Tag Archives: Joel Brinton

Burroughs Volleyball Sticks Together in Beating Burbank

It isn’t a secret that emotions run high any time Burbank and Burroughs square off in any contest.

The key is trying to limit that factor.

JBHS vs BHS Boys Volleyball 4-1-16

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The Burroughs High boys’ volleyball team, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 poll, was better at doing that Friday night.

The host Indians defeated the Bulldogs 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 in a battle of unbeaten teams in the Pacific League.

“We try to downplay Burbank-Burroughs and treat it as another game.  It’s kind of hard for teenagers to do that, but I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “A couple of times our errors got a little high because we were trying to do a little too much because it is Burbank-Burroughs.  But other than that, I thought we played really well. Our passing was great and allowed Ryan (Van Loo) to set wherever he wanted.”

Van Loo, who has signed with 2015 NCAA Division I runner-up Lewis University, finished with 34 assists.

“The town comes together, but for us it’s just another game,” Van Loo said. “We try to make it a championship game every day and I think it prevails. We have that same mindset that we play hard, which is good.”

Burroughs (12-1 overall, 5-0 in league), jumped out early in the first game to an 11-4 lead before Burbank attempted to halt that run by calling a timeout.

JBHS vs BHS Boys Volleyball 4-1-16

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Andrew Dalmada, who finished with a match-high 14 kills, and Bailey Carter, who had five kills and six blocks, did much of the damage.

Burbank (12-6, 4-1) fought back to get as close as 17-12, before the Indians closed out the first game.

“Burroughs is very strong this year, so the margin for error is smaller when you face them,” Burbank coach Patrick McMenamin said. “I thought we did a good job of stretching some points, but it wasn’t quite enough to take a set. “

Burroughs scored the first four points of the second game and was never threatened.

Burbank held a lead at 4-3 in the third game, before the Indians bounced back.

The Bulldogs made it 10-9 following a kill from Aram Krakirian.

But Burroughs met that challenge on the very next play with a kill from Connor Ludlum.

JBHS vs BHS Boys Volleyball 4-1-16

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“They did a better job of staying in system than we did and it’s tough to respond when the other team is in system more,” McMenamin said. “We had to play better transition. At times we did and it brought us some points, but again it was too little too late.”

Burroughs received 7 kills from Cameron Capili. Burbank got five kills each from Brandon Alba, Zack Cranmer and Patrick Lance. Setter Jonathan Tapan had 20 assists.


Burroughs Boys Volleyball Season Comes to an End

It was a season to remember for Burroughs (Photos by Dick Dornan)

It was a season to remember for Burroughs (Photos by Dick Dornan)

By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor

One match won’t define a season of excellence. The Valencia boys volleyball team proved to be too much to handle for Burroughs on this evening as the Vikings rolled to a 25-19, 25-19, 25-14 victory over the Indians Wednesday night in the CIF Division 2 semifinals.

Burroughs (30-4, 12-0) made history this year as they advanced further than any other boys’ volleyball team in school history. The Indians won a sixth consecutive league title en route to 30 wins. Much to their chagrin, they ran into a buzz-saw in Valencia that played at a high caliber of volleyball that frustrated visiting Burroughs throughout the match.

Andrew Dalmada serves for the Indians (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Andrew Dalmada serves for the Indians (Photo by Dick Dornan)

The Indians only led twice in the match (1-0 in game 1, 12-11 in game 2) as the Vikings controlled the net with their superior blocking skills and pin point accuracy in kills. Meanwhile, the Indians never found their rhythm or chemistry that were their staple points in a year to remember.

“It was a really bad night to not play very good volleyball. They (Valencia) forced us to do some things we normally don’t do,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “Their blocking was disciplined. Our passing wasn’t consistent which led Ryan (Van Loo) trying to figure out what to do. That’s where the chaos came in. We are not used to getting blocked like that. We were searching for answers out there on the court.”

When the match had ended, a group of Indians felt the pain of not advancing to the CIF Finals to continue their phenomenal season. Reality had set in that there was no more volleyball to be played and for the seniors their careers had come to a close.

Max Chamberlain goes up for a kill (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Max Chamberlain goes up for a kill (Photo by Dick Dornan)

The memories will last forever for each member of this year’s squad.

“It has probably been the most special thing to be a part of. This team is a big family. We do everything together,” Bailey Carter said. “I’ve never worked harder in my life with other people. It’s been a great experience and a great season. It was a great bonding experience with my brothers.”

