Shayla Conner takes a coach’s seat on the sideline

Big decisions: Shayla Conner and Coach Herron discussing their next play. The two speak about what is the best plan of action to continue in the set.

Shayla Conner begins her first season as an assistant coach for Washburn’s volleyball team. After redshirting in 2014 Conner was a setter for the Ichabods from 2015 to 2018, and was named Washburn’s female athlete of the year for 2018-19. But her love for volleyball started well before coming to Washburn from Kearney, Nebraska.

“Well, my mom was my high school Volleyball Coach. She coached at Kearney Catholic High School in Nebraska. So, I’ve been around the game since I can remember,” Conner said. “I had a lot of really good kids who are really good players and made some really really good memories, and I want to be able to provide that for kids now.”

Conner’s time at Washburn featured many memorable moments, and she hopes to create new ones, this time from the sidelines.

“I was a senior at Washburn, we won the regional tournament and so we got to go to the Elite Eight and this program hadn’t been to Elite Eight for a long time,” Conner said.

However, Conner was not always sure whether she wanted to be a coach. While she had considered it in high school, Conner spent most of her college career searching for something else. It wasn’t until her senior year at Washburn that the idea of being a coach clicked.

“I majored in public relations and public relations lines up really nicely with coaching, and it just so happened that I was like, well, that makes sense,” Conner said. “My mom coached and so coaching runs in our family.”

Conner graduated in 2019 and became a graduate assistant at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She later became assistant coach at Missouri Western. But when the position opened up at Washburn, she decided to take her shot, much to the pleasure of her former coach.

Chris Herron, Washburn’s head volleyball coach, was excited when Conner decided to come back to fill the assistant volleyball coach position.
“Shayla’s mom is a coach. I have known her mom for 35 years. So, this is not a big shock to me that she wanted to coach and that she’s in a position that she’s in now,” Herron said. “It’s probably the most rewarding part of my job for these kids to have all the success in their own high schools or collegiate level. All the wins are all great and good, but just to see the tree kind of grow and grow. I think that’s the coolest part for me.”

Conner is very passionate about this sport and says that the most rewarding thing about being a coach is the impact that she can have on these kids.

“Being able to see a kid finally get something that they’ve been working towards or overcome a hurdle or more of the little moments,” Conner said. “Yes, wins are great, but being able to see a kid overcome hard life stuff or even little volleyball stuff it’s what makes it worth it for me.”

Edited by: Katrina Johnson, Kyle Manthe, Simran Shrestha