The Long Fight 'All I Do is Win'

By Daniela Detore

When the 2013-2014 Springfield College women’s volleyball team took the floor against Mt. Holyoke in a NEWMAC (New England Women and Men’s Athletic Conference) faceoff, the performance did not reflect that of a distinguished championship team.

A lack of communication and execution for a solid game plan made the play resemble middle school volleyball, at best.

It was the second season after Joel Dearing’s retirement from coaching women’s volleyball at Springfield College. He ended a 21-year career, tallying four NCAA appearances, two of which were in the Elite 8. Before joining the NEWMAC, the Pride clinched three Northeast-10 Championships with Dearing at the helm. All the while, mentoring countless graduate assistants, some of whom went on to find leadership positions in organizations across the country, and others went on to become head coaches. One in specific, who replaced Dearing in the end.

Moira Long, 46, a Springfield College graduate of ‘97 M.S., had large shoes to fill, expectations to live up to and a mentor to make proud. And middle school volleyball in a NEWMAC face-off wasn’t making the cut.

Although defeating the Lyons in straight sets and posting their 17th win of the season to mark a 17-2 record, it was not Springfield College volleyball standard. It was sloppy, selfish and far from honorable.

Every time “THE jersey” is worn, it must be worn with respect and honor. Honoring all the hard work that was invested into a given program before. Respecting all those who wore it before.

It must be worn with Pride.

The Jersey, is a reference to the the uniform that all student-athletes at Springfield College have the privilege of wearing. A legacy to the best of Springfield College Athletics.

And the women’s volleyball team in that mid-October match against Mt. Holyoke was disrupting that legacy.

In a post-game meeting, Long was irate. Every ounce of passion and frustration built into her small stealthy frame came bursting at the seams. A small, but noticeable, vein striped across the center of her forehead rose to the surface of Long’s skin.

Her intensity was enough to make any grown man cry.

As she continued to reprimand the team, several other veins in her neck began to scream against the surface of her olive complexion. Red in the face and shortness of breath -- Long’s frustration ran so deep, she could not let up.

The remainder is a blur. A total blackout of anger. Anger so fierce it makes your mouth run dry, your arm hair stand on end and shivers run down your spine.

A total eclipse of blood-cell bursting -- heat of passion -- rage.

Frustration in its purest form.

And lingering even deeper than the frustration itself, a ticking time bomb.

A bomb that at any given second could have exploded sending her to the table where her fate would have been left up to a God or the Gods of modern medicine.


This was Long’s only memory of a time that her brain aneurysm was provoked to rupture.


Long sits crossed legged, right over left, at her desk. Plaques for MVP’s and leading NCAA hitting percentages, NCAA National Championship foldable chairs from various years and trophies, engulf every ounce of free space in the one windowed office of the Springfield College women’s volleyball coach.

What remains free of remnants of volleyball are mostly taken up by coaching tactics books, pictures, a tissue box -- that is mostly used by the women’s volleyball players that pass through the office during the week -- and multiple copies of various psychology of sport books that serve double purpose for Long as head coach of the women’s volleyball team and as a professor.

Long hit the ground running when taking over Dearing’s position as head coach in the 2011-2012 season. Her first season, she lead the Pride to 21-straight victories, which set the tone for Long’s career at the helm. The same year, the Pride won a NEWMAC championship in Blake Arena, after a three-set sweep over Wheaton College, and added a regional title which set them on a trip to the Elite 8 in the NCAA championship tournament.

After her coaching debut, Long was honored as NEWMAC Coach of the Year.

“None of the honors that have come Coach Long’s way or the unprecedented success of the string of NCAA appearances surprised me at all,” Dearing said. “Coach Long was one of the best graduate assistant coaches I ever worked with.”

He added that one of the perks of retiring after 30 years was not having to formulate a game plan to stop Long on the other side of the net.

The overflow of trophies found a home outside her office in the conference room where they sit on display on the windowsill for everyone to bear witness. Trophies from countless years of competing in the New England Challenge and hosting the Tom Hay Invitational, all lined up in chronological order.

A tell-all plaque hangs above a whiteboard scribbled on with various line-ups, potential recruits, notes and reminders.

