Since its inception in 2010, Kokoro Volleyball, located in the Twin Cities, has employed and provided services to individuals of all income levels, all ethnic backgrounds, and all social/political backgrounds. The services Kokoro currently offers to their athletes, families and coaches align with the meaning of the club’s name. Kokoro, translated from Japanese, means “heart;” though not just one’s physical heart, it encompasses the Body, the Mind and the Spirit. All athletes in the Kokoro program have access to volleyball training services, physical strength services, physical therapy services, mental strength services, academic tutoring services, and mindfulness/meditation services. All of those services are included in their regular season participation fees. Additionally, the club houses a chiropractic service in its facility for those that desire to add that service to their experience.
“We are extraordinarily proud of the breadth and depth of the services we offer to our community in the Twin Cities Metro and Western Wisconsin,” said Club Director R.T. Luczak.
Kokoro family members also have access to physical strength services and mindfulness/meditation services; and coaches receive those services, plus mentorship, direct oversight, coaches manuals, email templates, videos, and access to the plethora of services included in the club’s JVA membership. Kokoro’s goal for individuals to improve Body, Mind and Spirit does not begin and end inside their facility. For the past 10 years, the club has promoted the sport and assisted local elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, and other youth sport programs to raise well over $1,000,000 for their programs in the Twin Cities. These funds directly impact the budgets of local youth / young adult sports, arts and sciences, extracurricular clubs, and other educational programs.
“Those programs have reported to us that with the funds we have assisted them in obtaining, they have been able to hire more staff, purchase equipment and supplies, and reduce fees for their participants,” added Luczak. “In addition our families have raised over $20,000 for local and national charities as well as volunteered over 5,000 hours of community service at the regional food bank.”
To ensure greater access to volleyball in their own club, Club Directors, R.T. Luczak and Jennifer Brathol offer work opportunities for their families to reduce program fees. In addition to those work opportunities, they have also directly reduced fees for those individuals experiencing economic hardship.
As an organization, Kokoro strives to lead the other programs in their area. Through research, promotion and implementation assistance, and importantly building relationships based on trust, honesty and respect, the club has enabled other volleyball programs to reduce their expenses by over $2,000,000 in the past three years. Further, during the COVID-19 pandemic, likely one of the most challenging times of the nation’s families/athletes lives, Jennifer and R.T. volunteered their time to participate on Governor Walz’s Return to Youth Sports Commission.
Through the knowledge gained by speaking with the Governor’s advisors on the commission from, the Center for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health, as well as other government officials, public and private facilities owners, and a wide variety of youth sport program directors, Jennifer and R. T. developed a COVID-19 Return to Volleyball Plan that was adopted as a template by the Junior Volleyball Association and distributed to volleyball clubs nationwide.
The implementation of its array of services for their athletes, families, coaches and volleyball peers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, has facilitated tremendous growth for Kokoro Volleyball. That growth has led to an opportunities to expand services into Eau Claire, WI, to start a boys program AND to build a facility in the Twin Cities’ East Metro, that is scheduled to open in July of this year.
“Focusing on the whole athlete is so important, especially with the pressure that can come with performing at such a high level,” expressed Kokoro Coach Martha Basham. “Expanding to Eau Claire, Kokoro has opened this great opportunity to even more athletes and giving a whole new community the chance to be a part of something so much bigger—something of a life long impact. It has also opened the opportunity for coaches like myself to be a part of a great club, one that is serving athletes in a way that is forward thinking and essential to our sport by focusing on the whole athlete.”
“It is our community that makes us successful and it is with gratitude for the opportunity to serve them that we accept the honor of JVA’s club of the month,” expressed Luczak.
Kokoro Volleyball (North St. Paul, MN) is a member of the Junior Volleyball Association, an organization committed to enhancing the junior volleyball experience for club directors, coaches, players, and fans.
For more information about joining the JVA click HERE. For more information about JVA Awards click HERE. To nominate your club for JVA Club of the Month click HERE.