Photo by Joe Kerlin
Amanda (Murphy) Anderson has been an assistant volleyball coach at Saint Benedict’s for 13 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in human performance and fitness from NDSU in 2003, and thought becoming a personal trainer was where life was going. She found coaching and fell in love. Today, she’s dabbling in both interests as an assistant volleyball coach and assistant campus recreation director, where she supervises group exercises and intramural sports at St. Ben’s.
Bison Illustrated – Not only are you the assistant volleyball coach, you’re the assistant campus recreation director. What type of challenge is that?
Amanda Anderson – Yeah, what’s really common in Division III is that you wear multiple hats so it’s funny that you say that. Our AD (Glen Werner), he used to come in and say, “What hat do you have on? Do you have your campus rec hat or your volleyball hat?” He used to joke about that all the time. It gets challenging at times, usually when I’m on the road for volleyball.
Especially when you make deep runs in the tournament like you have been the last few years.
Yeah, we’ve made eight out of the last 10 NCAA tournaments. We had an Elite Eight run in 2008, won the conference in 2009 and then, on top of that, we travel abroad every three years.
I want to talk about that, but first, I want to touch on the dynamic with Nicole Hess because she became the head volleyball coach a couple years after you’ve been the assistant.
I put my application in for the head job, and it was a hard decision because I didn’t know. This job is amazing. I love it. And it was a hard decision because it would’ve been more nights on the road recruiting away from my family, and at that time, I’d just had my first daughter (Josie). I knew Coach Hess because she was the head coach at the time for St. Kate’s so we had competed against each other. We actually started talking to each other on the phone throughout the entire process and I just got to know her and who she was. We bonded quickly, so I knew that we were going to gel well and we had the same coaching philosophy and she is a road warrior. So I decided to pull my application out and I kind of talked to the AD like, “As long as it’s her, I’m fine. If it’s someone else I might need to put my app back in there.”
What’s the hardest part of recruiting at the Division III level?
Not only do they have to excel athletically, but they need to excel academically. That’s a big thing here because, to get the academic scholarships, they have to get high merits. High ACT scores, high GPAs. It’s a big deal.
Is that one of the biggest differences between Division III and where NDSU was when you played?
Yeah, academically, it’s big. The game itself is definitely different. I would say Division III draws smaller players. They jump high, a lot of them are coming in with 23-inch, 24-inch verticals, but a lot of the players here could play Division II, they just choose the academic experience over the athletics.
So you’re saying athletically there’s no real difference?
The size is different but they play just as high. The big difference is in the spring we only get seven practices here, where Division II, Division I you start up right when you come back from Christmas break. We encourage all of our players to go abroad, which is not something that’s highly encouraged in Division II or Division I. And we also really encourage our players to play two sports if they want.
What’s been the biggest learning experience for you in developing as a coach?
It’s been very humbling to work under the coaches I’ve worked under, and to know what I was taught as a player and what I was taught as a coach is really relevant and it’s efficient and what works. Even what I was doing back in the early 2000s, what Zaundra (Bina) was teaching us back then, it’s still what our philosophy is here. And it still keeps us going with our core philosophies as a team, which surprised me. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to be coached by someone like Zaundra and Jim (Kramer). It’s fun, because it’s still today, we’ll go to the gym and do drills that I was doing back at NDSU, so I really feel like our team has kind of molded into what my team was at NDSU, which I really like, and then Nicole is able to bring in some stuff from St. Olaf and now we just hired another Bison alum that’ll be joining us in the fall, Mattie Parsons. She played at NDSU under Erich (Hinterstocker) and Kari (Thompson), so it’s exciting.
How do you apply Bison Pride to what you do now?
