How lucky we are to have Mr. and Mrs. Volleyball (the Bynons) in our midst
New London — Unless you are married to a coach, you have no idea what it’s like to be married to a coach. Streams of consciousness, for example, happen at the darndest times.
“Honey, can you please pass the potatoes?”
“Sure. But can I tell you how much I hate my team first? And that ref last night. I mean, really. I bet if he looked at his phone during the game, it would have said, ’12 missed calls.’ How much more of this do I need to take?”
And then there are the Bynons of Gales Ferry. They’re each married to a coach. Mike Bynon: the volleyball coach at Coast Guard, who, without an assistant coach, is 11-4 nonetheless this season. Lauren Bynon: the volleyball coach at Montville High, taking a year off to be with newborn son Owen, but who led the Indians to the state quarterfinals last season.
Mr. and Mrs. Volleyball.
And aside from a rather pronounced difference in pro football affiliations (Mike likes the Vikings and Lauren likes the Packers), they are only perfect for each other — and to promote a growing sport here in our corner of the world.
Mike Bynon grew up in upstate New York (Saratoga), while his future wife was raised in suburban Chicago. They met two weeks into their time at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisc., about halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Their great loves ever since have been each other and volleyball.
“We always said that at graduation, we’d figure it out,” Mike said one night last month from his office. “We grew up in two great areas, places we loved. We didn’t want to live in, like, Cleveland. I got a great opportunity to coach at Williams College. Lauren had a great teaching job in the Chicago suburbs. We did the long distance thing for three years.”
Three years. And still together. Now THAT is true love. They were married in 2016 around the time Mike Bynon got the job at Coast Guard. Lauren found a teaching job at Manchester High. And the entire sport got a pair of pied pipers.
“I had an awesome coach in high school. We ran tons of camps. Coached the little kids. I come from a huge family of teachers. I love working with kids,” Lauren Bynon said. “There was definitely a learning curve at Montville. In this part of the state, high school volleyball is gaining traction. But compared to the Midwest, where everyone has a fourth- and fifth-grade team, middle school team and youth programs, there’s a difference. Those kids have played for 4-5 years already. I needed to learn again how to build a program. The kids bought in.”
Mike Bynon: “I’m very biased, but as I look across the country, I think volleyball is an unbelievable team sport in terms of the way it’s played. I think it’s very challenging in a good way because it’s very different.
“A lot of kids grow up kicking a soccer ball or shooting a basketball. Remember, though, if you throw a volleyball at someone, they can’t catch it. In the ever-changing landscape of youth sports, it’s a great skill set to add to a basketball player for example. The movements — jumping, lateral — are very valuable. I was recruiting last year saw and saw Brett Favre and Ray Allen. Their daughters are playing volleyball.”
The Bynons go to each other’s games. Mike drove to Woodland Regional (near Waterbury) for Montville’s quarterfinal game last year. Big on support, not too much on critiques those Bynons are.
“One of Lauren’s best qualities is that she’s an unbelievable educator,” Mike said. “Her kids, not only do they learn the game but so much more about being part of a team.”
The sport is lucky to have them. And how fortunate we are, too, to have Mr. and Mrs. Volleyball in our midst.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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