Karch Kiraly Biography
Charles Frederick “Karch” Kiraly is an American volleyball coach, ex-player, and broadcaster. With Olympic gold medals in indoor and beach volleyball tournaments, and a further Olympic medal as a coach, he is one of the most successful players in the history of the international game.
Karch Kiraly Indoor Volleyball Playing Career
Karch Kiraly began playing volleyball with his father Lazslo, himself a former Hungarian junior international, when he as just 6 years old. Having proven to be an outstanding player for his high school team and registering a vertical jump of 104cm as a young teenager, Kiraly was selected for the US junior national team and played for three years, with the team winning the Pacific Rim Cup tournament twice and Kiraly being named MVP in the 1979 edition.
In 1978, Karch Kiraly enrolled at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and was part of the volleyball team’s most successful period in their history. Between 1978 and 1982, the UCLA Bruins won three NCAA Championships, two with perfect seasons. Kiraly was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in 1981 and 1982 and was later inducted into the NCAA hall of fame in 1992. His jersey was retired in 1993.
While still at UCLA, Kiraly was called up to the men’s national team. In 1981, the side won the silver medal at the NORCECA Championships with Kiraly playing at Outside Hitter. But the best was yet to come, as the team went one better with gold at the same tournament in 1983, before sweeping the competition before them to land an extraordinary haul of medals: the 1985 FIVB World Cup, the 1986 World Championships, and back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988. In 1988, Kiraly was the winning captain and, as he had been in 1986, was named the world’s best player by the FIVB.
After retiring from international volleyball after 1988’s Olympic success, Kiraly was finally persuaded to play professionally in 1990. Along with long-time teammate Steve Timmons, he joined an all-star line-up at Il Messaggero Ravenna in Italy. There, in just two seasons he experienced success at all levels of the domestic game, with victories at the Italian Volleyball League, the Italian Cup, the CEV Champions League, the European Supercup, and the FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship. Following his departure from Italy in 1992, Kiraly made a full-time switch to beach volleyball. He was later named the FIVB player of the century.
More success in Beach Volleyball
As a beach volleyball player, Karch Kiraly was no less successful. Along with playing partner Kent Steffes, the pair won in excess of 10 AVP opens per season on the AVP tour between 1992 and 1996, culminating in a gold medal at the inaugural beach volleyball tournament at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. This success made Kiraly the first player in history, male or female, to win Olympic gold medals in both the indoor and outdoor competitions – a record which still stands today.
With Kent Steffes, and later in his career, Brent Doble and Mike Lambert, Karch Kiraly went on to record 148 volleyball titles, making him the most successful player in the history of the men’s game. His final victory came in 2005, at the age of 45, and he eventually retired in 2007. Alongside his wining record as a player, he also won the individual AVP MVP awards six times, the sportsman of the year award three times, and the AVP Outstanding Achievement award in 2004. He was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame in 2001.
Karch Kiraly Coaching Career
Having coached at high school level, Karch Kiraly was chosen to be High McCutcheon’s assistant and together, they coached the US women’s national team to the Olympic silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London. Succeeding McCutcheon as head coach after the Olympics, Kiraly then coached the women’s team to the 2014 FIVB World Championship gold medal, and the bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Karch Kiraly is married to wife Janna, and has two children, Kory and Kristian. He has authored books on both indoor and beach volleyball. He is well known for several inspirational sporting quotes – here are a few of our favourites at Volleyverse:
Practise like it’s competition and compete like it’s another day on the practice court.
We are all going to fall short. We are going to have some bitter losses, very painful defeats and failures. We have to use those to come back even stronger. That’s what makes it sweeter, when we can overcome those and figure out a way to win. The great teams can do that, and those are the gold medal winning teams.
When you’ve done everything you can to train yourself for competition, you’ll sleep well when the tournament is over, win or lose.
For more inspiration quotes from Karch & other volleyball legends check out our Best Volleyball Quotes post.