New coach Eric Ragan brings new approach to volleyball

Photo by Sarah Ruiz.

By Amelia Johnson-Post
johnsonp@grinnell.edu

New Pioneer volleyball coach Eric Ragan ’12 is bringing a new energy to the Pioneer volleyball team. Ragan’s system emphasizes communication, inclusivity and non-punitive instruction during practice.

After qualifying for the conference tournament last year, the team is hoping to achieve back-to-back winning seasons, something the team has not done since 2001. Going forward this season, team members Margaret Giles ’18 and Sydney Vrecenar ’18 say that Ragan’s coaching will catalyze this effort to repeat last season’s success.

Team building is stronger than ever under Ragan’s guidance, and behind every successful team is open communication.

“I think communication played a huge role in our team’s culture shift,” Giles said. “Creating an atmosphere where everyone felt that their voice could be heard was vital. In the day to day, the most obvious shift [since Ragan’s arrival] was the increased positivity in our interactions.”

Coach Ragan’s influence has tangibly changed results from practice to gameday.

“Coach has implemented things in all sorts of areas of our practices that encourage this new environment. For example, Coach has made us all change the way we serve so all of us are trying to learn to jump float,” Vrecenar said. “To encourage us to aggressively give it a shot, there’s a rule that when we play in most drills, a missed serve doesn’t count as a point for the other team. As a result, we served incredibly well this past weekend.”

Ragan’s culture shift has trickled down to impact the way the team interacts with one another.

“Right before we start warming up for a match, we have what we call a ‘psych up,’” Giles said. “Someone on the team puts together an activity, anything from a game to a playlist to dance to, that gets everyone into the same mental space. Everyone personalizes their psych up to make it their own, so it’s fun to see what people come up with.”

Wins and losses aside, the women’s volleyball team seems to be in the right mindset for whatever comes their way.