New coaching staff brings experience and afresh perspective
February 14, 2019
The Broncos entered the offseason looking to shift gears in the volleyball program. How? By hiring an elite—and partially homegrown—coaching staff.
Head coach Erin Lindsey, who was hired in December, joined the Santa Clara community from Stanford University as an assistant coach, where she helped guide the team to its eighth NCAA title in 2018. Replacing previous head coach Jon Wallace who led the Broncos for 20 years—Lindsey feels she knows what it takes to win.
“For me it’s really about setting up a culture where there’s a lot of trust—your coaches and your teammates have your back,” she said on her goals for the program. “I needed to find staff who understood what really matters when it comes to coaching, educating and mentoring.”
On Feb. 8, the coaching staff’s ranks were bolstered even more, adding Jeff Alizna, Nikki Hess and Bre Mackie.
Alizna—who has more than 25 years of coaching experience—will be joining Santa Clara following his most recent position as assistant coach for the UCLA beach volleyball program, winners of last year’s NCAA beach volleyball national championship. Perhaps most notably, Alizna’s tenure also includes serving as head coach for both the USA Men’s National Team in the 2004 Olympics as well as the United Kingdom national team in 2007.
In addition to his work at UCLA, he spent the last five years serving as the head coach for the USA Volleyball Men’s Elite Development Group, training athletes in preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
According to Alizna, there’s a “ton” of room for growth and opportunity at Santa Clara.
“The beach program has never totally gotten off the ground here, and the indoor is ripe for resurrection,” he said.
Alizna says he views coaching and teaching as equals, and that a lot of life is learned through sport. He values his strong people skills, which he feels allow him to establish trust from his players as a coach.
“There’s no best way to communicate, I feel like it’s all about having an array of choices on how to reach people, and learning about that person as an individual so that you know what connects you best to them,” he said. “And the biggest piece of communication is trust. They have to trust you before they are going to listen. Otherwise they’re just going to be hearing words.”
The experience in coaching Alizna brings to Santa Clara is both deep and wide-ranging . Being an Olympian and an NCAA Champion, he believes, gives him the right skill set to turn around the program.
New assistant coach Hess is an alumna player of Santa Clara where she was a threetime First Team All-West Coast Conference selection and team-leader in kills in all four of her years as a Bronco. Upon graduating in 2017, Hess played professionally for Genève Volley in Switzerland and simultaneously coached 15 to 18 year-old club players.
“It didn’t feel like work when I began coaching,” Hess said. “It just felt like I was going to play volleyball, but not to work.”
Having played for the university, Hess feels that she adds a unique perspective to the program. She already knows many of the current team members individually and how they react to feedback, which is an important aspect of her coaching style. Hess wants her constructive feedback to develop her players into better athletes.
Mackie will join the staff as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator after spending the last two years assistant coaching for University of Nebraska, who won the NCAA Championship in 2017. She also played professionally abroad in the Philippines and in Switzerland.
Head Coach Erin Lindsey feels that creating a positive student-athlete experience can transfer onto the court and into the players’ daily lives.
“I want to create a space where young women feel empowered to get better and leave the experience feeling they can attack life and do whatever they want to do,” Lindsey said. “And so for me that’s my why. That is my main goal all the time.”
Santa Clara’s first beach volleyball game of the new season—featuring coaching debuts from the new staff—is Feb. 23 against at UC Berkeley at Berkeley.
Contact Lacey Yahnke at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.