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Coaches Corner - Mayme Vlietstra

Mayme (aka May) has been the Director of MVA for the past 8 years but she's been coaching for much longer than that. Mayme is one of those coaches whose impact lasts long after an athletic career. Learn more about Mayme, her vision and her experience below.
Q: What makes you proud of MVA?
A: I moved to West Michigan in 2009, and the graduating class of 2013 was the first group of young women I coached here. That group was with me the year I was pregnant (sorry I was mean!) and with me my first year as club director. My first years with MVA were very much centered around them growing up in our program. What I am proud of is how that class fully embodied our objective at MVA, which is to help grow young women. The class of 2013 left me eventually. They graduated high school, played in college, won awards, were starters and major contributors to their college programs. More importantly, though, they reached their college graduation day and now they have jobs, some have started families, and some have even come back to coach for us. They set the framework for each class that followed them and are a reminder of why I do what I do.

Q: Why do you coach?
A: Sports proved such an integral part of my growing up, and I’m not sure I would have survived the teen years without basketball and volleyball. My family moved quite a bit when I was young, so sports were my bridge to fitting in. They played a huge role in my self-confidence, my friendships, and ultimately who I am as a person … and I hope to provide the same opportunity for young athletes in West Michigan. I coach to create a place where young athletes can push themselves, make mistakes and fail forward, and most importantly learn what they are capable of.
Q: What is your favorite coaching memory?
A: Relatively early in my coaching career, I had a team that couldn’t seem to catch a break. We had a bunch of weird injuries throughout the year, and because of it never played with the same line-up two weekends in a row. The young women on that team decided that our team motto would be ‘Boomerang’ – no matter what happened, we were going to keep coming back from it. Our team managed to qualify for USAV Nationals by the skin of our teeth. We entered the national tournament seeded 46th out of 48 teams … clearly not expected to farewell. But all the time spent bouncing back from every ankle injury, scratched cornea, and ruptured cyst had made ‘Boomerang’ come to life. We lost matches, but we won the right ones which allowed us to stay in contention. Starting on Day 3 … we would lose every first set, sometimes by a large margin, and yet we would manage to Boomerang right back to win the match. Our final six matches of the tournament all went to 3 sets, including the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the finals of the Gold Bracket. Those young women taught me that the mental side of competition was more important than any training we could do (though that stuff is important too!). And because of their approach to all of the “bad” things that happened throughout the season, they were able to handle the tough mental load of competition when it mattered most, and persevere to finish 2nd in the country.
Q: What is your advice to athletes?
A: Everybody assumes that just showing up to practice and doing what is required is enough to help you jump to the next level. But athletes need to understand that everyone is coming to practice, and everyone is doing work. If you want to jump levels or differentiate yourself from everyone else, it comes down to what you’re willing to do outside of the regular training hours. What extra ‘work’ you are willing to put in. 
Q: What is your advice to coaches?
A: Never lose sight of what is possible for an athlete. Coach them for what you think they can be, not what they are right now. I hear too many coaches talk about what an athlete can’t do. But what I want to hear about is what they will be able to do once you are done training them. It’s our job to cultivate the future, not stifle it.
Q: What is your advice to parents?
A: Allow your kids to experience roadblocks and speed bumps. Those tough moments of frustration or struggle are what motivates an athlete to want to change. And a desire for change is what is needed for meaningful improvement. Our toughest kids are those that have had some struggle along the way. Don’t deprive your kid of the feeling of accomplishment associated with overcoming something.
From the Athletes
After 17 years of coaching - Mayme has made a lasting impact on the lives of the athletes she has coached. Check out what they have to say.

Q: How has Mayme impacted your life?
Mallory Nowicki: Mayme has impacted me by allowing me to get comfortable being uncomfortable. These four words she said so often to me in the gym have also become prevalent in my life as a college athlete and a young woman. 

Emily Campbell: Mayme believed in me during a transformative period of my life. I wasn't confident in who I was or myself as a volleyball player, but she gave me the confidence I needed to believe that I was capable and strong.

Hannah Livingston: Mayme was the best coach I’ve ever had. I played for her as a gangly, baby giraffe (her words) of a setter. I was a little late to transition into setting, so I was a bit of a project. Mayme came in early and stayed late with me. She pushed me and helped me develop my confidence as much as my physical skills. There is no doubt that Mayme is an expert at coaching the techniques and skills of volleyball, but what makes her an exceptional coach is how she makes each player feel so important and is able to draw out their potential.

Autumn Monsma: Mayme has impacted my volleyball career from the first day that I joined MVA in 2012. She saw potential in my abilities as an athlete and took on the challenge of pushing me to be the best version of myself.

Q: How would you describe Mayme using 3-5 words?
Mallory Nowicki: Intelligent, caring, admirable, independent, and loving. 

Autumn Monsma: Competitive, influential, and genuine.

Hannah Livingston: Competitive, passionate, supportive, tough, leader.

Ellie Rodriguez: Supportive leader, hard-working, loud (haha), enthusiastic, determined, and loving.

Amy Kober: Sassy, hilarious, smart, creative, and charismatic. 

Q: What's your favorite Mayme memory?
Amy Kober: My favorite May memory is probably after I left MVA. I was a junior in college at Kent State and absolutely hating life. I was negative about school, my friends, Kent, and most of all - volleyball and my college coaches. I truly wasn’t much fun to be around. I went to visit May over winter break and as I was leaving she cupped my face and said “Kober - stop feeling sorry for yourself. You will only stay miserable if you let yourself be.” That set off a fire in me. She was right. I completely looked at where I was at and revamped my mindset and attitude and ended up having the best spring season of my life and finished my senior year with a bang.  May cares about you long after you leave MVA, and that’s proof.
Thank you, Mayme for your years of dedication and leadership. Mayme's impact reaches far wider than the four walls of a gym. MVA is the program of quality and character because of you.