Building Programs, Traditions, and Volleyball Talent
Building Programs, Traditions, and Volleyball Talent
There’s a thing about sports — you learn from those who inspire you to play, and later you take that knowledge to inspire the next generation. In this episode, we talk to our guest, Katie Rudd, about her time as a player and how she used the influences of her favorite coaches to help build some of the strongest volleyball programs in Frisco ISD.
In spite of the challenging fall 2020 season, Coach Rudd and the Reedy High School coaching staff were awarded Coaching Staff of the Year by the district. What’s their secret sauce? Coach Rudd shares some insight.
Enjoy this episode and other episodes of Hustle and Pro in our archives.
[00:34] Coach Rudd’s role models
[02:23] Establishing high school volleyball programs
[05:57] Benefits of other sports
[08:12] From playing to coaching
[10:16] A COVID-transcending staff
[15:50] Detecting potential in young athletes
Resources within this episode:
- Katie Rudd: Facebook
- Reedy High School: Campus Website
- Frisco ISD: Athletics
- Kelly Walker: Bio | Instagram @kelly_walkertexas | Twitter: @kelly_walker_TX
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco:
Welcome to Hustle & Pro, Season 2, talking sports and Frisco from youth to pro. Now here’s your host, Kelly Walker.
Welcome to this episode of Hustle & Pro. I’m your host, Kelly Walker. I feel like my guests and I have some similarities and maybe some similar personalities because I’ve read that people describe her as “passionate, loud, and outgoing.” So, welcome to Hustle & Pro, Coach Katie Rudd.
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Yeah. I’m excited to talk to you. Um, I don’t know you well yet, but I’ve seen you coach and I’ve seen you in action. So I’m, I’m ready to talk about a little bit about that. Um, to get a taste of your sports palette though, tell me who who’s an athlete you look up to, or who’s your favorite or somebody who inspires you?
So when I was growing up, I had a giant poster of Gabrielle Reece in my room, and some people probably don’t even know who that is, but she’s an older sand volleyball player. And, um, not so much that I love sand volleyball. It’s just that she was a volleyball phenom. And I just loved everything about volleyball from a very young age. But I would say somebody that I look up to is, um, Coach Karin Keeney. And she is at Hebron High School. I went to Lewisville High School and she was my, um, she came into, uh, Lewisville as, uh, when I was a junior. And so she came in with all sorts of rules and we were not really a huge fan of her, but then as we, um, got to know her a little bit more and as we became successful under her, she kind of became my role model. And as somebody that I look up to all the time. Still to this day, we, we talk and, and I enjoy, um, her knowledge.
So you probably can’t help, but take some of the things that you experienced under her as you build programs.
Oh, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. If, if you come into my gym and come into the, her gym, you’ll see. Um, some of the similarities. We, I definitely knew that she was successful from Day 1. I knew that, um, there were some things that I wanted to take. I actually did my student teaching under her as well. And so I was able to, um, not only play under her, but then coach under her or assist under her and then, um, you know, just continue to, uh, pick and choose the things that I think would be successful, um, with our athletes.
So, um, you’re at a school now where you built the volleyball program from nothing, right, brand new school? But then before that you were at Liberty here in Frisco. And was the program already there? You didn’t open that school either, did ya?
So, um, the first year that Liberty opened, they were at Fowler Middle School. And I was not there that year, but then the following year, I, um, I helped opened up Liberty High School. So I was, well, I was there with, um, Coach Womble and I was her Varsity assistant. And so we got to move into that building brand new and start fresh. They, uh, and I worked under, uh, Coach Womble for a really long time as well.
I always think that’s so interesting. Um, as a parent of a kid, um, about, you know, going to, uh, one of the newer high schools in town, um – which I think there’s some really good pros to that: you’re in an awesome new building. It’s clean and everything’s new and you know, it’s nice, um – but then I always worried, like how are they going to build strong sports programs in any kind of quick manner? Like “new” might just be “bad” for a few years and that’s fine. But, um, as a, as a coach, is that something that you guys had to think about a lot is how do you quickly build bonds and traditions and programs that are taken seriously?
So that was something that was talked about a lot. And, um, luckily our athletic administration, um, had us, um, talking about that early on and, um, Coach Cole and I, we sat down and talked a lot about what we want our programs to look like, and not only our programs, but we want what we want really athletics to be. And opening up with Karen LeCocq as our principals did a phenomenal job of guiding us and, um, kind of allowing us to, uh, pave the road of kind of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. And so it was nerv- or I was really nervous when we came in and opened it up with freshmen and sophomores. And the year that we opened, um, because we only had freshmen and sophomores and it was in between a UI failure, we were not in a district yet. We didn’t get put in a district. And that really benefited us as, as Reedy Lions just across the board, because we kind of got a, um, a year to play JV underneath our belt before we had to start competing.
