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West Point’s Women’s Volleyball Team – Choosing Integrity

“I always believed we needed to do the harder right.” – Bob Gambardella

In the early 1980’s, women at West Point were still a cultural innovation. Along with taking part in military training and academics, the traditionally all-male school began women’s intercollegiate athletics. The Army women’s volleyball team was coached by Bob Gambardella. Under Coach Gambardella’s leadership, the volleyball team set a standard in Integrity and sportsmanship for everyone they played against.

At one point, Coach Gambardella and my father, The General, were discussing how volleyball had changed through the years. One thing which had been lost was an expectation and the habit of calling “I touch” on yourselves. This was one of the hardest calls for a referee to make. Why? Because they could not always see if a blocker’s finger tips had touched the volleyball after a hitter attempted to put the ball away for a kill.

The ball moves so fast. It may or may not change direction according the naked eye. The only person who truly knows if they touched the ball or not—is the blocker.

The habit and expectation was for a blocker to raise their hand and state “I touch” if the ball deflected off her hand and went out of bounds. But, as happens in so many sports, this expectation died off by the mid 1980’s.

West Point, however, is a different place. There is an expectation for all cadets and staff to exercise Integrity in all things and in all circumstances, even sports. It was their Duty and Integrity to uphold three prominent and memorable statements: