Most people who have spent time on any sort of organized sports team can agree that it is like a family. Everyone is working toward a common goal and along the way there are agreements, disagreements and many memories made.
The coaching staff of Neligh-Oakdale’s volleyball team takes the family atmosphere to a whole new level.
That’s because Hannah Hoefer, Jessica Eymann and Tabatha Kerkman really are family.
Hoefer, the Warriors head coach, are joined on the staff by her sister-in-laws - Eymann and Kerkman, who happen to be sisters. Eymann and Kerkman both joined the Warrior staff at different times after moving back to the area. E
ymann came on board when Hoefer took over the coaching duties in 2011, after spending time as an assistant coach at Plainview. Kerkman joined the staff in 2014 when the need for a second assistant coach arose. The three teaming up made sense not just because they were family, but because they had all come from the same background.
“We kind of saw things the same,” explained Hoefer. “We had the same coach through high school. We were all coached the same, and we were brought up having the same techniques and passion.”
While the three have a similar background, they all have different roles on the team as well. Eymann, a teacher at Neligh-Oakdale and former counselor, considers herself as more of a “motherly figure” for the players.
Hoefer, being the head coach, tends to take on a bit more of a strict role due to her position. Kerkman said she believes that the different roles are something that just came about naturally, mostly because of the players on the team.
“I don’t think that was our initial plan, but I definitely think the girls all approach us differently as well,” she said. “Jessica is the easiest to approach as far as access, and she’s kind of like their therapeutic person. Hannah is the head coach, so I think their end-goal is to keep that relationship as professional as possible and also to earn her respect. I’m kind of the in-between. The girls come to me, but they don’t see me as often. Also, I’m the one who kind of teases them a little bit and tries to keep practices fun.”
Having coaches who are related has been a great positive for the team. The three admit that at first they were a bit concerned about things potentially spilling over after the season or outside of volleyball, but they have been able to avoid that. They credit good communication and a mutual understanding of each other for being able to use their relationship in a professional way. Eymann also said she finds it to be a great benefit for the staff itself after her experiences in the past.
“I love that we can be very honest with each other. I’ve learned that, although I’m not head coach, I will tell Hannah what I think. If I say it one time, I feel like I have been heard. She’s very good at listening to us,” she said. “We are definitely a team.”
The three also said they felt like the open relationship the coaches have and the family bond they have rubs off on the girls that look up to them.
“It literally is a family,” Kerkman said. “It’s sacrifice from the girls’ home and school work; it’s sacrifice from our families.”
Eymann said the players also find entertainment in the family experience.
“They love that we are all related. They laugh at me and Tab, because Tab and I, we will bicker. Sometimes we can be a little bit sharp with each other and the girls pick up on it. They’re like ‘Oh sisters fighting,’ ” she joked. “But we always come around.”
Eymann said she also believes that, as the three sisters have grown, the players have grown with them.
“We are a family. We don’t have a lot of drama within the team,” she explained. “I think it does have a lot to do with the fact that us three coaches have grown, and we respect each other and the girls see that and it rubs off on them as well.”