Max Chamberlain and Andrew Dalmada each had nine kills. Ryan Van Loo added 21 assists and two blocks.

For Brinton, it was a season to savor as his program serves as a blueprint for success at Burroughs.

“There was big rise of maturity that helped us get here,” he said. “It’s been a great year. 30-4 is awesome. A lot of teams would die to be in our position here in the semifinals.”

Congratulations to the 2015 Burroughs Indians boys volleyball team. Pacific League champs for a sixth straight year and CIF semifinalists!

Burroughs Boys Volleyball Claims Sixth Straight League Title


Burroughs Indians: 2015 Pacific League Champions (Photo courtesy of Joel Brinton)

By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor

Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not even five. How about six!

For a sixth consecutive season, the Burroughs boys volleyball team are Pacific League champions. The Indians have won 32 straight matches in league dating back to their last loss on March 29, 2013, to Claremont.

Coach Joel Brinton has led his program to a 63-3 league mark over the last six seasons (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Coach Joel Brinton has led his program to a 63-3 league mark over the last six seasons (Photo by Dick Dornan)

“Winning six in a row is awesome….not sure how much it actually means though,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “Probably isn’t something I will really understand until after the season or until after I’m done coaching. I am just really proud of this group for winning this year’s title.

“Winning league was one of our goals this year but I was always so proud of this team because we never said, ‘Ok, this game means more than this one.’ The Crescenta Valley match was the same as any other match. We need to prepare, play the best we can and learn from where our mistakes in the match. This group of guys has been more willing to do that than any group I have coached before. For that I am so proud and proud of them accomplishing being league champs.”

The Indians are 27-3 overall and concluded a second straight 12-0 campaign in league. They are currently ranked No. 3 in Division 2 in the CIF Southern Section.

“This year’s group of guys has been such a unique experience,” said Brinton. “They have made themselves vulnerable to each other and the coaches and in doing so have grown so much over the last four months. That growth has been a key to our success this season.”

Brinton represents the gold standard of coaching at Burroughs. How dominant have the Indians been over the last six seasons? In 66 league matches, JBHS has a staggering 63-3 record. Simply remarkable.

Congratulations on a job well done. The CIF Division 2 playoffs begin next week.

Max Chamberlain, Burroughs Volleyball: Onward and Upward to Greater Heights

Volleyball has shot to the forefront in Max Chamberlain's life (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Volleyball has shot to the forefront in Max Chamberlain’s life (Photo by Dick Dornan)

By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor

Life can be a series of twists and turns in one’s journey to fulfilling a dream or aspiration. For Burroughs’ volleyball standout Max Chamberlain, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Then again, maybe it was.

After graduating from David Starr Jordan Middle School, Chamberlain entered John Burroughs High School with the intention of becoming a football star and being a part of the storied Indians football tradition.

“Volleyball wasn’t the sport I would ever play or ever see anybody playing,” Chamberlain said. “It was all about the (Burbank) Vikings and I played flag football way back when. All I ever wanted to do was play football. My brother, Jesse, was the starting left tackle for JB as a sophomore. We are a football family.”

Max Chamberlain

Max Chamberlain

Chamberlain, 18, played three years only to make a tough decision to leave the football program last summer and focus on volleyball. It was a move he hasn’t regretted.

The 6-foot-6 outside hitter has played a major role in the Indians’ success this year as they won a remarkable sixth consecutive Pacific League title. He leads the team in kills including 21 against Glendale (tied for 5th most ever in JB history) and is second on the team in aces. A year ago as a middle blocker, Chamberlain crushed 167 kills and recorded 33 blocks, 29 digs and 13 aces.

His sudden ascent as one of the elite volleyball players in the area earned him the opportunity to play at Pepperdine University next year. The Waves were ranked No. 3 in the country most of the season and have been coached by Marv Dunphy for the past 32 years.

Chamberlain soars high on a serve in the upset win at Oak Park (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Max Chamberlain soars high on a serve in the upset win at Oak Park (Photo by Dick Dornan)

“When people ask where are you going to play next year it feels good to say, ‘I’m going to Pepperdine,’” Chamberlain said. “To be with the legendary Marv Dunphy and be in his presence and all he has to say is incredible. Going up there and watching those guys play and seeing what they are all about, just how much better they are and how much I have to improve, I’m looking forward to it. It’s exciting.”

Before Chamberlain sets foot on the beautiful campus high above the Pacific Ocean, he has other goals to accomplish including winning a CIF title. Burroughs (27-3, 12-0) is currently ranked No. 3 in CIF Division 2.

