Aug. 9, 2012
Phelps and Bearcats excited for start of practice
By David Boyce
For a little over a decade, Amy Phelps has prepared for what she will experience Monday morning at Bearcat Arena.
Phelps will toss out balls to her players in the first practice of the season for Northwest Missouri State volleyball team.
After one season as the assistant coach, Phelps took over the program as interim head coach July 12 when Jessica Rinehart stepped down for family reasons.
“I’m super excited,” Phelps said, “but on the other side of it, it is bittersweet because we didn’t want to see Jess go. Obviously, it presents an opportunity for me. I am excited about the opportunity.
“There will definitely be elements that will be the same. Alana and I haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for the season in our new roles. We had some camps preceding this so our planning time has been limited.”
Two years ago, Rinehart brought enthusiasm and discipline that boosted the Northwest volleyball program to heights never seen before. The Bearcats reached the NCAA Division II Regional for the first time in school history.
Phelps joined Rinehart’s staff last year in a rebuilding season. Northwest finished 14-17, but freshmen like Abby Graves, Brooke Bartosh and Bailey Vance gained valuable experience.
Those players are now sophomores and will be joined by six new freshmen who Phelps helped to recruit.
“I think it is huge that I’ve been in the program for a year,” Phelps said. “The coaching staff, minus Jess, is still intact. That is big in a sense I was the head recruiter last year so I know the kids coming in because I helped recruit those kids. I got to bond with the players we have who are sophomores.”
Northwest was picked to finish seventh in the MIAA preseason poll.
“One of the big things we are going to go after is control the things we can control,” Phelps said. “The three things they can control is their effort, their attitude and their enthusiasm. One of the other things I’m really going to focus on is being part of the process. You need to focus on the process. Every single day we need to focus on how we can get better and everything else will take care of itself.”
While many of the things that Rinehart implemented the last two years will remain intact, the program is now Phelps’ vision.
Her coaching career began in 2001 at her alma mater, Graceland. Phelps spent six seasons at Alaska-Fairbanks. She was also a graduate assistant coach at Northwest in 2003 and ’04.
“I think you learn along the way of what you want to do and what you don’t want to do as a head coach,” she said. “When you are an assistant coach you tend to understand the perspective of the players a little more because you are dealing with them. You are the go-to person when it comes to personal relationship. I want to keep that as a head coach.
“As far as being a head coach, you get to step in and do your best and take what you watched other people do and put that into play. I’ve had thoughts along the way of what I wanted to do and not get to put them in action. It will be fun to see how it will all turn out for me.”
In this digital age we live in, Phelps is only a couple of clicks away from reaching Rinehart.
Phelps knows as well as anybody how much Northwest volleyball still means to Rinehart.
“She is definitely someone I will keep in contact with,” Phelps said. “She and I over one season bonded a lot. We put a lot of time into this program. She put in a lot of time building this program. I like to keep her in the loop and I need her advice still. She has been wonderful giving me support.
“It is going to help with our team chemistry. It is one less thing we need to figure out. They will have to figure out my leadership and get used to that side of it. But you are not going to see drastic changes from the way Jess was. There might be some subtle differences here and there. But the overall focus will be similar.”
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