By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
Haley Brightwell, alumna, graduated with her Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in the spring of 2016. She stayed around campus working at the Recreation and Wellness Center (RWC) over the summer. The thought of staying and being a coach at the University of Missouri- St. Louis hadn’t as yet crossed her mind.
Brightwell attended Drake University for business her freshman year, then transferred to UMSL and played on the volleyball team as a redshirt. A redshirt is someone who practices with the team but does not play in games to save their four year eligibility. Brightwell continued her business undergrad with an emphasis in marketing at UMSL. In order to play her fourth year on the team, Brightwell joined the MBA program at UMSL. The MBA program is two years, so Brightwell was asked to be a graduate assistant coach her second year in the program.
She thought she was spending her final summer at UMSL. “[Head Coach Ryan Young] had an assistant coach so it wasn’t even in my thoughts that he would need an assistant. So I thought I was done with UMSL at that time.”
Through the MBA program, Brightwell started working for Clear to Launch Business Solutions. Since she thought she was done with school, she took a full-time position at the company over the summer while also working at the RWC. “I’m a huge fan of UMSL, obviously. I put a lot of time in. I’ve had so many jobs at UMSL I can’t even count. I feel super loyal to them. I’m also super thankful to UMSL. After I transferred here, I’ve had countless opportunities here. It’s really worked out for me,” Brightwell said. Coach Young reached out to her over the summer about the position since it looked like the other coach could not commit to the hours needed during the regular season and off season.
“It’s really tough on Ryan to hire someone who can put in part-time work, because he needs someone with him all the time… I told him that I would have to talk to my other bosses first to make sure that it would work out.”
Brightwell’s more flexible schedule allowed her to be able to make the time commitments asked of her with the position. Brightwell started August 1 and was telling the team about her new position by the end of July. The team had a bonding day on August 14 and practice started the following day.
From her experience being on the team as a student, she learned a couple things about coaching. “It’s a lot of behind the scenes work. Essentially all you see is what they are putting in in the gym. But there is a lot going on behind the scene. There is a lot of strategy that we have to think about when it comes to how we want to practice, what we want to focus on, what drills we need to work on,” Brightwell said. “There is a lot of strategy when it comes to understanding other teams. We have to watch a lot of film on the other teams to be prepared for the games. I didn’t see that when I was a player.”
Brightwell enjoyed playing more, but found out she also really enjoyed coaching “I didn’t know if I would or not. It’s big picture. I can work with every member of the team compared to when I was an athlete and it was tough to focus on everyone else when I had to focus on myself.” Brightwell said, “But now, it’s my job. I really like that. I can focus on everyone and make sure we are all working together.”
As a student assistant coach Brightwell’s job coaching was different than the part-time position she currently holds. As an student assistant coach, Brightwell would help the coaches’ out by running drills and other little things she could take off of the coach’s plate to help the team. “I wasn’t as hands on as a student assistant, vocally, communicating with them and I didn’t have as much time to put in since I was a student…But now I can put in a lot more extra time outside of practice.”
Usually volleyball plays most of its games in the fall semester, but they play skirmish games and tournaments that do not count towards their overall record in the spring. Volleyball recruits during the spring semester as well. Brightwell helped with recruiting in the spring last year and found it to be tough. They recruit from club volleyball tournaments, which is different than high school volleyball. Tournaments consist of about 50 courts of volleyball being played for about six to eight hours and coaches have to observe and evaluate skill level that is right for the school. Because of UMSL’s size, the women’s volleyball is Division II.
The volleyball team has 18 members, eight of which are new to UMSL’s team this year.
September 2 marks the beginning of the women’s volleyball team. Since it is the beginning of the season and they cannot study other teams’ film before the games, they are focusing on their own strengths for the tournament games.
“I’m looking forward to most the changes that Ryan and I are making to mentality,” Brightwell said. “Our physical skills were good, but because our mental game wasn’t strong we weren’t very good as a team. It is my role to improve our mindset.” Brightwell hopes to accomplish this with what she created called Team Talks. This is Brightwell’s first time teaching the mental focus and positive mindset to players and she is very eager to see the results of her labor.
Brightwell wants to remind players to be conscious of being able to go to coaches outside of practice. If a player is having problems either with their game or other matters, Brightwell wants to know what it is so she can help.
Check out their full schedule at the UMSL athletics page.