Home 5 Class of 2017 5 CHARLIE O’BRIEN
A pioneer coach, who is best known as the father of WNY volleyball, Charlie O’Brien is synonymous with the sport in the Buffalo area.

Charlie was a three-sport star from 1946-50 at Sloan High School where he participated in football, basketball and track and field. His prowess as an athlete earned him a scholarship to the University at Buffalo, where he started for two seasons on the football team and lettered in track and field from 1952-54. Upon graduation, he held school records at U/B in the javelin and discus throws. He was also the first U/B football player to receive a contract offer to play in the National Football League (Green Bay Packers).

Instead of pursuing career in the NFL, Charlie took a teaching position at Cleveland Hill High School, where he would be named athletic director three years later. He also picked up coaching assignments in a variety of sports, while being named Chairman of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Athletic Directors Committee, a position he held for 28 years. In that position, he was able to, first, have volleyball adopted as an extramural demonstration sport, and, second, was successful in having the sport receive full accreditation in the ECIC in 1964.

From 1960-77, Charlie built and grew a championship program at Cleveland Hill. Not much more than a recreational sport when Charlie got involved, volleyball would flourish under his tutelage. During his time as head coach, Cleveland Hill went an astounding 225-15 (a .938 winning percentage) and won 14 consecutive league championships and 11 sectional titles. His team never lost a home game and, at one point, ran off 119 straight wins. That streak was so prestigious that it placed Charlie in the Faces in the Crowd section in a February 1974 edition of Sports Illustrated.

His career as a volleyball coach is unmatched in Western New York. He was the first inductee into the WNY Boys Volleyball Hall of Fame (2010) and the Cleveland Hill High School Hall of Fame (1990). The WNY Volleyball Officials Association “Coach of the Year” award bears his name.

Because of Charlie’s passion for the sport of volleyball, Western New York has become a hotbed of talent for collegiate recruiters. Many of the area’s top players have gone onto national recognition, while several have earned spots in the United States Olympic development program.