‘Love it’ – Keister thrilled for spring volleyball plan

Posted 7/28/20

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That was Scott Keister’s motto when he took the job as Northwest College’s head volleyball coach.

It now rings truer than ever.

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‘Love it’ – Keister thrilled for spring volleyball plan

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Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That was Scott Keister’s motto when he took the job as Northwest College’s head volleyball coach.

It now rings truer than ever.

The National Junior College Athletic Association announced earlier this month that fall sports will be moved to the spring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s growing impact. Heading into his first season as head coach, Keister isn’t stressed about the change; he’s actually embracing it.

“Love it,” Keister said. “Talking to the players, they’re pretty excited too.”

In normal circumstances, volleyball would begin practice at the beginning of August, with competition beginning just a couple weeks later. Now, the season will begin in January, with the fall reserved for a period of 60 consecutive practice days and a few scrimmages.

For a program bringing in 13 newcomers, having an entire semester to prepare for game competition may benefit the young squad.

“We now have a lot of time to get that cohesive unit,” Keister said. “I’ll take all the time in the gym we can get before we start competition. To be able to have them 60 consecutive days, somewhere between August and October, it’s a dream come true.”

Keister first arrived at NWC in January following the Trappers’ dismal 2019 season. Northwest finished the year second to last in NJCAA Region IX North, winning just three league games and posting a 6-21 overall record.

Before COVID-19 canceled in-person classes and workouts in March, Keister spent more than two months with the team. Because he didn’t recruit any of them, Keister spent time examining their greatest strengths and getting to know the girls.

Once classes went fully remote, however, it became harder for the first-year coach to stay connected with his team. But Keister still found a way to ensure they were staying sharp mentally and physically.

“Lot of phone calls, lot of emails, lot of texts, lot of FaceTime and Zoom,” Keister said. “It was weird for everybody, so we made sure they finished strong in their classes. Once they got a handle on that, we put them on workouts.”

Keister’s first few months in Powell have been about as tumultuous one could dream. But NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson is confident that Keister will handle the speed bumps well.

“It’s always a transition becoming the first-time head coach at the college level, but with changes, it adds a little more adaptation,” Erickson said. “I know Coach Keister is resilient and will do a great job. He has done a tremendous job recruiting and his passion for the game shows every day.”

Fall will look very different from past years with no official competition scheduled. That also changes the recruiting process. Normally coaches are unable to recruit at high school matches due to the overlapping college schedule, so they focus most of their attention on the spring club season.

For the most part, that will be flipped this year.

“It frees us up in the high school season to get up and recruit the high school matches a little bit more, which we never get to do,” Keister said. “We’ll try to make the club scene work. It’ll be crazy, but like everything else, we’ll make it work.”

Most recently, the program added two transfers from Sheridan College: Grace Trandahl and Emily Baumstarck. Along with the four returners, they will make up a six-girl crop of sophomores.

When the fall rolls around, Keister hopes to build on the chemistry that started developing at the beginning of the spring semester. He understands how team bond directly correlates with on-court performance.

“I think team cohesion is the big thing; team chemistry is something you can’t rush,” Keister said. “It takes time, and that’s why, in fall sports especially, you’ll see a team in late August or early September that’s not very good, and as they progress through the season, their team chemistry gets better. We hope to do the same thing.”

It’s no secret that Keister’s first season will be unprecedented. There’s still so many unknowns — such as the season’s exact start date, when the Trappers will begin that 60-day fall practice period and who the Trappers will face in their fall exhibitions.

But even so, Keister is embracing the uncomfortability, and he has lofty goals for his first season at the helm.

“This is a program trying to go from a six-win season to a 15-plus-win season,” Keister said. “It’s a little tougher now because we went from 30 matches to now probably 20 to 25. We may have to adjust that goal a little bit, but that’s OK.

“They’re hungry,” he said. “These kids are ready to go.”

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