|Coach Jill Kramer led the Mountaineers to their first 20-win season since 1991 in 2013, while recording her 50th career win in the season finale on Nov. 30.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University volleyball team achieved many firsts in 2013. The Mountaineers posted their best start in program history (10-0) and recorded their first 20-win season since 1991. Following her record-filled fourth season as head coach, Jill Kramer sat down to reflect on some of the accomplishments in 2013 and the overall growth of the program.
Q: After a little time to reflect on the accomplishments of this season, what do you take away from the 2013 WVU volleyball season?
A: Growth. We grew as a team and as a program this year in a very positive direction. We took a few big steps in the right direction, and we want to keep that going. We have grown in the past, but we were the only ones that could really see that – sometimes you have to take a few steps back before you go forward, and that’s the type of ‘progress’ we were seeing the past couple of years. It’s been really great to see the players rewarded for their efforts and for our fans to really begin to get involved in our program.
Q: Home attendance is drastically increasing. In fact, three of the seven largest crowds in program history came this season. And, a Coliseum record of 3,112 fans attended the match against Texas last season. How pleased are you with the direction this program is headed?
A: I am happy that we are headed in the right direction, but I see so much more room for growth! Mountaineer Nation is just starting to get a taste of what it’s like to have a competitive volleyball program, and I think they are really enjoying being a part of our success. Learning the game is a process for volleyball fans and the best programs in the country don’t only love to watch their team, they also love to watch good volleyball. I’m excited to bring more new ideas to help our fan base grow and to get our crowd even more involved. I would love to get our student section more involved.
Q: What do the players, coaching staff and Mountaineer volleyball fans need to do to continue to help this program reach new levels?
A: Fan support equals great recruiting classes for our future, not only for volleyball, but for all sports. I hope our fans realize what an integral part they are to our future successes at WVU – we truly need you. Mountaineer volleyball fans can start by adding us on their social media sites - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - and get the buzz going about WVU volleyball. Next fall, we need to take another step forward in attendance. If you’ve been coming to matches this year, bring a new friend with you next year. I believe strongly that when you come to one of our matches you will want to return. Our team is very personable, and our fans always have an opportunity to meet our players following each match. The top players in the country want to play in front of the best crowds in the country. Our fan base is growing, and we are thankful for all of the support - we need it to continue to grow.
I think we had a ton of really exciting matches this season with high-level volleyball. We have some very key areas we will be working on, both individually and as a team, throughout the spring and summer before we hit the court next fall, and we will be sure to keep everyone updated on our progress.
Q: You had the opportunity to volunteer your time with some community service projects throughout the season. How was that experience, and how important is it for the student-athlete to experience more than just volleyball while at WVU?
A: We preach to our team a lot about how important it is to be a giver on the volleyball court and I think that giving in Morgantown, the state of West Virginia and other Big 12 communities is equally important. Our players need to realize the power that they have as a group to make peoples’ lives better by offering a helping hand – it’s our staff’s responsibility to not only help them understand their role, but to also create opportunities for them to do so. We undoubtedly become a better team and better leaders by upholding the practice of servant-leadership.
Q: How fulfilling is it to see your student-athletes rewarded for their hard work and commitment in the offseason?
A: Nothing is sweeter. I love them all dearly. I want nothing but the best for them and hold myself at a very high standard to help them get what they want.
Q: The Big 12 has brought with it a strenuous travel schedule. How have your players adapted and what is your overall take on travel requirements?
A: As luck would have it, it actually has a lot to do with the way we recruit. Our players enjoy spending time with one another, so we travel well together. I don’t recruit players who whine and complain. It’s not allowed on our team and when you look at things with the ‘glass half full’ attitude, everything is easier. Traveling as much as we do is actually an athlete’s dream! You get to travel to and play in all types of great volleyball environments with your best friends – who would want anything more? If traveling as much as we do is what it takes to play in one of the best volleyball conferences in the country, I’m all for it.
Q: You’ve now reached 50 career wins. Have you changed as a coach after four seasons? If so, how?
A: Absolutely. In my case, like most assistant coaches who become head coaches, you need to change your focus and attention from a few things to many things. I tended to be a bit rigid in some areas when I first arrived here, instead of letting myself see the big picture. I’m still a ‘players coach.’ I don’t think that will ever change; I just may approach that a bit differently as I continue to grow. I approach each team (so each semester) a bit differently based on our personnel. Since people are at the core of what we do, and I think that’s important.
We’ve done a good job as a staff getting the right people and the right volleyball players here, not just one or the other. I’ve learned to trust my players even more than I did in the past, and spend more time teaching them how to trust themselves (rather than to just do what I say). I would be interested to hear how some of the players that have been here a bit longer think that I have changed.
Q: Looking forward to next season, you return all your starters. What’s next for this program?
A: We can’t look too far ahead. We have to ‘win the spring’, then ‘win the summer’ before we can ‘win the fall’. We must have the same type of effort and commitment from each of the players and our staff that we had this time last year. We will keep our focus on our process daily and see where that takes us. We have big dreams that we want to make reality, but staying focused on the process is what will get us there.