GVHS alumna returns to coach
PARACHUTE, Colo. Jenni Hirneisen is returning to her old high school stomping ground.This time, as a coach.With four years of collegiate volleyball playing experience to her name, an older, wiser Hirneisen will take the helm of the Grand Valley High School volleyball program she played in not long ago.”It’s kind of strange being back here,” said the 2002 Grand Valley grad, who in 2006 wrapped up a one-year Division I career at Colorado State University. “It’s nice to be in a familiar place.”Though she’s done with CSU from a volleyball standpoint, Hirneisen still has a little classwork to tend to. She’ll put the finishing touches on an Animal Science degree in the spring.Until then, Hirneisen’s focus will be strengthening a Grand Valley program that’s seen little in the way of coaching stability in recent years. The Cardinals have had three coaches in the last six years.Back in Parachute over spring break, Hirneisen learned the position – previously held by Scott Carpenter – was open. “She contacted us,” Grand Valley athletic director Jeff Bradley said last month. “She had gotten word. It’ll be a nice fit.”Bradley believes hiring qualified alums is always a bonus.Hirneisen’s path to Division I volleyball was no cakewalk. She had to fight her way onto the 2006 roster, sans scholarship, and as an upperclassman who had been out of the game for a year after playing in 2003 and 2004 at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling.”To get a real picture, you have to know her whole deal,” CSU volleyball coach Tom Hilbert said. “She came in and walked on here for just one year and faced a number of different challenges. She had to not only come in as an upperclassman, but walk on and prove herself.”Hilbert acknowledged that, though not the most talented player, Hirneisen’s biggest strength is her willingness to work.”She had a great work ethic,” he said. “She was very patient. At the end of the year, she was contributing as a serving specialist. She was a great leader by example, just the values she demonstrated.”Though she hasn’t talked in detail to her Grand Valley players about her CSU experience, Hirneisen does believe a lesson lies behind the tale.”I think so,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s a good way for them to learn to work their way up. You can’t expect things to happen for you.”This won’t be Hirneisen’s first foray in coaching. She coached youth club teams in Fort Collins for two years.Hilbert’s had many a player move on to careers in coaching. Most don’t realize how tough a profession it is.”The thing about coaching is, it’s about 30 percent what you know about volleyball and 70 percent what you know about people,” Hilbert said. “It’s much more difficult and challenging than people realize.”That said, Hilbert has full confidence in his former player.”I think she’ll do a good job,” he added. “She communicates well and has good people skills.”Hirneisen is just itching to get started. She’s been working with the kids in the summer, holding open gyms and clinics. Coaching might just turn into a long-term gig for Hirneisen, who will pursue a teaching career once she wraps her undergraduate degree.”I think I’ll be done after undergrad. I might go to Mesa (State) to get the teaching stuff and then I want to get a teaching job somewhere,” she said. “At a high school, probably something in science.”Whether teaching in the classroom or on the volleyball court, Hirneisen should feel right at home.”I really just like seeing the girls improve,” she said. “I like to see them develop as athletes and as people in general.”
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