo to compete in the Olympics in the history of USA men's volleyball. The Olympics will be held Aug. 13 to 29 in Athens.

"We really didn't know about (the father-son Olympic record) until this year," Stanley said. "It's pretty cool."

Clay said he doesn't remember too much of his dad's Olympic achievements, but added, "I just knew he was a great player and I respected him."

As a versatile athlete, Stanley was actually recruited to play basketball at Brigham Young after a successful junior college hoops career at Palomar College in California. In his senior year at BYU in 1965-66, the Cougars went 20-5.

"We led the nation in scoring," Stanley said. "We played UCLA in the regional and won the (National Invitation Tournament) my senior year."

While at BYU, the school's club coach, John Lowell, introduced volleyball to Stanley, whose prior experience was beach volleyball learned on Moonlight Beach in California.

Stanley became a quick study and earned a roster spot along with former BYU basketball player John Alstrom on the 1966 U.S. National Team when Lowell was selected as ambassador to the U.S. Volleyball Association.

Two years later, Stanley and Alstrom were the starting middle blockers on the U.S. Olympic team, and Lowell was an assistant coach for the team.

That year, the U.S. team beat defending Olympic and world champion Russia in the first round in Mexico City. Russia went on to win the gold medal. The U.S. team finished seventh.

"We had that distinction of being the only team to beat the Russians," Stanley said. "It's listed in the top 25 events in the history of volleyball. U.S. didn't defeat Russia for the next 20 years. The next time was in 1988 when the U.S. won the gold medal."

Jon Stanley's volleyball career has spanned 40 years as a player and coach. He still plays competitive club ball, and coaches at Kaiser High.

Jeff Widener• The Honolulu Advertiser

In 1972, Stanley again earned roster spots on the U.S. National Team and U.S. Olympic team, which failed to make the medal rounds in Munich, Germany. That year, the Olympic Games were marred by terrorists.

"I was heading out of there when it happened," Stanley said. "I ended up flying out with Mark Spitz. He was getting out of town as fast as he could."

In 1975, eight years after moving to Hawai'i for graduate school, Stanley became the first member from Hawai'i's volleyball community to take on a professional coaching career with the International Volleyball Association's Los Angeles Stars, a coed team.

After an 0-5 start, the Stars reeled off 18 consecutive victories and won the championship with Stanley as a player-coach. Stanley lists winning the IVA title as one of his most memorable volleyball achievements, "just because it was the initial year, all the hype and my position with the team."

Stanley also served as assistant coach for the U.S. men's National Team from 1969-71, and coached at various levels including high school, college and the military. He is currently Kaiser High's boys varsity volleyball coach, and also works at the Fort Shafter Physical Fitness Center.

In 1992, Stanley was enshrined in the National and International Volleyball Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was honored in the Hawai'i Sports Hall of Fame.

"The Hawai'i Hall of Fame was a more emotional high for me (than the national Hall of Fame)," Stanley said. "It means more to me to be a part of Hawai'i. This is where I feel most comfortable."

Stanley still plays volleyball with various clubs, including the Outrigger Canoe Club.

He said two of his most memorable accomplishments have come from playing with the Outrigger Canoe Club. One was winning the age 35 and 40 divisions four consecutive years during the late 1980's at the U.S. Volleyball national senior tournament, and the other was beating a highly-touted team that was composed of Brazilian national team members to win the age 35 division at the U.S. Volleyball national championship in San Jose, Calif., in 2000. Stanley, who was 56 at the time, earned all-tournament honors.

"It's fun to play and do well," Stanley said. "That was a big one."

Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2458.