“I have high expectations for this team,” said Chamberlain. “There was some doubt from other people about this year’s team because we lost a lot of seniors. But I knew our bench was deep last year. We have a lot of great volleyball players coming into this season so I wasn’t worried. I think we can take CIF but we got to keep everything day to day, game by game.”

Chamberlain, a true middle blocker, has evolved into a dominant threat as an outside hitter (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Chamberlain, a true middle blocker, has evolved into a dominant threat as an outside hitter (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Chamberlain has been guided by Coach Joel Brinton who has done a superb job of building Burroughs into a recognizable and formidable volleyball program. Brinton switched Chamberlain from his natural position of middle blocker to outside hitter this year for the best interests of the team.

Chamberlain embraced the move and has excelled every step of the way. His growth has been very evident as he has become a much more polished player in all aspects of volleyball.

“The growth really came this year when we asked him to change positions especially when we asked him to change in late January. It took a lot of vulnerability on his part because he had to accept the fact that he was going to make mistakes which is something he isn’t used to doing,” Brinton said. “We all knew he had the drive and the skill to play a new position. He has put in the work every day. It’s really set a tone for the team.”

Chamberlain’s rise to excellence first began the summer before his sophomore year.

“I remember the first practice when they had me hit my first true one-ball and it clicked. It was so easy,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is sweet. This feels good crushing balls.’”

A year later Chamberlain took his game to a new level playing club volleyball and competing against the best players around.

“From then, it took off playing with high-level club players two or three times a week. They would force me to push myself. I loved working hard,” said Chamberlain. “We won a bronze medal that summer in JO’s. That’s when I was sold. This is the sport I want to play. It’s been definitely worth it.”

Max Chamberlain's journey opened doors he never knew existed (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Max Chamberlain’s journey opened doors he never knew existed (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Brinton has witnessed first-hand a player blossom right before his eyes. Chamberlain’s leadership and work ethic has been a tribute to his dedication as a player in the Burroughs’ volleyball program and the athletes Brinton develops during their time at the school.

“I hope it says follow the system and work hard like he does. Do what your coaches ask and things will work out,” Brinton said. “It’s really exciting to watch him be able to do it. More than anything else it speaks about his willingness to work hard. As coaches we try to model it and what a better way than to have one of your captains model it as well.”

It’s been quite a journey for Chamberlain. Football to volleyball; Jordan to Burroughs with Pepperdine on the horizon to play Division I volleyball. Destiny has a special way of changing one’s direction in life.

“I’ve put in a lot of hours. It didn’t come easy. I’ve come a long way,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve met some of my best friends through volleyball. Some of the best people I know. It opened up my life and given me opportunities I definitely probably would not have had if I didn’t play. I’m super grateful for that.”




No. 4 Burroughs Boys Volleyball Upsets No. 1 Oak Park

Burroughs celebrates its incredible comeback victory (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Burroughs celebrates its incredible comeback victory (Photo by Dick Dornan)

By Dick Dornan
MyBurbank Sports Editor

It was a victory for the ages but in the grand scheme of things, it was simply another victory in the win column for the Burroughs boys volleyball team. But it wasn’t just your everyday victory. It was more than that.

Behind an enthusiastic crowd that included a boisterous junior varsity team and a tough-minded group of talented volleyball players, the Burroughs Indians came away with a hard-fought 3-2 win on the road against Oak Park (17-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-9) despite trailing 2-0.

The Indians pulled off an astonishing comeback (Photo by Dick Dornan)

The Indians pulled off an astonishing comeback (Photo by Dick Dornan)

With the triumphant win, Burroughs (11-1) can expect to jump over Oak Park from No. 4 in the CIF Division II polls to possibly No. 1 early next week.

It was a comeback victory that will serve as a reminder to every one of Burroughs present and future players that anything is possible. Facing the No.1 ranked team in CIF Division II on their home court was a challenging task. Falling behind 2-0 and trailing 20-18 in the third set made the situation even more daunting.

“They (Oak Park) have been a team that we’ve had nothing but trouble with,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “We lost to them twice last year and we just didn’t lose to them, they kicked our butt. And they walloped us in a couple pre-season scrimmages this year. For our guys to dig deep and come back and win shows their character.”

And boy did they ever.

Coach Joel Brinton speaks to his team prior to the pivotal third set (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Coach Joel Brinton speaks to his team prior to the pivotal third set (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Oak Park (9-3) imposed its will early taking the first two sets 25-17 and 25-21. They led 20-18 and were on the verge of a 3-0 sweep when the Indians rose to the occasion and claimed five straight points to take a 23-20 lead.

