Yes, good coaches usually have pretty shiny resumes filled with things such as conference, regional, sectional and state championships, along with various other accolades and baubles.
In the case of Yorktown (Indiana) girls coach Stephanie Bloom, there is so much more.
Sure, Bloom has the flashy numbers: She’s 404-63 overall in her high-school career, including a 366-39 mark at Yorktown, a school located in the nearby vicinity of Muncie, Indiana (the home of Ball State University where Bloom played).
Her teams have won nine conference titles, eight county titles to go with three state runner-up finishes and three state championships.
That third championship came this season as the Tigers went 34-0 and defeated Avon to win the Indiana Class 4A crown, in the process earning Bloom the distinction of being named the 2018 VolleyballMag.com girls high-school coach of the year.
“What I’ve learned most as a coach is the teams that are the most selfless and have the most chemistry tend to experience the most success,” said Bloom, a graduate of Yortktown who helped the Tigers win the school’s first state title her senior year there. “In life, those who are about others first experience abundance in life. I want my kids to take that lesson when they walk out of Yorktown High School and have that great experience in life and put others before themselves.”
Not surprisingly Xs and Os are only a fraction of the puzzle when Bloom steps into the gym.
“I think for me as a coach I am always trying to evaluate not just the volleyball skills, but looking at what leadership looks like, what the team chemistry looks like, what the character and work ethic look like,” she explained. “I try to keep my eyes open all season to be aware where our role players fit in. One thing I’ve always stressed is you want your role players to be an important part of what you are doing because sometimes they can get left in the shadows. Everybody has a reason and a purpose and everybody’s reason and purpose is different. Everybody brings a different gift that is valuable to what we do.”
While on the subject of No.3, Bloom’s coaching philosophy revolves around the number three.
“These girls have bought into the program philosophy of ‘I am third,’ ” she said. “It’s all about each other and all the girls on this team excelled as far as making each other better on and off the floor. It was a fun thing to watch. They played so hard and they played with smiles on their faces because they were having fun and they got to reap the benefits of that with a 34-0 season. ‘I am third’ came from a Christian sports camp I worked at in college. It means that we are serving others before ourselves — servant leadership. We lead in a way that pushes each other to be the best and that brings out the best in ourselves.”
Yorktown senior libero Kylie Murr, who is headed to Ohio State, said the ‘I am third’ philosophy has been a major part of hers and her teammates’ successes.
“Coach Bloom is a great coach because she cares so much about the team’s success on and off the court,” she said. “She doesn’t just care about volleyball; she cares about the women we have become off the court. She has created a philosophy in the gym called ‘I am third,’ and it is followed day in and day out, no matter what, which ensures we put others first. It makes us realize there is no time to dwell on ourselves and that if we care about each other and our successes as a team then our individual success will take care of itself. Coach Bloom is one of the best coaches I have ever had and her legacy will last a lifetime.”
Tigers senior middle blocker Ellie Miller continued: “Coach Bloom doesn’t just incorporate the sport when coaching, she uses life lessons and solid morals which then builds good character and a team bond that is unbreakable.”
Bloom grew up in a coaching environment. Her father was a boys varsity basketball coach in the state for more than 30 years.
“I grew up around it and I knew for a long time, even in high school, that this is something I would do,” she said. “I was the kid in high school that gave motivational talks in the locker room. I didn’t think much about it. I always have been a communicator.”
Bloom said she’s come a long way since she first started coaching.
“Those first couple years that I look back on, oh man,” she said. “I had a lot to learn.”
One thing Bloom never has tolerated dating back to her playing days is drama.
“I can’t stand it,” she said. “You have to get kids to understand that being a teammate and friend is not the same thing. The guys get that. The girls struggle with it a little more. When I played it was nothing for me to light a fire under a teammate’s pants.”
Bloom took time to reflect on the fact she’s teaching math and coaching the sport she loves at her alma mater.
“I never pictured myself back in my own high school,” she said. “It’s brought me great satisfaction. It’s neat to have been a player and then come back and coach and be so invested in it. The winning helps, for sure, but I’m competitive enough that I would do whatever it took to make this program successful.”
This season, Yorktown was led by an army of standouts, headlined by Division I signees Kenzie Knuckles (Nebraska), Murr (Ohio State) and Tegan Seyring (Austin Peay).
Knuckles, who has garnered a host of national honors, finished the season with 396 kills and 363 digs from her outside hitter position. Murr racked up 565 digs, while Seyring had 327 kills and hit .420. Junior outside hitter Courtney Watkins chipped in 250 kills, while sophomore outside hitter-defensive specialist Elle Stinson had 344 digs and has verbally committed to Northwestern. Sophomore middle Jaylynn Dunsmore finished with 172 kills and hit .325, while Miller, a senior middle blocker, had 164 kills and hit .390. Junior setter Kate Vinson had 1,183 assists and set the Tigers to a .327 team hitting percentage.
“What makes her a good coach is just who she is as a person,” said Knuckles. “She cares about her players on and off the court and grows connections with all of us individually and knows how to coach everyone how they need to be coached.”
Bloom labels this season as special.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “Going into the state-championship match undefeated, we had a taste of it and we wanted it bad.”
But despite being undefeated throughout 2018, Bloom made sure the message always was clear.
“It was important for me to go into practice and say we are not there yet,” she said. “I always want more. I’m extremely competitive. What you do in that gym is way more important than what happens on match night. My expectations of what I want starts in our gym. I’m extremely diligent in planning for practice so our kids can reach their fullest potential. This is a credit to our kids for buying in. These are great kids who come from great families. We had so much help in this program with support from families and with my coaching staff. The success we had this year is way bigger than me, for sure.”
Miller begs to differ.
“She has brought so much success to the program because of her grit and determination to not only win, but help girls grow and develop as amazing volleyball players. She is full of knowledge and playing experience and with her good character and solid morals she is an amazing person, teacher and coach.”
Knuckles added: “The success of our team is all because of her. She created our tight-knit team and taught us things outside of volleyball that made us a better team on the court.”
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