The competitive pressure off to break, you know, your record.
Absolutely. So we didn’t really, you know, we, we were able to, um, kind of work out the kinks. We were able to do a ton of team building activities because it wasn’t just August 1 and then August 12, we’re playing our first district game or, you know, our first scrimmage and then, um, regular season game. And it, it, wasn’t just this pressure that we had. So we did a whole lot of activities across the board with, with all-girls athletics. There were lots of, um, times that we came together and we did, um, team building activities and we did, um, character building and workouts together and all of that stuff, not only did it help us build our program, but then just a whole, uh, across the girls, um, athletic program, we were able to build each other up the school and they make really strong bonds early.
It’s like, y’all got a redshirt year.
Absolutely. Yeah. And not every, not every first go school is, is lucky like that. Um, but just because of the year that we opened up, um, fortunately we, we got to, um, have a redshirt year. Absolutely.
Good timing. Okay. I want to rewind a little bit. So, um, I know that you were a multi-sport athlete. I played soccer and volleyball. Soccer and volleyball. So do you- now that you’re a head coach and you, and you are very close with these girls and you guys are really competitive in our district. Do you advise your players to do that since, you know, how that feels or does the coach in you want their full attention and their full, you know, focus on one sport, your sport.
I would love them to go play different sports. I think that, um, being a multi-sport athlete has so many benefits, not only on just the strain of your body and the muscles, you know, when you’re playing something else, you’re using a different muscle. I think I, however, I do think where we live it, a lot of the athletes start playing volleyball early and they, um-
They focus early.
Yeah. They, they don’t branch out because they want to only focus on one sport. Um, you know, I’ve, I’ve found lots of different athletes or I’ve found lots of different multi-sport athletes just as successful as kids who, uh, only go volleyball or only go, you know, one-sport. But I think it’s good for the body. I think it’s great to be coached by as many coaches as you can be. I think it’s great to learn as many different techniques, um, from teammates as well. I think it’s great to meet new kids, um, that, that kind of live a different life because they play a different sport. And so, um, absolutely I would love, I would love for all of my athletes to go out and, and do something different. Um, the great thing about Reedy is we work really well together. And so even though we have multi-sport kids, um, they can still come back to volleyball on the volleyball day. So they’re not losing out anything, um, if they go play a different sport-
Right, that’s awesome. And that’s, that’s something we are lucky here in Frisco to be able to do. And I think there’s a lot to be said, just for general athleticism when you play other sports. It builds different muscle groups. And like you said, different skills that you don’t use, and maybe you don’t, you don’t see the correlation on the volleyball court, but it builds athleticism and conditioning and all these other things that then can make a difference on the volleyball court that you didn’t even expect to have to change. All right. So I want to ask you, um, so you were, you were a libero before it was even a thing, right?
I, yeah, it was called a defensive specialist, but I also set as well.
Okay. Defensive specialists. Now everybody’s talks about libero. It’s kind of that buzz word now. Um, which, yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t know that either until my daughter started playing and I had to learn what that was. So how did your, you played in college. So how did playing college volleyball and that experience factor into knowing you wanted to go coach or if it did at all?
Well, so I started at a junior college and I think that was the best route for me to go was a smaller school. Um, and, and kind of, um, understand how things work before I, uh, just kind of went crazy. Uh, for me, I played it, um, NCTC, which is, uh, North central, Texas college in Gainesville. I played there for two years and then I transferred to Southeastern Oklahoma. And when I transferred, I wasn’t really sure if I, I wanted to continue to play. Um, it becomes more of a job in college and, um, it’s, it’s not as much, quote-unquote, fun, um, as it is in high school. And so, um, I kind of really struggled and I had to do a lot of self-reflection of like, what do I want my future to look like. And at that time, I didn’t know I wanted to coach, um, the reason why I kind of got into coaching is because once I decided to play and commit for another two more years, I committed 100%. And when I was done, I just kind of looked around and was like, “Oh my gosh, what do I do now? You know, I’m, I’m, I’ve played volleyball for so long, I poured so much into this. You know, how, what do I do?” And that’s kind of when I decided to start coaching, because I didn’t want to be done. I didn’t want to just be done playing my senior year and then have nothing else, um, volleyball related to do. And so I started coaching club when I was in college and I really liked that. And, and then that’s kind of where I started.