Back came the Eagles with three consecutive points to tie the set at 23 apiece. After the Indians made it 24-23, Oak Park called timeout when they had no timeouts left. A penalty point was awarded to Burroughs giving them a 25-23 win and plenty of momentum heading into the fourth set.

Burroughs trailed 8-5 early in the fourth but rallied to take a 13-9 lead. The two teams were tied at 19, 20, 21 and 22 before the Indians took control late and pulled out another 25-23 set win.

Bailey Carter (left) and Andrew Dalmada go for a block (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Bailey Carter (left) and Andrew Dalmada go for a block (Photo by Dick Dornan)

In the fifth and decisive set, Burroughs never trailed en route to the 15-9 win and capturing the match, 3-2.

Andrew Dalmada had four kills in the fifth set including three straight to give JBHS an 11-5 advantage. Ryan Van Loo had a block, Max Chamberlain added a kill and Cameron Capili had an ace and a kill during the convincing fifth set win.

“It says a lot about our young team. It’s crazy to see us rise like this,” said Dalmada, who ended the match with 14 kills and 12 digs. “At the beginning we were playing like individuals. Then we started playing as a team. We did our jobs for our teammates. This is real nice to see.”

“We knew it was going to be tough. The first two sets were really rocky but we came out strong in the third,” Chamberlain added. “We were getting into our own heads and that was killing us. But for us to comeback from that mentally was amazing for us. We believed. The bench and the crowd had a role in that too.”

Pepperdine-bound Max Chamberlain serves against the Eagles (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Chamberlain, who has committed to Pepperdine University, had a strong match with15 kills and four blocks.

Van Loo (43 assists, two blocks), Capili (16 kills, nine digs, three blocks, two aces), Matt Kim (14 digs, two aces) and Bailey Carter all played significant roles in the Indians’ resurgence from two sets down.

“We came together as a team and had each other’s back. It was a huge win for us,” said Van Loo. “We are a brotherhood and we all stay together. We have a great team and we keep prevailing. It showed here.”

Cameron Capili records a kill against Oak Park (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Cameron Capili records a kill against Oak Park (Photo by Dick Dornan)

The scintillating win came on the heels of Burroughs winning the inaugural Pacific League Invitational Tournament last week. The Indians have won five straight Pacific League titles and embark on their quest for number six beginning on March 27 against Hoover.

“For the early part of the season, we are right where we want to be,” Brinton said. “I don’t think this team is going to peak until late April. People are still learning new positions. We are trying to become more consistent in what we are doing.”

If Wednesday night’s inspiring comeback victory versus Oak Park is any indication, this Burroughs team might be in the midst of something special this season.







Burroughs Volleyball Aims to Continue Winning Tradition

Coach Joel Brinton speaks with his team during a recent practice (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Coach Joel Brinton speaks with his team during a recent practice (Photo by Dick Dornan)



By Dick Dornan
BurbankNBeyond Sports Editor


Burroughs volleyball

Burroughs volleyball

Like a freight train rolling through the flat lands preparing to deliver its goods to a nearby supplier, the Indians boys’ volleyball team has set on its own course in hopes of delivering another league title to the John Burroughs campus.

Having won three consecutive league championships from 2010 to 2012, Burroughs has the enviable task of trying to “4-peat” in 2013. Coach Joel Brinton has done a masterful job of building a program into one of respect and triumph.

Brinton has all the tools at his disposal to achieve his latest challenge.

“This year we hope to continue the tradition that we have kind of built over the last three years,” Brinton said. “We’ve lost a lot of seniors the last couple years but we feel like we have a good crop developing them in the off-season. So we are hoping for another league title and another deep run in the playoffs.”

Burroughs lost in the CIF Division III championship match in 2011 and in the semifinals a year ago. The Indians have been league co-champions with Claremont two of the past three seasons.

Senior Daniel Jacobs prepares to receive a serve (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Senior Daniel Jacobs prepares to receive a serve (Photo by Dick Dornan)

In order to defend its title, JBHS will rely on four seniors to lead them: outside hitters Daniel Jacobs and Daniel Marbach, setter BJ Lagmay and middle blocker Shayne Beamer.

“Our four seniors are huge especially two of them being three-year lettermen. They’ve been part of the growth and success over the last three years,” said Brinton, who begins his seventh season at the helm. “They are critical out on the court for us.”