It reads, “ALL I DO IS WIN.”

It would be perceived as cocky if it wasn’t a default of Long’s coaching career and also the Springfield College women’s volleyball team.

Making the pair a match made in heaven.

Over the last eight seasons with Springfield, Long has dabbled with a fair share of rearranging. Between prioritizing plaques, trophies and family pictures on bookshelves and testing various combinations of different arrangements on her desk -- the hardware proved to be a perk of the job title.

The latest addition to her office wasn’t a plaque or trophy -- it wasn’t even a family picture -- it was a three-cushion, maroon couch. The three foldable metal chairs from the NCAA National Championship that once stood in its place are neatly folded up against the wall across from the comfy addition.

The couch wasn’t for a glorified social hour -- it wasn’t even for the numerous weekday visitors -- it was moved in strictly with the intention of Long laying down and taking breaks in between pre-season double sessions.

She didn’t want to nap -- and she’s certainly not lazy -- she just needed to close her eyes.

When the 2018-19 season got underway in the middle of August, Long was only five weeks removed from brain surgery and still grappling with symptoms of a grade-3 concussion: the most intense concussion one can deal with before it’s labeled, “brain damage.”

“Think of the worst concussion you can have,” Long explained.

“It’s triple that.”

Forty-two staples, 12 screws and four plates.

A half-headed crown of shaved hair from the top of her head to the back of her right ear, three inches wide.

And, a softball sized portion of hair in the back of her head, fighting against time to grow back after the last failed procedure to fix the brain aneurysm that has anchored itself in her Carotid artery.

Long’s only concern was not to hear the words “It didn’t work.”


Long feared many things as the date for her craniotomy dawned. She feared waking up with a major deficit such as not being able to see, not being able to hear, not being able to move.

She feared not being able to do her job.

Above all, she feared not waking up at all. Such scenarios like the aneurysm rupturing when the surgeon goes to “clip” it -- and Long having a stroke on the operation table -- made that fear very realistic. Even more so, considering that she had a procedure in May that failed to fix the aneurysm.

In early May, as finals wrapped up for the 2017-2018 academic year, Long was scheduled for her first procedure, endovascular repair. During this procedure, a small incision is made in the groin and a catheter is inserted into an artery and maneuvered up into the brain to the site of the aneurysm. Contrast material is injected and once the aneurysm is detected, thin metal coils are injected at the site. This procedure is commonly known as “coiling.”

However, after four hours under anesthesia (almost three hours longer than expected) Long woke up to doctors saying, “It didn’t work.”

She laughs at the memory because admittedly, she didn’t know that was possible. She says that she laughs because she survived.

Brain aneurysms (or aneurysms in general) form at weak areas of the blood vessel wall. Blood pools in these weak areas and form balloon like pockets that can be provoked to rupture causing bleeding into the brain and stroke due to lack of blood flow. Brain aneurysms are rare, roughly 200,000 are reported in the United States per year (Mayo Clinic). They can linger undetected for months, even years, threatening the lives of those they inhabit on a 24/7 clock.

When Long’s week-long, Mexico cruise docked last January, she began to notice how the feeling of being on sturdy land never quite returned. She joked about the experience with her husband Joe Long, a development officer at Springfield College, and two kids Jacob and Olivia Long, as they were walking through the airport to return to their home in Wilbraham.

“I got to the airport and I was like, ‘is anyone else moving? Like, nobody’s moving right now? Because I’m moving,’” Long laughed.

Long ignored the “spinning” for about another week until she was in her office with a colleague and she interrupted them in the middle of casual conversation and asked them to stop talking because she couldn’t see.

A total blackout.

Long was admitted on Monday, July 9, at 5:30 a.m., to Mass General in Boston. The open craniotomy went as smooth as open brain surgery can go.

The hardest part for Long -- besides the concussion-like symptoms that lingered for weeks after -- was the preparation for the angiogram that took place two-and-a-half days after the fact.

An angiogram is a minimally invasive test that uses an x-ray and iodine-containing contrast that produces x-ray photographs of the blood vessels in the brain. Leading up to the test (which was given to make sure that the operation was a success), Long was unable to drink or eat anything for two days. She noted that after the surgery all she wanted was to drink something but she couldn’t until after the angiogram. The combination of concussion-like symptoms, thirst and minor-starvation was an eye-opening experience towards what the recovery process was going to be like.

