Tag Archives: Vanessa Walby

Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

female mentorssource

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!

Coaches Corner: On Changing A Culture

TEAMsource

Vanessa Walby is the new head volleyball coach at Washington University in St. Louis, but before that, she was the head coach at the University of Chicago. A perennial loser, Chicago had never even finished in the top half of their conference, let alone achieved a national ranking. So you can understand that folks were probably skeptical about Walby’s quote immediately after being hired:

“My vision for the program is within the next four or five year to have them compete competitively at conference and competitively nationally. My goal by the time the incoming freshman are seniors is that we’re ranked in the top 25 in the Division III NCAA poll.”

As crazy as it sounded then…she went out and did exactly what she said she’d do. Here’s how:

5 keys to changing a losing team culture

  1. Support from her administration. Walby was able to get a full-time assistant and a great recruiting budget. None of us operates in a vacuum and we need our administration to support our program’s path to success.
  2. Tougher scheduling. Like many teams that are used to losing, her team didn’t understand what it took to compete at a high level. Scheduling Top 25 teams helped show her team where they wanted to be and also helped prepare them for conference play in one of the toughest Division III leagues in the country.
  3. Changed the practice schedule. This was a two-fold change. First, she changed her practice times so that they made more sense for athletes at a highly academic institution. Secondly, she used her preseason for individual practices in order to instill technique and skill.
  4. Seniors were hungry for success. Whenever you take over a new team, the returners (especially the upperclassmen) need to buy in so that the path is smooth for whatever the new coach has in store.
  5. Winning a big game turned the tide. We coaches can say that we believe in our teams until we’re blue in the face, but sometimes they need some proof. Beating the team they’ve never beat or taking down a nationally ranked opponent can do the trick.



Changing a negative team culture isn’t easy, but it can be done. Hopefully these tips can help you!

The Vanessa Walby series

Coaches Corner: Vanessa Walby
Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

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!

Coaches Corner: Vanessa Walby

Walbysource

Vanessa Walby is the head volleyball coach for Washington University in St. Louis. Those of you who are familiar with Division III athletics understand that Wash U athletics are, and have been for years and years, at the elite levels of DIII. If you coach there, you’re legit.

And Walby is. She came onto my radar after her six year coaching stint at the University of Chicago (another great DIII institution) and the turnaround she engineered with that program. I was pretty familiar with their team pre-Walby, because I used to coach in that conference. What I remember was they were underachievers in a very tough conference. Fast forward a few years and she had gotten them consistently in the NCAA tournament and posting 30-win seasons.

I’m looking forward sharing some of our conversation and I know you’ll enjoy it, too. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • On the value of having a plan
  • Changing a culture
  • Female coaches mentoring one another



I’ll see you next time!

The Vanessa Walby series

Coaches Corner: On Changing A Culture
Coaches Corner: The Power Of Female Mentorship

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!