Accountability and innovation are the indispensible mentalities that IU Coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan has implemented for IU volleyball. These essential components manifest as a leadership council that Dunbar-Kruzan created four years ago.
The council consists of four positions, each of which is responsible for a separate aspect of life for a collegiate athlete.
This season’s council is composed of senior middle blocker Jazzmine McDonald for academics, sophomore defensive specialist Samantha Fogg for health and wellness, senior outside hitter Allison Hammond for volleyball logistics and junior outside hitter Jessica Leish for community outreach.
The four players meet every Tuesday after practice with senior co-captains setter Megan Tallman and defensive specialist and libero Taylor Lebo, Dunbar-Kruzan and the team’s sports psychologist.
“I like the system because it keeps each of the players on the council accountable and it gives them each a leadership role,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “It also takes the stress off of our captains, who can then focus on the big picture: winning.”
Dunbar-Kruzan continuously praises her team’s council and the personal relationships that have been aided by the program. The veteran coach said she believes the leadership council gives her players a greater sense of responsibility to the team and compares it to an article she read about the difference in mentality between an owner and a renter.
“If you are an owner you feel like you are in charge and don’t want anything bad to happen, so you take care of it because you are invested in it,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “If you’re a renter, you can mess up the house or the car because you don’t really care. Getting more owners involved in what we are doing makes our program a lot better.”
In this past Tuesday’s meeting, Dunbar-Kruzan said she estimated she only had to speak 10 words because the leaders were completely focused on the discussion with each other and had their responsibilities under control.
“It has definitely generated some really good discussions where changes have been made for the positive,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “They know that I’m listening to what they are saying and that they have a say in our program.”
McDonald, the academics chair, said she is more than grateful to have her role, which comes naturally to her. The middle blocker makes sure to check in with her teammates often to confirm their classes are going well, to verify they are taking advantage of the free tutoring service at the academic center and to help her peers find a balance between volleyball and classes.
Fogg said she takes pride in the fact that she is the only underclassman on the leadership council. As health and wellness leader, she is responsible for regulating the caloric intake for her teammates, for ordering proper meals on the road and for ensuring her teammates are getting the proper nutrition into their systems.
“It is a big pleasure to me that I am able to be on the council as a sophomore and have that leadership because I really want to be a leader on the team,” Fogg said. “I worked really hard this spring, and I think it stood out, so it was nice to be added onto the council.”
Dunbar-Kruzan said she has noticed an increased level of organization among her players as a result of the leadership council program.
“I have noticed that the kids really step up into roles that I wasn’t sure they would be able to step up into,” Dunbar-Kruzan said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of the coaching staff, but it also makes them responsible for things. It’s a win-win for both sides.”