When Olympic Dreams Become Reality

Giuseppe Vinci could hardly sit still, eyes glued to the TV in his humble home of Milan, Italy. It was the 1996 Olympic opening ceremonies and Muhammad Ali was lighting the torch, sending goosebumps all down Vinci’s neck. Right then Vinci knew he had to be in the Olympics some day.

A few years later, in seventh grade, Vinci was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. His doctor told him he could no longer play volleyball, but that didn’t hinder his dream to someday make it to the Olympics. His zeal for the sport and his unique knack for computers later earned him a place on the managing team for four professional volleyball teams—including three Olympic teams—and unlocked his genius to create a volleyball data analytics software company.

VolleyMetrics is what they call it, first launched with the help of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology in 2015. The company wouldn’t be successful today without Vinci’s unique upbringing and ambitious character.

Vinci’s mother was an accountant who taught him to work hard and learn the language of computers. As a single mom, she sacrificed precious funds to buy him a laptop when he advanced to high school.

“My mom is awesome,” Vinci says. “She said stay busy and work hard.”

That is exactly what he did as well. During his third year (high school is five years long in Italy) he was sixteen when the volleyball coach broke his collarbone and was out for the season. Since Vinci was team captain, the school board went ahead and certified Vinci to become the head coach until they hired someone new. Vinci was so effective that they never bothered to hire a replacement.

After every game, Vinci recorded his team’s stats in his laptop using Microsoft Excel. Soon, he recognized patterns in the data, enabling him to pinpoint exactly where athletes could improve and how they compared to opponents. The team play improved, and word got out.

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Vinci during a Division I volleyball match in Milan, Italy.

Vinci not only made a name for himself in his province, but in his entire country, when he was recruited to work with the Italian Volleyball Federation as a scout coach for the Olympic Men’s Volleyball Team in 2006, just two years before the Bejiing Summer Olympic Games—his golden ticket.

“Going to Bejing was humbling,” Vince says. “I love sports and the fact that I couldn’t practice them made it a dream come true.”

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Vinci with the Italian Olympic Men’s Volleyball team at the Bejiing Summer Olympic Games in 2008.

Vinci’s dream continued to become reality as he traveled to over thirty countries with multiple USA volleyball teams before attending the London Summer Olympic Games in 2012 and the Rio Summer Olympic Games in 2016.

Through it all, Vinci continued to follow his mother’s counsel to keep working hard to get a degree. His American friends he met through the Olympics suggested applying for scholarships to colleges in the states, so Vinci applied to BYU after hearing about the competitive volleyball team and the Marriott School’s rankings.

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Vinci during his time as an assistant at BYU

“Recreation management seemed like a good fit for me and I loved working with the volleyball team,” Vinci says. “And when I had my business idea, the Rollins Center helped me launch my very own data analytics software company.”

The Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology provided a launchpad for Vinci to pitch his business idea. His software company, VollyMetrics, was officially created in January 2015 and now outsources data analytics for 70 percent of the nation’s Division I volleyball teams.

“I just did the first competition and the Rollins Center took me in their arms and helped me prepare for the next competition,” Vinci says. “They really pushed me to learn about the market and operations, and by the end of the year we saw success.”

Vinci was told he would never have a career in volleyball, he would never make it to the Olympics, and he would never get a college degree. But because of his persistent effort, he accomplished all three.