Veteran coach Kim Metz begins her 30th season as head coach of the Tigers with back to back state titles and plenty of holes to fill.
Jackson Center – Getting to Jackson Center High School Tuesday morning turned out to be a difficult task.
The school is undergoing an extensive addition, and most streets leading to the school are closed.
A construction worker finally moved an earth moving machine to give Julie Wright and me access to a back parking lot, and we entered the school through the kitchen and cafeteria.
Once we found the main office and volleyball coach Kim Metz, who is also the Assistant treasurer for the district, we discovered the school isn’t the only thing under construction.
“Yeah, that’s a good one-liner,” Metz agreed, relaxing in her new office after a morning practice. “We lost 7 seniors from last year (a 30-0 state championship team) and are starting a little bit from scratch. We are bringing in some inexperienced kids that haven’t really seen the speed of the game, except maybe club season. So we have had to do a little more fundamental work than we have in the past.
“We do have some athletes, and they are realizing a dream that they have had since they were little. We talk all the time about it being their time to put on that uniform, and to be mentally tough and not let outside influences affect the team. They do have different roles than in the past, so this time is all about moving forward.”
The Lady Tigers have put some heady numbers together the past three seasons. Jackson has won 84 of its last 86 matches, and, of course, have won the two big trophies that sit in Metz’s office.
“We tell the kids that it is their time to build their legacy. Obviously, we are aware of what we have done, but the past is the past. It doesn’t buy us anything this season. We can be assured that every opponent we play will have their ‘A’ game. Even though the kids are different, we will get everyone’s best shot. So, our kids have to be aware of that and push forward so we achieve what we want to achieve.”
Metz said that having a younger team this year has made her change her approach from the past few seasons.
“In practice, I have had to step back a little bit to help build the kids into what they need to be. I go back to the first five years I was coaching. Where did I find the passion to make teams better, to make players better, to make that individual skill something we can build with throughout the season? That’s what this season has been like so far.
“You coach because you want to teach. It’s easy to walk into a gym with amazing athletes every day.. That might be fulfilling, but to me it was simple to help those kids fulfil their dreams. Once you have accomplished those goals, you walk a little straighter, it gives you confidence to know that you have done what you set out to do some 30 years ago. The last three years have shown me that everything you go through as a coach has been worth it.”
So, who are the Lady Tigers to watch in 2017?
“Raquel Kessler (6-1 junior) is going to be one of those players that is on everyones radar. She is one of our offensive weapons and will be keyed in on by the opposing team. She will have to make sure that she is doing everything to help the others push forward. Last year she was in a rotation on right outside, but this year she will probably be swinging from all three positions because that is what we need her to do.
“Katie Sosby (5-4 junior) is our returning libero. Last year was a learning experience for her, but her leadership has been a nice gift. She is a talker, she keeps moving around the court.
“Madilynn Platfoot (5-3 senior) is stepping into one of the vacant setters role for us. She is a good vocal leader and an extremely hard worker. I enjoy having her in the gym. She is a very positive kid that every coach enjoys having.
“Connor Pipke (5-6 senior) will be one of our left-side right-sides. Those four are the returners that had an impact on what we did a year ago. Their roles will be somewhat different, of course, but they are the ones that had the most experience with the varsity.”
Metz is also looking for contributions from two members of last year’s junior varsity team.
“Junior Caroline Frieders is taking the other setter role. This is what she has always wanted to do and really plays hard. The other player is Elizabeth Hickey. She is one of the hitters that we will rely on. Just a sophomore, she is a tall, lanky kid that we are working with to gain consistency. “
I asked Metz if she thought, after all the Tigers recent success, this team might have to learn what it’s like to lose. The coach did not like the question.
“I don’t think you ever want to learn how to lose,” she said, shaking her head. “Learning to lose makes you a subpar individual, and you always want to be pushing forward to the next level. At the same time, there is the understanding that there are going to be some hiccups. You don’t want to hold on to those too long. You always want to keep moving forward. No one wants to admit that they might stumble, but we want to keep working to minimize those times as much as possible.
As she enters her 30th season as the Tigers’ head coach, it’s obvious that Kim Metz still loves the game of volleyball, and she still has her passion for teaching. What will tell her it’s time to step aside?
“Well, I can’t use my right shoulder and I think I will have to have that investigated further. So my body is starting to show the signs. But I still love going into the gym. As long as I enjoy going into the gym, and working with the kids. Sure you want to be successful, and the last few years have allowed me to enjoy going into the gym more.
“I don’t know if I can give up what I have worked my whole career for. I have a number in the back of my head when it may be time, but I don’t know. Bruce (husband) is the village administrator and he loves what he does. It’s really a big part of what we have become. We love what we do. Love being with the kids, love being with the people.”