When Long was cleared from the hospital, five days later, she had extreme trouble focusing for long periods of time and periods of long cognitive inattention. She soon learned that minimal sensory interpretation was a full day’s effort.

“To get up to go to the shower, to get into the shower, to take your shower, to get out of the shower and get dressed and walk back downstairs -- you would have thought I ran 12 miles,” Long said. In addition to baseline healthcare like bathing, she was unable to walk up stairs without assistance, go to the bathroom without assistance. She was unable to lift anything heavier than a glass to her lips and a utensil to her mouth.

Her days were defined by only one daily staple -- making a cup of English Breakfast tea with cream and sugar, for a sweeter taste.

This went on for five weeks.

It was a much slower process than Long wanted. Days on end spent laying on the couch, unable to watch TV or take in bright lights and loud noises. Days spent in a series of sleep cycles. Days spent only making English Breakfast tea with cream and sugar.

And silence.

Days on end grew into days closer to the start of the 2018-2019 season.

“I’ve never been so afraid in my life,” Long said in anticipation for the season. “I was just afraid I couldn’t do my job.”

Facing the test of time, Long was on the losing side.

For once.

Long was the head coach at Plymouth State University for 13 years before eventually taking over at the helm for the Pride. She often references how happy her and her family were in New Hampshire living in a rural town named Campton.

“We were set,” Long admits.

But, it was no secret that there was one thing that would make Long pack up her bags and leave -- the job that sparked her career -- the head coaching position at Springfield College.

Long had a brief stint at Springfield in 1996-97, where she earned her Masters degree in sports management while serving as a graduate assistant for the women’s volleyball team under Dearing. In her two years at Springfield College, she made back to back appearances in the NCAA tournament. Before leaving to take a full-time coaching job at Dickinson College -- coaching both softball and volleyball -- Long sat in at interim head coach in the spring of ‘97 at Springfield.

Prior to Springfield, Long earned her undergraduate degree at Marist College in political science while being a four year participant on the varsity volleyball team. After her graduation in ‘94, she moved down to Washington D.C. and lived in a communal apartment building. In her time in the nation’s capital -- which wound up being a total of six weeks -- she embarked on multiple job opportunities in a rapidly evolving political scene. Eventually securing an interview in the field, Long credits the woman conducting the interview for sparking her coaching career.

“I went to an interview and [she] was like, ‘Clearly politics is not your passion, what’s your passion? What do you love?’”, Long said. She naturally replied to the question, sports -- specifically volleyball -- and the woman looked at Long and said, “Go do that.”

From there, Long went to the library and began looking up institutions where she would be able to earn a degree in Coaching, Physical Education or Sports Management and Recreation.

That is when Springfield College first came on her radar.

It was everything but a well mapped out journey, however, Long ended up right where she needed to be.

And it was all slipping through her fingers.


As July, wrapped up and the calendar page turned, Friday, Aug. 17th, was marked.

Text messages of, “Are you ready for the season?” and “Are you excited?” began to pour into Long’s phone. She always replied with “yes,” however, Long questioned if she would really be ready.

With a .686 career winning percentage, it would have been an early retirement to a very successful, yet short, career. However, it wasn’t the right time.

Long wrestled with the thought of no one physically taking her job from her, and it was just herself standing in her own way.

“It had everything to do with [coaching] was my pure joy, no one can take that away from me,” she said, even herself. It was easier to think negatively in the five weeks leading up to season. Her progression through her healing was much slower than she wanted to admit to herself, let alone anyone else. She was barely able to muster up an appetite, or enough energy to shower. She was still using assistance in walking up the stairs.

She wasn’t ready.

In her doubt, Long dedicated her thoughts to adopting a new philosophy of positive affirmative statements, such as, “It will get better.”

“That was my mantra,” she said.

In her absence from computer screens, recruiting emails, television, radio -- practically the outside world -- she began scribing these lists of “It wills,” and “I wills” inside a small notebook. A series of I will be better tomorrow and I will be able to see -- and all things related to Long willing herself through the journey -- were scribbled on page after page.

