For Morgan Wijay, volleyball runs deep in her bones. Her parents were both teachers in the inner city. At the time, there was only one big volleyball club in her hometown, which was expensive.
"So my dad started a volleyball club that reached out to kids who couldn't afford the big club," Wijay says. Even as a young child tagging along, she could see the significant impact the club made on the families in the community.
It should come as no surprise she followed her family's legacy. After playing throughout her childhood, all four years of her tenure at the University of Houston, and now with 20 years of coaching under her belt,
"That experience really had a lasting impact on me and was the reason I started my own club."
For the last 14 years, she has been the club director and owner of the Supernova All-Star Volleyball Club in suburban Los Angeles. In addition, she serves as the girls' varsity volleyball coach for Bishop Alemany high school.
In all her roles, she maintains one life-altering but straightforward mission–to make a direct and lasting impact in her community. Her Supernova club operates in a socio-economically diverse area and gives girls of all racial, religious, and economic backgrounds the opportunity to grow through the sport of volleyball.
When she started Supernova in 2010, she had no idea it would grow to be the platform it is today. "So many things in the world are out of our control, and we really kind of need to go to grassroots to make a big impact in our communities," Wijay notes. "And volleyball is what I know, so I use volleyball."
Lessons beyond the court
For a coach like Wijay, teaching skills on the court are only the beginning. "I really believe that volleyball ends one day, but the character you build through volleyball lasts forever."
That's why she works with her players to understand the lessons they learn on the court can stick with them throughout their lives. She regularly talks with her players, asking questions to help them connect what they do on the court with the rest of their lives. Things like, “Why are you getting up early and working so hard?”, “Why are you committed to the team?”, and “Why are you why are we talking about acceptance or other teammates and diversity?” are part of Wijay's toolkit to help her athletes place sport within the larger context of their lives.
Wijay impresses on her young athletes that these character traits will stay with them for the rest of their lives. As they become adults, parents, spouses–whatever they choose–these lessons will help them be stronger and more resilient.
"You might not be a professional volleyball player the rest of your life, but you will be a professional at something. And we want to make sure you have those traits and character to be successful at whatever you do."
Wins on the court lead to wins later in life
Wijay is a competitive person. You don't get to her level of success without that. Her teams have won back-to-back California Interscholastic Federation championships, and her Supernova club finished in the Top 10 at AAU Nationals in 2022.
But when pressed about what really fuels her, her face lights up.
The biggest joy I have is watching these young girls turn into these beautiful women with ambitious goals and ready to make a difference in the world.
The program has seen several players go on to play prominent roles in various collegiate programs like UC-Davis, UC-Fullerton, and Texas A&M to name just a few. But Wijay is even prouder of their off-court success.
"It's just been a joy to see what these young women become. Some are journalists, and some of them are writers for HBO. Some of them own their own businesses. Some of them are real estate moguls."
And as these players grow and develop, they fall back on the lessons their coach gave them about making a positive impact on their communities. They take that with them wherever they go.
"I am just so very proud of all of them. And I know that is the biggest joy I get in my heart to see that happen in front of my eyes."
A refuge for a refugee family
Wijay is passionate about providing a safe space for everyone. Regardless of ethnicity, religion, or finances, she seeks to create a place that empowers and uplifts everyone.
That came to life about 12 years ago when a newly arrived immigrant family ended up at one of her volleyball clinics.
"Their girls didn't really have anything to do, and they sort of stumbled into one of our volleyball clinics," Wijay smiles. "The family didn't have any money, so we just told them don't worry about it–we're here to take care of you."
And that one chance changed the future of the entire family. The one clinic unlocked a passion for volleyball–and revealed some considerable talent. The girls worked hard on their game, and success followed.
One daughter became the California Interscholastic Federation player of the year. Both went to college on full-ride volleyball scholarships. One's currently at Georgetown, and the other is now a dentist.
"The mom always comes back to us, telling us her girls would never have this opportunity if we didn't allow her to attend that first camp and play at our program," Wijay says.
"Those are the stories we love, and those are the stories that empower girls. And that's why we're here doing what we do."
Celebrating success and empowering others
"Women empowerment is a big mission for me," she says. "I feel like, as women, we need to celebrate each other. We've been taught at such a young age to be very territorial, to be competitive–and competition is always fun. But you have to have character above the competition."
That's a goal Wijay brings every day to Supernova. She makes it a point to ensure the entire club celebrates all the members' lives and successes. At Supernova, when something good happens to a player, the whole club is invited to celebrate the player and take pride in the achievement.
"I believe that if us women could really celebrate and empower each other," Wijay says. "I think we can do greater accomplishments and be there for each other. Because just like every whatever group you are part of, we all need that support system around each other to be truly great."
As Wijay moves forward, she’s passionate about continuing to provide opportunities for all girls in her community and continuing to make an impact. Asked what she envisions for the future, she says, “In 5 years, I see us growing and continuing to stay active, maybe even a volleyball facility for the community.”
A place where she can continue to use what she knows, volleyball, to make her community better, stronger, and more complete.