By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Every coach has his or her own way of reaching their players. Some are more effective than others.
Geneva volleyball coach Annah Haeseler is calm and quiet. She tends to laugh with her players rather than yell and scream at them. More often than not, she opts to stay positive rather than dwell in the negative.
Her methods helped the Eagles (18-5, 8-2) to overcome an early two-match deficit to win the Premier Athletic Conference championship before earning a spot in the district tournament.
“It stems back to me being a player,” Haeseler said. “I didn’t respond well to the yelling. When I was a player, I was one of the girls who played her hardest because I loved it. The players don’t want to make a mistake. They want to hit the ball. They want to do well. I’m there to help the team, teach them. I try to take the pressure off them.”
Haeseler is the 2013 Star Beacon Ashtabula County Coach of the Year.
One of the ways Haeseler sets her self apart is by always encouraging her players to swing and swing hard at the ball at all times.
“I’m going to go for it, be aggressive, but at the same time, I want to be smart,” Haeseler said. “That’s what we practice for. We practice to go out swinging. At the end of the season, we’re up against NDCL, Lake Catholic and Lakeview. The only way to beat to those teams is to go for it. Swing away.
“I say that in my classroom all the time. I ask them, ‘What’s the worst that could happen? You could be wrong. Take the chance. You might get it right.’”
Keep swinging is more than just a guideline for the Eagles. It’s more like a team philosophy. And it gets drilled into the team from their early days in the program.
“I always have to tell our young players to keep swinging and eventually they’ll get it in,” Haeseler said. “I tell them it’s worse not swinging.
“I can’t recall ever losing a game because we were swinging.”
Haeseler spends her time during matches pacing the sideline, observing quietly. During timeouts, she rarely raises her voice. But there are times when she will raise her voice an octave or two.
“I don’t yell all the time, so it catches them off guard and they’re all a little wide-eyed.” Haeseler said. “If you use it sparingly, it works a little better. Yelling comes from the frustration of them not playing their best, not that they’ve done anything wrong.”
Haeseler was blessed to have seven seniors this season, including two-time Player of the Year Chelsea Scafuro, Emily Ball, Kirstie Otto, Allie Penna, Kylee Corlew, Christa Cash and Rikki Metzler.
“Three or four of them have been on the varsity the last four years,” Haeseler said. “I was just along for the ride. With all the players around, I was just along for the ride. I enjoyed it and helped in whatever way I could.”
Haeseler’s players have become an extension of her own family. The Eagles are like big sisters to their coach’s children, Johnny, 8, Ella, 5, and Owen, 9 months.
“One pregame dinner was at my house,” Haeseler said. “Ella didn’t want them to leave. She wanted to come to the game. I told her she had to stay with Nana. It’s cute. She mimics what they do. She said she’s going to play volleyball and call me Coach Mom. They treat my kids really well.”
It’s Haeseler’s family who makes it possible for her to have the opportunity to build the Eagles’ family and make it a success.
“The reason I can coach is because of my mother (Kathy Debevc) and my mother-in-law (Tammy Haeseler),” Haeseler, the wife of John Haeseler, said. “If they weren’t here or couldn’t watch the kids, there’s no way I could keep going. If it wasn’t for my family watching them, I couldn’t do it.
“There was a rumor I wasn’t coming back (next year). The players asked me about it after the season. There are only a few people who would cause me to not come back. My three kids and my mother and mother-in-law. My kids love it and my mom and mother-in-law are gung ho for me doing it.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.