Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

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When Vanessa Walby decided that she wanted to be a coach for a living, she went to her former college coach and said, “I want to be just like you.” She wanted to develop young women and she wanted to build something great. That sounds like a typical story until you find out that her college coach didn’t just pat her on the back and say good luck. She sat Walby down and they came up with a detailed plan for how she would accomplish her goals.

Now that’s mentorship!

When Walby started the newest chapter in her coaching story, she called her former coach. Amazingly enough, the coach not only remembered coming up with the plan, but reminded Walby that she was right on track.

This wasn’t by happenstance. Walby reached out to established coaches and asked them for guidance. This is probably a lesson we can all learn from…not to sit back and expect things to come to us. After speaking with her, Walby seems to have one foot planted in the past and the other firmly planted in the future…and it all seems to steer her present decisions.

Past.  Walby has an interesting history. She played for Kris Russell, arguably one of the best Division III volleyball coaches of all time. She’s currently at Washington University, which had another coaching great on its sidelines in Teri Clemens. She’s surrounded by all of this volleyball amazingness…is it a wonder she’s been so successful? She’s got crazy desire and passion along with an amazing support system.

Future. When you talk to Walby about why she loves coaching or her favorite parts of the profession, she’s very passionate about the impact she believes she can have on her players. Like most of us, she loves watching her athletes come in as nervous and unassuming freshman and leaving as confident seniors ready to take on the world.

So what can the rest of us learn from her story?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship. I’ve found coaches to be amazingly approachable and open to sharing their knowledge, but you’ve got to ask. They’re not just walking down the street asking people if they want to know more about coaching.
  • Then use your mentor. Walby used her connection with her college coach to meet all sorts of coaching hot shots.
  • Do a good job. I’m not saying we’ve all got to be nationally ranked in order for it to be worth your mentor’s time, but you’ve got to put your best foot forward. The mentor stuck their neck out for you, so you’ve got to return the favor by working hard and being prepared.



If you’d like to advance your career, get out of a rut, or just get better at what you do where you are, maybe a mentor would help you meet your goals. Can’t hurt to try!

The Vanessa Walby series

Coaches Corner: Vanessa Walby
Coaches Corner: On Changing A Culture

Join me in a series of interviews with successful coaches.  I believe what we learn from our coaching peers can be applied to our teams, our recruiting efforts, and how we behave as professionals. These interviews will be less Q & A and much more philosophical in nature, keep coming back to see who I’m talking to and what they’ve got to say!