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'Our players look to us, who do we look to?' Sports Performance specialist works with NDSU coaches

College athletes deal with pressures from all directions, from academics, parents, coaches and teammates. But where do coaches turn when they want or need a reset?

NDSU Volleyball team practicing at Benson Bunker Fieldhouse Friday, Aug. 12.
Kevin Wallevand / WDAY News
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FARGO — Even though classes at North Dakota State University won't start for a few days, the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse is alive. The volleyball team is already deep into fall practice on Friday, Aug. 12.

This week there is another set of eyes and ears at the Bison practice. But they aren't there watching or evaluating how a player sets, digs and blocks.

"We have to remember to be calm for us, so we can execute what we need to say," Sanford Sports Performance Specialist Andy Gillham, said.

Gillham was working with the team, but not the players. The coaches.

"Especially coaches and leaders, we say things almost to hear our own voice, sometimes," said Gillham. "The 'thata girls,' and 'thata boys,' and 'the goods,' and the 'yeahs,' and 'nice jobs.' Well, that athlete just did four things, so when you say, 'nice work,' which part of that is nice work? So as a coach, being mindful of that and being aware of the words that we say, can really prompt that better response from the athlete so they know, 'this part I did really well, these other parts not so much,'" Gillham said.


When working with coaches, Gillham watches and listens.

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"(I)f we choose winning and only focus on winning, the athlete development does not come with," Gillham said. "If we focus on the athlete development, the winning will come."

And sports performance experts and coaches know, they can't control everything on and off the court.

"The reason why you're coaching is because you love the sport, you love teaching, you love developing those kids. But there are things outside of what we have been equipped with, initially, as far as our ability to handle or help our student athletes. And I think it is awesome that student athletes are vocal about what it is that they're experiencing and going through, but this is great for us to be able to have some help and be able to talk through some things," said NDSU volleyball coach Jennifer Lopez.

Gillham travels the Upper Midwest, meeting with players and coaches — whoever needs or wants an outsider to come in and work with those calling the plays, knowing the whole team benefits.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

Contact Email: kwallevand@wday.com
Phone Number: (701) 241-5317
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