Jacobs has quickly become one of the finest volleyball players in the school’s history. He currently holds the top two spots in the record books for most kills in a single season with 264 and 253, respectively.

“He has the ability to take over the game in a bunch of different ways; defense, serving, and attacking. There are not many other guys in the league with that dynamic ability,” Brinton said.

For Jacobs, being a part of the team and developing lifelong friendships are the most important facets to him. Winning is a byproduct of the team becoming one as a unit and family.

“Being a part of something like this comes down to the family aspect. I doubt any other school has the family that we do. We are very closely knit together and I think that’s what contributes to our success,” said Jacobs, who was a first-team all-league selection last year. “I would love to win league again and have another deep run in CIF. But what matters most to me is playing with my team.”

Like Jacobs, Marbach is a three-year letterman for the Indians. The senior tri-captain relishes his role on the team.

“All of our captains like to focus on positive energy,” Marbach said. “I need to keep people be accountable as well as be a support system. I have a dual role.”

Coach Brinton and the Indians have stood high atop the league perch the last 3 years (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Coach Brinton and the Indians have stood high atop the league perch the last 3 years (Photo by Dick Dornan)

Brinton will count on Lagmay, Beamer, junior libero Danny Casillas and junior opposite hitter Nick Van Loo to compliment Jacobs and Marbach in their quest to “4-peat.”

Burroughs and Claremont are the class of the Pacific League. Claremont returns the league’s best player while the Indians bring back seven lettermen and four all-league honorees from last season.

The two teams will meet on March 29 at Burroughs.

“I feel as a coaching staff we have stayed consistent with our philosophies. The kids have bought in,” Brinton said. “We know what to expect out of them and they know what to expect out of us. I am excited for the season.”

“We just have to play Burroughs volleyball,” Marbach added.



Burroughs Volleyball Coach Winning Battles On and Off the Court

BURROUGHS — Tonight’s cross town rivalry match between Burbank and Burroughs High School’s features two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum this boys’ volleyball season.

On one end of the court will be the Burroughs Indians, the reigning Pacific League Champions coming off a 34-5 season a year ago that ended only after appearances in the CIF Finals and in the Southern California Championships.

This season the Indians have barely missed a beat, rolling to a 15-3 start overall and a 8-0 showing in the Pacific League, a game up on Claremont.

Meanwhile, Burbank is in its first season of varsity competition after debuting its team at the Junior Varsity level last season. The Bulldogs are just 3-10 overall and winless in league, but are enjoying the battle even if they are losing the wars.

JBHS Volleyball Coach Joel Brinton talks to a couple of senior players. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Two teams miles apart in goals and dreams really aren’t that far apart in reality. Believe it or not, the Indians are not that far removed from being where the Bulldogs currently stand as it was only six seasons ago that Coach Joel Brinton started his program from the ground-up with only 12 players and a budget of almost nothing.

“It is pretty incredible to think about it like that, but it really is true that we have come a long way in a relatively short period of time,” Brinton says. “We did it a little different in that we started at the varsity level right from the start, but we really aren’t that very far removed from going through what they are going through right now.”

Now, with almost 50 wins in just over a year-and-half of matches the Indians’ volleyball team is thriving. It is literally the most accomplished program in the city. It is one of the few that has had both regular season and postseason success. It has cranked out players who have gone on to play collegiately. It has literally done almost everything a program can do except win a ring.

“Usually when the preseason goals are shared I here from the players first,” Brinton said late Monday following practice. “But this season I went first and I basically said our goal should be to get back there — to have another shot at a CIF Championship.

“When you say it aloud it sounds really lofty, but I really think it is realistic for us given what we’ve done so far — we just have to keep working,” Brinton adds.

Brinton says a combination of factors have contributed to the program’s success;

Robby Rudecki

Even following a season in which a half-dozen seniors graduated the Indians’ crop of talent is evident. Leading the squad is three-year varsity middle blocker, Robby Rudecki.

“He’s pretty special in that he can play all rotations,” Brinton says. “Usually middle blockers are not as dynamic and versatile and you want to get them out of the rotation as they approach the back line, but not with Robby — he is a do-all player in that respect.”

Additionally, the Indians also feature Ike Nwachie and Daniel Jacobs. Nwachie is more the typical middle blocker, one who coaches label a “big clumsy,” but he is powerful and he is talented. Jacobs has set program records in kills both in single season and career marks and is another three-year star.

The most important cog to the machine, however, might be a newcomer in setter BJ Lagney.

“He has found his identity and he is so important to our success,” Brinton said.