Well coaching-wise, it’s come in huge because there’s so much of what I did as a player that I like to implement here now as a coach and we have Blazer Time which is, if you’re five minutes early, you’re late. It’s kind of what it was like at NDSU and Bison Time. I felt like respect was big at NDSU. You respect each other, you respect your teammates, you respect yourself and you respect your opponents, and we’ve really brought that in here. Especially with the Me generation, I find that we’re teaching some manners like saying please and saying thank you and having face-to- face conversations versus getting text messages about playing time. And then with the Me generation parents, not only are we recruiting the player, we’re recruiting the parents and we have to set rules and boundaries with, if you email us about playing time, it’s going to go to your daughter, whether you write that in the email or not. But, I feel like, just NDSU and Bison, in general, have such a top-notch, respected program around the country and I’m proud to say that we have implemented a lot of those values into our program here and I really like that.
You’re doing the coaching year-round and sprinkling in the campus recreation job. Why do you love being the assistant campus recreation director?
Well, I just love sports in general, and I love that people have the opportunity to be active, no matter what athletic level they are. So our recreation club, which is our biggest league on campus, we get around 40 teams, which is crazy for as small of a school that we are. They do silly things. We had one team that, every time someone made a mistake, they had to take off an article of clothing and we had to set some boundaries there (laughs). So I mean they just come in to have a good time and they meet people and I love seeing that side of it. And again, the teaching how to be healthy and have an active lifestyle is really important for me and watch my students, make sure they’re continuing down that path too.
So 12 years here, going on 13th, will there be a 15th? 20th?
I hope so. If I could be here forever, I would be. I love it. It’s perfect. I love the flexibility, working with women. We kind of get the best of both worlds. It’s an all women’s college but yet we get the co-academic experience. Parents love it because their daughters live on our campus, there’s no glass ceiling here. We want them to be doctors, CEOs, CFOs. We want them to be as successful as they can be. We want them to travel the world. We want to open their eyes to new experiences. It’s women-first here all the time, in every program that we do, which is really exciting. I joke that we have the best-smelling training room in the conference, other than maybe St. Kate’s cause there’s no guys in there. Women’s volleyball and women’s basketball, we don’t have to get men’s basketball in there, in the mix. And any men team’s that contact us for space here, they have to stand behind all the women’s teams here. I love it.
Which is to your advantage because sadly I think there are some places where that’s not the case.
There are. Even when we go to our national recreation conference, it’s amazing how many people have difficulties getting all women’s intramural programs going at their institutions and here we don’t have that problem. We do co-ed too, but we get all women’s three-on-three basketball leagues, four- on-four volleyball leagues.
Is that a big selling point for you when you’re on the road recruiting?
Absolutely. Having our own facilities and the women-first mentality is big. Now, however, all women’s colleges do sometimes deter, but with us having that partnership with St. John’s, you could walk around, you would never know this is an all women’s college. When they come on their visit, they have no idea.
So where have you all been as a team?
Ireland, Italy, Spain and I’ve also had the opportunity to do a short- term study abroad experience to London in 2012, so I also have gotten to go to London.
How does that help the team?
Well I think it’s good bonding experience for us to get to know the parents, and then also just creating a–in every college setting, getting a donor base is important so it’s nice to get to know the parents if we want to talk to them about why it’s important to give back and so we do some of that. A lot of our parents are alumni, and they want to come with and just watch and cheer. So we invite them with, too. This year, our head softball coach came with (to Ireland), sports information director got to come with us, so it was nice having her along so she could update our blog and do all that stuff. We played three matches while we were there. You had some time to get out there, see what you’ve got. And then the years we go abroad, we get 10 extra practices. Not only is going abroad valuable because we’ll have maybe, I mean we had three players this year who didn’t even get on the court, where over there they got significant playing time.
You were talking about your three kids earlier…
Yep, so I have Josie who’s 7. I have Hattie who’s 3 1⁄2 and then Lyla who’s 2. She’s named after her grandpa Lyle (Anderson) since we didn’t have any boys.
Do they ever come by to watch you coach?
Oh yeah, they love it. My 3-year- old Hattie calls it volley games, “I’m ready to come to the volley games.”
Don’t change that. Someone will down the road but it can always be volley games to you.
Yeah, she is probably the most competitive. She right now gets upset if her older sister gets dressed faster than she does.
So you’ve found the competitive one?
Yeah, at 3. So if they don’t go to NDSU and play volleyball, I would love for them to come to St. Ben’s.