Caitlin Brady takes over Rifle volleyball program
Fresh off of a high school athletic career at Grand Valley High School in 2010, Caitlin Brady knew exactly what she wanted to do in the next phase of her life: coach.
Following graduation from Grand Valley, Brady went on to Colorado Mesa University, where she minored in the Mavericks’ coaching program, while gaining experience as a coach in volleyball, track and field, and rugby.
Little did she know that eight years later she’d land the Rifle volleyball head coaching gig. Brady takes over a struggling program that has won 10 games in two years despite having talented players sprinkled throughout the program.
“I’ve wanted to be a head coach for as long as I can remember,” Brady said. “I came here to Rifle in 2016 as the C-team coach, kind of waiting for a moment where I could become a head coach. That’s why I’m here.”
The thrill of achieving a life-long goal has Brady fired up for the future with the Bears’ volleyball program, but she knows its going to take some time to rebuild the fledgling program. However, due to familiarity with the players thanks to three years in the system, Brady is pushing for a .500 record this season in Rifle.
“We’ve really struggled to win some games the last few years,” Brady said. “Going five hundred can seem like a tough task, but winning some games this year and getting out of the bottom of the league standings would be a huge boost for this program.”
Brady takes over a program that has some high-end talent this fall, with outside hitter Rose Mastrud, setter Nikala Fitzsimmons, and outside hitter Kyla Gray all returning, giving Brady senior leadership and varsity experience. The Bears also see a number of young standout players return in sophomore middle hitters Maddy Valencia and Mackenzie Elizardo.
With the returning talent, Brady knows what she’s getting, considering she ran the C-team program the past three years, and has coached that group of players in practice, getting an up close look at the talent on hand.
“The cool thing about getting this job is that the four seniors we have, they came to me as sophomores,” Brady said. “I’ve been working with them for three years now. With Rose, I’ve been working with her since she was 11 years old, so that’s really cool. Now I get to be her varsity coach, and hopefully I’m not her last volleyball coach. Making those connections with these girls, that’s why I do this.”
Despite announcing high expectations for the 2018 group, Brady said internally those expectations haven’t changed and shouldn’t surprise this group of girls, because that’s been the expectation from the start. Plus, Brady said the culture remains the same, which should help the group continue to gel.
“One of the things I focused on as a C-team coach was developing a strong culture,” Brady said. “With these girls, the first sport they’re experiencing when they come into high school is volleyball. If they have a bad experience in volleyball, we may not get that athlete back out for basketball or track and field, so its huge for me to foster that culture and develop a love for the sport. It’s been great to see them move up and grow into that culture.”
Rifle will make its 2018 season debut against the Grand Valley Cardinals Thursday night in Parachute in the inaugural Anvil Point Clash. The game will be part of the CHSAA Foundation game, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross, with Alpine Bank matching all proceeds. Both programs hope to establish the game as a traveling trophy game, with bragging rights going to the winner each year. Ironically, Brady played under current Grand Valley head coach Dave Walck, who also gave Brady her first shot as a head coach in the summer of 2010.
“He pulled me aside one day that summer and said he needed another coach to take his varsity and junior varsity teams over to Sterling for a tournament,” Brady said. “When he asked me, I was 18 years old, and I jumped at the chance. Since then, I knew that this was definitely what I wanted to do, and it’s come full circle.”
Varsity action in the Anvil Point Clash starts at 6:30 p.m.