After spending two years at the sophomore level, Geneseo volleyball coach Joni Nelson has made the jump to varsity to lead the Lady?Leafs in her first varsity coaching role.
“I definitely knew this opportunity would eventually come with (former coach) Rachel Tharp having two young kids, but I didn’t know it would be this soon,” she said. “Faith Nelson (new sophomore coach and Joni’s sister-in-law) and I are on the same page with wanting to keep the program going. I thought about it for awhile and it is the best option for us and the program.”
Nelson, a 2007 Monmouth College graduate, ran track and cross country in college and was a three-sport athlete in high school playing volleyball, basketball and track.
Nelson is beginning her third year at Geneseo High School where she teaches earth science and biology, but it is her fourth year in the district because she did her student teaching in?Geneseo.
“I feel definitely fortunate to have had Rachel for the last two years because I was always able to see the varsity games and talk to her during the game,” said Nelson. “She was a great mentor and has given me advice.”
Nelson stated she has high expectations not only for her team, but for herself as a coach.
“I have high expectations about getting the program started from the beginning, which includes the lower levels,” she said.?“We are still in the process of figuring things out and seeing where everyone fits. I’ve had the juniors for a couple years now, and they know what I expect and that there is a lot to be expected.”
Even though she has only been coaching for two years, Nelson believes she is prepared for her new position.
“I’ve done a lot of camps, I know the game really well and it is just a matter of figuring out how my girls fit in,” she said. “I don’t feel a whole lot of pressure because?I played sports my whole life.”
Coach Nelson’s goals for this first season include the Lady Leafs having a winning season, creating more community involvement with the program and getting more support for the team.
Nelson admits the game has changed a lot since she played in high school, but she said she is adjusting through researching, watching the game and attending clinics, which have been beneficial.
“The transition from sophomore to varsity has been pretty good because the girls already know me so it has been a very smooth transition,” said Nelson. “The girls are ready to work hard and it has been nice that I haven’t had to talk about raising to expectations because they know and are ready to go.
“I really don’t have a philosophy. No matter who the team is I keep those high expectations and if the girls are willing to come in everyday then they will rise to those expectations. I like to stay positive and do more team-oriented activities.”
As for any changes Nelson is looking to incorporate in her first year, she said she is working with the girls on doing a little more on offense, like running pattern work.
“At the varsity level, you have to be able to run patterns to be able to hit against good blockers,” she said.
The Lady Leafs open their season at home at 5 p.m. Aug. 28 against Alleman.
“I am definitely looking forward to getting practice started and starting our offense,” said Nelson.
“I feel ready, but I will always be learning and going to clinics. It is always a changing a game, but I feel ready and prepared and will always take opportunities to learn more.”