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  • Cooper Kemnitz

My Collegiate Experience

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

How I got started in volleyball. It wasn't the journey you would expect.

I decided to start my blog posts with an introspective look at my playing career and experience as an athlete because I knew it’d be cathartic to write about and because it could give all you wonderful parents and athletes a bit more information on who I am!

Cooper Kemnitz

So we’ll start from the beginning but don’t worry; that’s not too far back. So flashback to 2013 and you’ll find a scrawny-looking-Cooper playing pick-up volleyball with a bunch of friends from around campus. I didn’t know how to hit or set a ball yet and I couldn’t even contact the ball above the net but I sure did love playing. I remember I would practice my approach footwork and passing form in my dorm room and would have old volleyball games playing on my TV all day long.

One of the guys that I regularly played with was my residence hall director who happened to be the North Dakota State Libero when they won Back-To-Back National Championships. He approached me at the end of the year and offered to write our recommendation and bid to the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation if I wanted to start a club program at South Dakota State University. The only catch was that I had to do all the work to create and manage the club.

I won’t bore you with all the extra details that go along with starting a collegiate club program. My four years of volleyball were incredible; if you’ve already navigated to my coaching profile, you know that I played as a libero for three years and as a pin-hitter for my last year. I also approached the women’s team at my school and started practicing and coaching with them to get more court time which was the greatest learning experience I’ve ever had. I was an absolute fighter and a force to be reckoned with on the court. I pushed myself and others around me to the limits so that I could be the best. And all that hard-work paid off; I received awards and recognition all four years that I played and I was considered the best libero in our conference and by my senior season, one of the best all-around players as well.

Coach Cooper playing volleyball

It wasn’t until after my senior season that I realized most of my team and my body hated me. And I’m not downplaying it either! I promise! My best friend even uninvited me to his wedding! I suppose I wanted to tell this side of my playing experience in the hopes that athletes might not make the same mistakes as me and that parents have more insight into my coaching philosophy and methods. I was toxic. I didn’t lead others in volleyball, I dragged them to the finish line. I didn’t take care of my body so it could perform it’s best, I slapped duct tape on it and called it good as long as my pain didn’t exceed 5/10. I was selfish, mean, and hateful to the people around me and to myself. Even though I justified my behavior to myself and others, a person can only take so much before walking away.

Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending! I’ve worked heavily on my toxic traits in (and out of) competitive volleyball and I’ve made amends with all my old teammates. Luckily, my first year of coaching club taught me a lot about the type of athlete and person I want to be and the ways I can interact with athletes to help them with similar issues.

Coach Cooper celebrates a big point with his team

I didn’t really have a coach or mentor in all of my years playing and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to be that person for so many young athletes. I love not only training athletes on how to be astounding volleyball players, but also aiding in their development and showing them how to be incredible people.

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Coach Cooper

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