By Allison Lawrence
Since becoming head coach in late January, I’ve frequently been asked: How’s the team? What changes are you making? All natural questions given the context: a volleyball program that has struggled to find any consistency or identity for several years.
In the chaos of spring I saw it in random moments. During a lift, a practice or a match. A sincere huddle, a high-five after an error, a sprawl for a ball way out of range. Eye contact, emotion, fight, pride. In those moments I’d think, there, it’s right there. ‘It’ being everything we need.
I am so proud to be a part of this group. We are whole and come our first match of the 2017 season, we will be ready.
Here are some things that have changed:
Our staff: Giedre Tarnauskaite has become our recruiting coordinator, and Dana Cranston joined us on March 1. The wealth of knowledge and breadth of experience these two have brought our program cannot be overstated. They have lived every goal and continue to live every value we hold dear in our program. Their example has been powerful and transformative for our athletes. In order to be her, you need to see her.
Our numbers: This has been a breakout spring for us in the weight room. We have never had this many athletes jumping as high as we are jumping; we have never been this dynamic and explosive. Our strength coach, Brandon Ronan, has fundamentally changed our team and accelerated the pursuit of our goals. We have had 31 inches in vertical gain this spring alone. Five athletes are touching 10 feet or higher, with nine athletes increasing their verticals by two inches or more between February and April.
Our mentality: This spring we challenged the way we think. About everything. The way we think is directly linked to whether we reach our goals this fall. What we think – about our goals, our teammates and ourselves – will show up everywhere, in every decision we make in life. This is not a new idea. In fact, as an idea it is incredibly simple and obvious. But it is often the simplest truths that are the hardest to live by, day after day, and that is where our thoughts have the power to change our paths, our lives and this program. One decision – attend that extra study session, train at 100 percent, find ways to compete that bring the best out of our team and ourselves, give to the community, display humility, value optimism – at a time.
Here are some things that have not changed:
Our work ethic: Throughout my time here I have been surrounded by student-athletes who work extremely hard. Who have given everything they had to the University of Montana. I am extremely proud of all the sweat I have witnessed in the WAG when it wasn’t game time, when no one was watching, when it was just us.
Our gratitude: I have been fortunate enough to coach for the Griz for seven years, and I am grateful for everyone I have coached and worked with here. Montana Volleyball is grateful for all our fans. We have seen you every game, regardless of outcome, for years and years. We are grateful for your belief and your support. We are grateful for the opportunity to play the sport we love at one of the most incredible universities in the country.
Our love: Our love for this place is in everything we do. It is unwavering.
Our fans: Our fans are loyal, positive and LOUD. Thank you for all you have done for our student-athletes and our program, year after year. Come fall, you will be impressed with our athleticism and physicality. I believe we are stronger in many ways than ever before. You will also watch athletes compete who are committed to being at their best for you, for the University of Montana and for our community.
Because of both what has changed and what remains the same, I am so much more than hopeful for Montana Volleyball. People also ask me: How are you and the team handling the pressure? I think Billie Jean King said it best: Pressure is a privilege.