Burroughs also gets a steady crop of athletes who play volleyball competitively for the first time with the Indians. Freshmen coach, Art Yanez is also the Indians’ freshmen football coach. Young athletes who might in the past be encouraged to lift weights and prepare for spring football practice are instead turning their focus to the hardwood of the volleyball court in the spring. This transition has given the Burroughs program a leg-up on other programs in the area.

Brinton says he has also been fortunate to have found a solid coaching staff that includes Yanez, Brendan Van Loo, Josh Marbach, Frank Salmeron and at times girls’ coach Edwin Real. All have been vital to the program’s rise in some way, shape, or form. In the case of Marbach and Salmeron they are former players in the program and they were both part of the inaugural t eam. Marbach was the first player from the program to go one and play in college.

Burroughs High Boy's Volleyball Coach Joel Brinton demonstrates to his players. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

And then there is Brinton, who has worked at Burroughs as teacher only slightly longer than he has coached at the school. Following his first year on faculty in 2005-2006, Brinton started seeking feedback from other coaches on the faculty about starting a program after he learned he had a teaching position at the school in 2006-2007.

The school’s move into the Pacific League also seemed liked perfect timing for the former Crescenta Valley alumni.

“It was a league that had Arcadia and CV who were traditionally strong, but it wasn’t a real deep league overall and it wasn’t crowded with teams,” he said. “I thought we would have a chance to become something pretty fast.”

It happened faster than Brinton expected when the team finished .500 overall and made the playoffs in its second year.

“We got slaughtered, but it was an accomplishment to get in,” he recalls.

Brinton comes from a family of volleyball players and remembers seeing his aunt, Angela Collins, playing games at Cal State Northridge. And although he did not play collegiately he remembers being a part of some pretty intense pick-up games while studying at CSUN.

“All my roommates were on the men’s team,” he said. “I played with them on weekends all the time.”

Brinton has used what he learned growing-up around the game to develop a cohesive high school program from top to bottom.

Brinton’s success story is easy to tell to others. It is the next part of his story that is a little more difficult for someone like me to share — someone who has been fortunate enough to call him both a colleague in the Burbank Unified School District and a friend these last seven years.

Near the end of the fall semester a lump was discovered on Brinton’s thyroid. Doctors took a biopsy to screen for cancer. Just after the holidays, they confirmed it was cancerous.

The 30-year old who was known at Burroughs for his blossoming coaching career was taken back.

“It was surprising, obviously,” he says. “I was like… I have what?

For Brinton it hit too close to home, having lost his mother eight years earlier to cancer. His thoughts went immediately to his young family that includes his wife, Christi, and the couples’ two year-old son, Riley.

“You try to process and you immediately think of the people who you want to be there for… it really puts priorities into even better perspective.”

Brinton said the waiting between initially discovery of the lump and the diagnosis of cancer was the toughest.

“First they tell you it is more common in women, that they make-up about 70% of the reported cases of thyroid cancer,” he recalls. “Then after diagnosis they tell you the other part of the numbers, that in men such lumps are almost always cancerous.”

Coach Joel Brinton. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The numbers were too real for a man who is a math teacher by trade. Once diagnosed, Brinton began to focus on treatment. At this moment he considers himself cancer free and he says he never really felt like a victim, but as someone fortunate.

“The reality is I was lucky because it was caught,” he said. “I do not think of myself as a survivor, right now I see myself as a person who had a surgery. I do not want to compare my story to the many people who have really, really battled the disease, I almost feel like it would be disrespectful to them and their stories if that makes any sense.”

All indications have been that Brinton had a successful surgery to remove the cancer in his thyroid and that the cancer was discovered before it spread. He also underwent radiation to make certain that all the cancer cells were dead.

He kept the discovery and treatment of the cancer within a relatively small and intimate circle and has let others learn of his story only gradually.

“I focused on my family, and then eventually some members of my other family — my team,” he said.

Brinton said that he informed his coaches and his veteran players — the juniors and seniors — as the final preparations for this season were being made. His younger players still don’t have the full details.

“It wasn’t intentional, we just shared things as we felt it was right,” Brinton said. “They knew I had a procedure, they noticed changes (in me) but they only got the details as we felt it was appropriate.”

The fashion in which he dealt with his diagnosis is the same fashion in which he has built his program — one step at a time. In an era where too many young people look to jaded celebrities to find role models, members of the boys’ volleyball program at Burroughs have to look no further than the coach standing before them each day at practice. It is a story to tell indeed.