Like most parents of teenagers, Kearny head boys’ basketball and volleyball coach Bill Mullins will often see his son William on the phone, watching videos. In this case, however, what’s playing is not the latest hit show on Netflix or Amazon Video. Instead, it’s volleyball on the screen and William is preparing for his time on the court.
“He studies it, he prepares. He goes on his phone and watches videos of other players. He studies the position and he studies the game,” coach Bill Mullins said. “He doesn’t just go to practice. He studies pro players, college players and top high school players. He learns a lot from that, not just about hitting, but volleyball in general. He studies film of what the other team does. He wants to learn.”
“Before we play a team, I usually like watching film if I can of the other team so I know where spots of weakness are or holes and who I should try to serve it to and what to attack,” William Mullins, a junior at Kearny HS, said. “I rewatch the games we play on TV so I can see what I messed up on, what I did good with and where I can improve on. I’ll also watch film from years ago of players to try and see what they did well.”
The hours of video certainly paid off for the younger Mullins and in turn, his Kearny team. The Kardinals, whose season came to an end last Wednesday in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section semifinals at Union, won a school record 27 games, including its first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship. And William Mullins, in his first year at outside hitter, set a program record for kills in a season with 286, while also leading the team in digs at 186.
Mullins’ record-setting play has earned him The Observer’s Athlete of the Week honors.
“I just try to watch film and be a student of the game,” William Mullins said. “I try to pick up anything here and there. Anything always helps.”
It comes as little surprise that when the possibility of changing positions came up before the season came up, William Mullins turned to his phone to help ease the transition from middle block to outside hitter. In particular, it helped him improve on the defensive end of the floor, enabling him to make the switch.
“Studying helped me a lot with how to approach playing defense, receiving,” William Mullins said. “I watched videos of what the college guys do. It was very helpful.”
For Bill Mullins, his son’s ability to play well enough defensively at the spot was the biggest concern about the switch, especially since William was playing soccer and basketball at Kearny when many of the other top outside hitters in the state were playing club volleyball.
William Mullins quickly quieted those concerns.
He recorded 12 digs in the Kardinals’ season opener at Memorial and before long, was Kearny top defensive player on the outside.
“He became a very good defensive player and that was a surprise because we had never seen it before,” Bill Mullins said. “How well he did defensively was definitely surprising.”
“It was a tough adjustment, but I felt like I was really committed to it and I focused on it and I trained for it,” William Mullins said. “And as the season went on, I was able to really progress at the position.
“I always followed my dad when he was coaching the volleyball team and I was always waiting for the date when I would get the chance to play. Now that I finally have the chance, and to achieve what we did this year, first time winning the County championship, setting the record for most wins in a season, it was all just very memorable. It was a great year overall.”
In Wednesday’s semifinal at Union, Mullins led his team in kills (13), digs (10) and blocks (3) as the Kardinals dropped a three-set heartbreaker. With that memory fresh in his mind, William Mullins has all the motivation he needs to have an even better senior season.
“Losing (to Union) hurts, but it serves as fuel and motivation,” he said. “When you’re working out or training and you feel like you don’t really want to do it, you can just remember what your goals are and how you fell short last year. Next year is my last year so I really want to make it count.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)