The thought of being in Blake Arena, her favorite place in the world, and coaching, the thing that sets her soul on fire, is what pushed Long through.

“It was this burning desire that I had to be there. It’s my passion, it’s my love,” she said. “It’s where I need to be.”

In her doubt, in her fear, Long was enlightened by the job she was already so grateful to have; she was uplifted by the Springfield community that has become her second home; she found strength in herself that she never thought she had.

It was a game of mind over matter.

Physically she was not there. She was barely able to get up and walk to the kitchen the days prior to the first day of the season, however, mentally she gained wisdom beyond her years.

She gained a brand new perspective.

“My biggest thing leading up to preseason was, I will be okay. I will be ready,” she said.

And she was.


On occasion, when volleyballs are lifted into the air higher than usual, into the rafters the hard woods of Blake Arena, the ball will return to the court with falling confetti.

One single strand of confetti will float its way down slowly, taking its time, twirling in a variety of directions. It reflects a distant memory of the championships that were won on the hardwoods of Blake Arena, the championships that have been lost at the sight of the first game of volleyball ever played.

And recent echoes of the 2013 season where the NEWMAC Championship was won at home under Long’s guidance.

But more importantly, it’s a reminder of all the practices that have gone into each season. The practices on Sunday nights, Monday mornings at 5 a.m., the workouts and lifts that go hand in hand.

Imbedded into the hardwood is a silhouette of Long hovering along each sideline. Her coaching style resembled that of, “I’ll show you.” She was all talk, all bite. Her teammates from her college days at Marist say she was the worst to play with – but also the absolute best.

She would get in your face. She would demand the absolute best out of you every time you step on the court. And she would make you the player you always dreamed of becoming.

That is also how she coaches.

She coaches in a manner of volleyball being a microcosm of life. Meaning, the lessons she teaches on the volleyball court will transcend deep into the fabrics of one’s personal life. She values open communication and community service, and she builds strong women in her program at a critical time. Above all, Long preaches about the art of giving, not taking.

Long's brain X-ray post surgery

The art of giving is not always physical. Giving could be embodied into the giving of consistent effort and energy, the giving of one’s attention or service. It could be a pat on the back, a high five. It’s the giving of leadership, kindness and compassion that Long coaches and leads by example.

That is, until she was sidelined, quite literally, by brain surgery. Almost all of the preseason leading up to the 2018-2019 season, she spent in a rolling office chair. Rolling back and forth between the three courts that stretch across Blake Arena for practice, critiquing, coaching, complimenting. All the while, paying mind to keeping a safe distance from the courts.

One stray ball that was sent flying, finding Long’s head, could have sent her right back to the operation table.

Long said that sitting so far away from the court, in a chair especially, was a 180-degree change from the coaching style she previously had. It was an adjustment and gave her a new perspective of the game, and coaching.

Had Long written down, “I hope I’m ready,” the season would have panned out much differently.

If Long had written down, “I hope I’m ready,” she would not have led the Pride back to the NCAA Championship tournament after missing it the year prior, ending a seven-year streak. The Pride ended the 2018-2019 season 24-8, falling to Wesleyan in the second round of the NCAA tournament, reinstating their national footprint.

A successful season at all levels.

If Long had written down, “I hope I’m ready,” she would not have reached a pinnacle moment of her career reaching 500 wins.

If Long had written down, “I hope I’m ready,” she would have not gained all the new perspectives that this year brought her, figuratively and literally.

If Long had written down, “I hope I’m ready,” she would not have been ready when her mother passed away in the first days of October and still showed up to coach every day; to be a friend every day; to be a mother every day.

And to still give every day.

Losing a parent alone is enough to sideline a coach, or a player, for a season. However, pair the grief of a loss within the same three-month span of open brain surgery, it’s safe to conclude that Long embodied that of all she teaches.

She gave the 2018-2019 season her all and more, going above and beyond.

A season without a championship would have once left Long hungry. But, when factoring in all the elements, Long is satisfied with the outcome. She was satisfied with the Springfield College standard volleyball.

She withstood the test of time, and the year is proof of that.


Springfield College Athletics, Moira Long, Plymouth State Athletics

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