Okay, you did have overlap while you were still playing, you were, you were coaching. All right. So speaking of coaching, you and your crew earned, um, Coaching Staff of the Year recently when the Frisco ISD Awards were announced. So congrats on that, that’s very exciting.
Thank you. Yes, thank you.
That’s very cool. Um, I got to watch the program up close, so I think it’s great. I was very impressed being our first year in it. Um, it was fun even though this was probably the least fun season you’re supposed to have, right? But, um, talk to me about getting through this unusual fall season of 2020 and, and how your coaching staff was able to keep it together.
Um, uh, well, I, I will be the first to say our coaching staff is awesome and I would not have wanted to do this season with anybody else. And this is our first, this is actually our first year that we’ve had the same group come in, um, or the same coaches come in. So every other year, um, except for this one, we’ve had new freshmen coaches or JV coaches. And so, um, we kind of laughed at the beginning of the year. We were like, “Oh my gosh, this is the same crew as last year. It’s finally, you know, it’s finally happening.”
That makes a big difference though, right? Like that’s a lot of ground. You don’t have to go back and make up.
It’s so- it’s even the little things like, um, when you come in to Frisco, you have to do all of the new teacher, new teacher training. And sometimes we even have a new teacher or a new coach in this position. And so we lose that person for the majority of our preseason. You know, with a 10-team district, we’re playing district at the end of August. And so this person, this new person every year has had to miss a good two weeks of volleyball, which- that’s bonding with the kids. That’s learning our techniques. That’s, um, learning the pace of our program. Um, it’s really, really kind of difficult to, um, adjust to once, when it’s brand new. So absolutely this year, we, we got to, we got to keep all of, uh, you know, our, our staff. And at the very beginning, we came in with goals and personal goals and then program goals. And we talked throughout the year about those goals and the goals look different and some of them of the goals for the coaching staff weren’t even volleyball-related. And so I felt like it was my job to kind of assist these, um, these coaches to whatever they needed, whatever they needed this year from, um, an administration part, that’s what I wanted to do. And so we started that early. Um, we also do a really good job of having fun together. And I think that that’s important. Uh, we have Coach Miller and Coach Winchell, and I have been together, um, since 2016, and then Coach Swenson came in, um, last year and at 2019. And so we not only have fun, but we all have different strengths and weaknesses. And so we are able to kind of come together and make one really, really good, or two really, really good coaches because of all of our strengths and weaknesses. So kind of getting through this year, we had to take it one day at a time. And we learned that early because we got quarantined early in our varsity program. And, you know, we, it, it was never like, “Oh, this isn’t ever going to happen to us.” It was like, “When is this going to happen to us? And when it does, what is that going to look like?” And so this year there were so many variables. And so many times you had to pivot and you thought your plan was gonna go this way for the week, or your practice plan was this for the week. And then you, it, it wasn’t. You had four, you know, you had four kids and you had to pull up JV kids and, or, or with our freshmen, um, you know, teams, we couldn’t play this certain team this weekend or this week. So we had to kind of adjust. All year it was about adjusting. And luckily we do a good job of that.
And even when it it’s, so it’s one thing when it affects your own roster, but then the other teams would bail or for whatever reason, um, could play you. And then it changed up your schedule. But I think when you mentioned your coaches already being together, that was probably a huge thing. When it came time. I mean, we all knew at the end of last school year, that something was going to be different, not knowing how summer workouts would even happen, if they could happen all that. So like already knowing and having a layer of trust with your coaches probably saved you guys a lot, because think of how weird things have been. All the different precautions you guys have had to take. All the different, I mean, standing out and the temperature, checks all these things. With a brand new coach, it would have been a little awkward to have to ask those extra things as somebody brand new, but because y’all already had the year under your belt with each other, and then some, you were able to just like do it in stride and trust each other, and like just work together instantly and not have to question all of these really strange things that you had to do.
And this year they, we did a, we all did a good job of just taking the initiative instead of, you know, waiting for, uh, “Hey coach, can you go check, check temperatures?” As I’m finishing up an email or doing something I’m turning around and somebody, one of the coaches are grabbing the thermometer and going in and checking in all the athletes. And so, um, absolutely. I think that that helped the awkwardness that helped just the fact that there were so many things to do. And so many things to take care of that all of us, we just kind of, we kind of knew. And, and, um, it was, it was beneficial, absolutely beneficial to have this crew this year.
