Becoming A Coach

After reading Myles Dannhausen’s Jr.’s article “Rabach Aims to Raise the Bar” in a July issue of the Pulse, I became anxious.

The article calls into question the state of coaching in Door County, and I read it just as I signed on to be Gibraltar High School’s assistant varsity volleyball coach.

Dannhausen writes, “Anyone who has been involved in youth sports on the peninsula, either as a parent or a coach, knows how hard it is to find qualified coaches at all levels. Too often positions are filled by whatever warm body has the spare time.”

Gibraltar High School’s JV volleyball team from 2001.

This outlook took me by surprise because I had a much different experience. Rabach moved away from the area just as I moved in, in 1996. Between my years playing little league baseball for the Baileys Harbor A’s and high school volleyball, my coaches ran the gamut of technical knowledge and expertise, but my positive experiences far outweigh the negative.

One coach who left a positive impact on my volleyball career is Jon Ellmann. Ellmann coached my freshman and JV teams at Gibraltar, and I consider him to be my first “real” coach; he was the first coach who actually taught me something. What made Ellmann a great coach was his volleyball knowledge and passion for the game (the first playbooks I was ever given were hand-drawn by Ellmann).

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to see him again at a camp he led at Gibraltar. I was again impressed by his knowledge, energy and communication skills – the same as I remember when he coached my team.

Since his days at Gibraltar, he has made a career of coaching. Ellmann is a director and head coach at the Wisconsin Volleyball Academy, varsity coach at Lourdes High School and president of the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association.

Ellmann may not realize it, but he gave me a volleyball foundation that aided me through four years (three-and-a-half as starting setter) on the University of New England’s volleyball team. Being a part of that team was a pivotal part of my life that taught me how to communicate, be confidant and work hard.

After camp ended, I asked Ellmann what makes a good coach. He said, “The best coaches have an ability to take problems and situations and concepts that the players experience in real life, and draw parallels in coaching situations. And when they succeed or experience challenges they can look back and benefit not only in the arena of sports.”

Immediately I began to think of examples. This is the first example I thought of:

Volleyball is all about communication, without it the game falls apart. This sport does not seem fitting for a painfully shy, introverted person like me. On the court I had to yell, cheer, call plays; eventually I became a different person when I played. I felt fierce, powerful and smart.

I didn’t realize it until now, but I owe my improved communication skills to volleyball.

I left the camp feeling motivated – I want to be a good coach, to teach, to instill confidence in the players. What I hope to share with my team is my love for this sport and all the ways it subtly shaped and defined my life, even though this sounds clichéd. I played the sport because I loved it, and I coach because I love and respect the game.

All I hope to do is not lower the bar Ellmann set for me.

Gibraltar’s volleyball coaching staff also includes Lauren Bremer (varsity), Annie Alberts (JV) and Paula Anschutz (freshmen). Check the Pulse’s sports section to find game times for all high school sports.