Varsity Volleyballers Aid Club Team

Peter Clark

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Club sports constantly face uphill battles. They are often underfunded, have limited practice times and endure varying commitment levels from members of the team. While the men’s club volleyball team combats many of these issues, they do enjoy one particular advantage: varsity coaches.

Greg Eickhoff '15, Austin Biehl '16 and Cheney Doane '15 practice serving at a recent practice.  Photos by Skye Vander Laan.

Greg Eickhoff ’15, Austin Biehl ’16 and Cheney Doane ’15 practice serving at a recent practice. Photos by Skye Vander Laan.

Former varsity volleyball players seniors Anna Conrad and Rachel Shober regularly coach the A and B men’s club volleyball teams. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Shober and Conrad put the two teams through practices. According to Shober, the experience has been both challenging and rewarding.

“People always say that playing and coaching are so different, but I never fully realized that until making this transition. Seeing the process from the other end has been really cool,” said Shober.

Rachel Shober '13 coaches club players.

Rachel Shober ’13 coaches club players.

When the season started, the two volleyball players held tryouts to get a feel for the talents of the players they would be working with. Along with tryouts, they had the players take a survey to gauge their experience along with their commitment level. These steps combined with a good player turnout made it possible to create an A team and a B team.

“This helped us figure out what people were feeling mentally and physically and how we could better cater to that,” said Conrad.

Anna Conrad '13 and Cheney Doane '15.

Cheney Doane ’15 and Anna Conrad ’13.

After knowing what the varying skill levels were, Conrad and Shober have been better able to cater to the two different practices. The B team practices consist of teaching more fundamentals and basics of the game, while the A team mimics more of the practices that Conrad and Shober were put through as members of women’s varsity. 

Sophomore B team member J.C. Brewer plays volleyball for the team camaraderie and overall atmosphere that the club team provides.

“The family feel is always fun. You can always count on laughs in practice, but you also get a competitive feel,” said Brewer.

The A team’s former captain, alumnus John-Henry Heckendorn ’12, set the bar high in establishing the standard for the club volleyball team. In his first few years, he utilized the help of former head volleyball coach Carolyn Papineau to coach their team. Just last year, Heckendorn approached first-year volleyball player Annie Sing to coach their team.

Max Lloyd '15 and Brian Glickman '16 practice their swings.

Max Lloyd ’15 and Brian Glickman ’16 practice their swings.

This year, senior Gus Friedman has assumed the responsibilities as captain and immediately approached Conrad and Shober to ask them to coach the team. While using peer coaches for club teams can oftentimes produce strange dynamics, Friedman believes that Conrad and Shober have been a good fit for the team this year.

“They love coaching together and its been a great dynamic for us. If I didn’t find a coach, I was looking at having to be a player-coach, and that wasn’t something I was trying to do,” said Friedman.

The team competes with club programs from large schools like the University of Oregon, University of Washington and University of Idaho at the tournaments they attend. With all of these schools boasting enrollments well into the thousands, the teams have more students to choose from in forming their teams.

Friedman says that it doesn’t get much better than when Whitman comes in and competes with the state schools despite being at a size disadvantage.

“When a school like Whitman can go out and beat UW or U of O, that’s what its all about. Going out and representing and having a good time,” said Friedman.

Under the tutelage of two seasoned volleyball players combined with an embracing of the underdog role, the men’s club volleyball team looks to turn heads by upsetting larger schools in tournaments this spring.