Yeah. And the girls are lucky to have you. All right. One last question. Um, I’m just always curious, especially in a sport like volleyball, how early do you feel like you can spot something like special in a young player, because there’s so many specific skills in volleyball that, um, you have to learn. Now I’ve noticed this because in my family, we’ve just played rec volleyball for fun since like second grade. And it’s always just been a, you know, a fun second sport or something like that. And now that we’re older, I’m just noticing, like there are kids that are just really good, really early. And I just wonder, like, as a coach, how, how soon can you tell that you have somebody that is going to be like that standout girl by the end of this four years and like go play in college? I think that I’ve learned to be very cautious making those, um, having those thoughts, or I definitely have those thoughts, but I don’t like to say them out loud. Um, because there’s so many variables that can change. And you’re absolutely right. There are some athletes that stand out early and, you know, they’ve grown really, really early and they, um, they’re taller than everybody else in eighth grade. And so they’re, they’re able to swing over people. Well, then, you know, two years later they’ve already hit their growth spurt and everybody else is now catching up to them. So I think our, I like to look at, um, characteristics that, you know, there were either, they were either taught or they have, um, learned from their parents, you know, the hard work and the work ethic and how they treat their, their teammates and how they listen to their coaches. Because I think that those things can change, um, a whole lot less than skill can. As a middle schooler, you could be really dominant on the right side, but then as you get up, as you go up, the levels our right side has to be a huge block. And at the varsity level, if you’re not a big block on the right side, then you’re probably not going to be playing right side. So then that means you are now switching what you’re absolutely comfortable. We’re asking you to play a completely different position and you may not transfer those skills that you had on the right side, because it is a completely different position. You are, you may not be able to transfer those skills as, as much as, um, you wanted to. So not so much of the actual volleyball skill or where they’re at in 6th, 7th, 8th, you know, 9th grade. It’s more of the, how they work well with their, or do they work well with their team. And those things you can stand, you definitely can stand out in, in middle school and early, um, with those characteristics, if you if you have those rights. So I like, I kinda like to look at those versus the, the talent, the skill.
So then on the flip side, do you see it to where you have late bloomers too, in this sport? I mean, do you have girls that are really, um, you know, they’re not your marquee girls – nine, ten, maybe even 11th grade, but then something changes and they either get stronger or something clicks and they just break out?
100% Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Very, um, very few kids or very few female athletes, I feel, come into, um, high school at a high level and continue to grow. Those are your special athletes. Those are your ones that are going to go play big D1. Um, the ones that were stand out as freshmen, and then they figure out how to continue to make themselves better rather than just peaking early, those absolutely I think can, can carry your program. However, the majority of, I feel like the majority of where we are is we do luckily, and fortunately we do have some of those standout kids, but then we also have some kids that just continue to work and grind and learn new things and are coachable. And so they continue to develop. And especially our, our taller kids, like our athletes that grew, um, all whole lot, really young, or maybe in middle school, they grew a whole lot and they’re over 6 foot or they’re close to 6 ft., um, those athletes absolutely need more time to develop and not only on the court, but just with quickness and agility and in the weight room. And so we’re not going to see the best performance out of a kid who’s a freshman, who’s 6’3 at, at when she’s 14. She needs more time to grow and, and lots more time to develop and try to get everything that she’s got going. She’s got to get it all, you know, it, you’re trying to get it all going. It just, it just takes time. And so there’s plenty of conversations that we’ve had and it’s hard, but we’ve had to have those conversations with some of our athletes. Like, “You will continue to grow. You are, you will be slower right now. You are not our fastest lateral kid. However, you will be that. And you just have to continue, um, working hard and, and trusting the process.” And that’s really, really difficult as a, as a high schooler is seeing in the future. But we can, we can see in the future, um, to a certain point, but with some of these athletes, we know that they’re going to be here. Um, but it’s just going to take some time.
Yeah. And it goes back to that mindset. They have to be willing to hang in there and put the work in, but I can imagine that’s one of the most fun parts of your jobs is to anticipate the growth and be able to be there for it and make it happen and shape it for them.
And when they figure it all out and they’re like, “Oh, this is what she was talking about.” Or “this is what it feels like.” Or, you know, anything, any of those aha moments where the kid hits a big ball or makes a great shot. And she turns around and she’s like, “I finally did it.” Absolutely. We love, we love and cherish those times.
Yeah. Fantastic. Um, well thank you. I know that you have your own family and you are Zooming in with us on over the holiday break. So I appreciate that. I’m, I’m shocked that you took my meeting request a few days before Christmas with everything going on. Yeah. It was fun talking to you.
Thank you. Yeah. This was a, this was a great opportunity. And thank you for giving me the chance to do this.
No problem. And thank you for listening to this episode of Hustle & Pro. Remember to subscribe and rate us wherever you listen to your podcasts, and we will see you next week.