After a search failed to find a permanent replacement for former Lady Trapper volleyball coach Shaun Pohlman, Northwest College has named former Pohlman assistant Bethany Conde as interim head coach for the 2018 season. The position will be reopened at season’s end.
Conde’s tenure as interim coach began this week.
“The whole thing was kind of in the works the last couple weeks,” she said. “We got all the paperwork done, and yesterday [Monday] was my official starting day as coach for the season.”
A native of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, Conde started playing club volleyball in the sixth grade, part of a program started by former Western Nebraska Community College head volleyball coach Chris Green. Green, now the head coach at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, followed Conde’s career through high school and recruited her to play for him at Western Nebraska. As a Lady Cougar, Conde’s team finished fourth in the nation in back-to-back seasons. During her sophomore year at WNCC, Conde got her first taste of coaching, working with the volleyball team of a small, rural school made up of fifth- to eighth-graders.
“It was kind of funny growing up, my family was like, ‘You need to go into teaching and become a coach,’” Conde said, laughing. “I was like, ‘Nope, I’m not doing that.’ It was something I never really thought I’d do.”
She initially planned to continue playing at a four-year program, but her career ended prematurely when she tore her ACL twice within the span of a few months.
“Instead of holding off for another year, I chose to continue my education,” Conde said.
She enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and earned a degree in elementary teaching. After graduation, she returned to Scottsbluff in 2011 to become a teacher. She agreed to coach freshman volleyball, and became an assistant soccer coach, as well.
“It kind of developed from there, and that [coaching] is what I really love to do,” Conde said. She did that for six years, until her husband, Hamidou, was offered a position at NWC as an assistant basketball coach for the men’s team; Conde, meanwhile, got on as an assistant with the volleyball team. The couple moved to Powell last August.
“This opportunity happened for my husband, and we were at that point where we were kind of ready for a change,” Conde said. “I quit my job and literally moved up here with no job, all I knew was that I was going to help Shaun [Pohlman] coach volleyball. But I lucked out and found a job subbing with the school district, and now here we are.”
Conde said she really enjoyed coaching on Pohlman’s staff, and was grateful for the opportunity to help coach a nationally ranked program. Pohlman announced in December that he was leaving NWC for Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.
“Shaun [Pohlman] is a great coach, and he has high expectations,” Conde said. “He does a great job of teaching the players, making them better.”
Conde admitted to some trepidation being named interim coach so late in the recruiting process, but knowing which players are returning from last season’s squad has given her a foundation to build on.
“From knowing what we have coming back, I know what we need,” she explained. “It’s not like I’m coming in blind, which is nice.”
After Pohlman left the program in February, Conde and fellow assistant Elisa Vichi, herself a former player for Pohlman, took over preliminary recruiting duties as the college began its search for a replacement.
“Elisa [Vichi] has been great, she’s very knowledgeable,” Conde said. “It’s really nice to have someone to bounce ideas off with, someone who shares ideas when it comes to practices and what we should do. I’m very thankful, because if I didn’t have her, it would be really difficult to come in with nobody.”
Recruiting proved difficult, however. Despite the program’s tradition of routinely being ranked in the Top 25, players were hesitant to commit without a coach in place.
“We didn’t know if they brought a coach in if these would be the players they would want,” Conde said. “We had people on our list, we talked to girls. We just didn’t get too serious with offering scholarships, because at that point, we just didn’t know. But now that I’ve been given that role, things are progressing really well.”
As for the players coming back, Conde said the team is fortunate to have three returning players at the setter position — spots that she said “can either make or break a team.”
“I’m very confident they [the returning players] will step up and fill that leadership role for the team,” Conde said. “That said, we’re still looking for quality players. Now it’s late in the game, but we can still be a strong team when it comes to teamwork. I want to be that team that never gives up. We’re going to work harder than the other team and put effort into everything we do, because that can really take a team a long way.”
“I’m not just going to settle for anybody to just come on and play Trapper volleyball,” she added. “There’s a tradition here, and I’m going to do my best to make sure I can take it through this next season.”