Ryan Stadler, who is in his first year as volleyball coach at The Walker School, led his team to a championship game appearance.
Stadler started playing volleyball at an early age. His father was the head coach of Marist School’s volleyball team for over 40 years.
“He was the Jewish coach at the Catholic school,” Stadler joked about his father. “I grew up in the gym with my dad, so every fall I went to most of the volleyball practices and games and I learned to play through helping out as I got older.”
Also at Marist, his mother ran the theater department, and Stadler’s interest once again followed.
“I was involved in theater at every school I ever attended, and when I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted to make a go of it as an actor,” he said. “I spent about three years working professionally around Atlanta and then I went to college and studied opera.”
From there, Stadler spent almost 10 years working in New York, acting and doing voice-over work for a number of projects.
“I love when the things I did that the kids recognize come up,” he said. “I did a bunch of voices for Pokémon and I had a major character in a show called Yu-Gi-Oh. I always love when I can see the recognition in their face when they realize that I was in one of the things they watched growing up.”
Stadler returned to Atlanta a few years ago and began teaching Spanish and coaching volleyball for Northview High School.
“I got really excited at the prospect of dipping my toe back in the water,” he said.
Continuing to coach was an important factor for him when he moved to Walker this year, and the team already had a good deal of experience under its belt.
“Here I come stepping in and no one knows who I am, but they already had a lot of chemistry together as a team,” Stadler said. “It was really about respecting that they were already a team and it was a little bit of a learning curve for everyone.”
Early in the season was a little rocky for the team, as it took a quick loss to Savannah Christian Preparatory School.
“There were definitely some bumps in the road, but we also beat some powerhouse teams to get here, including Alpharetta, and we came very close to beating Blessed Trinity — which is just an extraordinary team,” Stadler said. “This year really showed the potential of what we could accomplish here.”
The team fell in the finals to Hebron Christian Academy 3-0 on Nov. 2, but Stadler wasn’t going to let that define the season.
“It’s not the result that we wanted, but we couldn’t be more proud of everything we accomplished,” he said. “We’re aiming to really make our entire program cohesive, so we have a J.V. team and two middle school teams, so I want to make sure that we’re doing the same thing philosophically starting at an early age.”
Three Jewish students were among the 11 competitors on Walker’s runner-up team this year, Julia Wieskopf, Hannah Charles and Sarah Laufer.