Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Sheffield brings new discipline to UW

The University of Wisconsin volleyball team’s inaugural week of spring practice with new head coach Kelly Sheffield was not exactly a friendly gathering.

At day’s end, it was expected that the team collect all of the balls from the court that were used during practice. However, one forgotten ball was the exact type of imprecision Sheffield is trying to eradicate from the program – the players were forced to do intense cardio work as a penalty, which is something sophomore Ellen Chapman said the team had never seen with former head coach Pete Waite.

“We had a rough first couple of days,” Chapman said. “[Sheffield] just set the tone for what things need to be like in this program now, which was a big difference from last year.”


After barely three weeks of team practice, Sheffield has already stamped an impression on his new team. Junior Annemarie Hickey said Sheffield has already instilled a sense of responsibility with the players, and his firmness at practice signaled to the players they should be prepared for an effort-filled season.

“[That] was good; it’s what we wanted,” Hickey said. “We all wanted to be held accountable for the same type of things.”

It is clear to the players Sheffield has taken a serious approach to the UW volleyball program. Chapman said if the players didn’t buy into Sheffield’s system, he would help them find a different school that was a better fit for them.

However, Chapman felt there was more of a unified feeling on the team because of Sheffield’s leadership. She said the coaches, players and trainers were all fragmented pieces of a disorganized puzzle last year. But since Sheffield’s arrival, everyone involved with the program has come closer together.

“When we huddle, everyone comes into the huddle,” Chapman said. “It’s a lot different from last year.”

At this point in his short-lived tenure as Wisconsin head coach, Sheffield emphasized he is still trying to understand the strengths and weaknesses of his players.

However, he has already learned they are willing to improve. After an hour and a half team weight lifting session, Hickey spent additional time afterwards serving and passing by herself, something Chapman said would not have happened in previous seasons.

“They’re wanting to prove to people that this program can get back on top,” Sheffield said. “There’s a drive that, every day, you can tell is coming out more and more with these guys.”

An additional characteristic Sheffield has brought to Wisconsin is a sense of structure. Chapman said, in past years, the players did not know what they were going to be practicing on a day-to-day basis.

This year, Sheffield has set a more organized practice agenda for the team by establishing a whiteboard that lets every player know what is planned for the day.

Sheffield also has a respected coaching history that backs his sense of determination with the team – he has won seven conference titles in twelve years as a head coach, including four in five seasons at the University of Dayton.

Sheffield has stressed that his goal this spring is to raise his players’ consistency in effort and competition. He said while it is natural to panic when faced with adversity, the team needs to do a better job of responding positively to difficult situations.

“You’re not only trying to get to know them and working on techniques, but you’re trying to get them to compete at a level that is absolutely necessary in this conference to be successful,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said he has already seen vast improvements in the players in slightly more than two weeks of spring practice.

The Badgers started their spring schedule strongly by defeating Loyola March 16 by way of a 3-0 sweep. Wisconsin has two more home spring exhibition matches against UW-Green Bay and UW-Milwaukee scheduled for this month. While the Badgers normally have only one spring match at the UW Field House, Sheffield said he wants to display the team’s improvement over a series of matches.

Even after a surprising start to the fresh team-coach dynamic, the players have responded well to Sheffield’s arrival. Hickey said that he has shown sincere investment in his team, not only as volleyball players, but as students and people.

Hickey also said he has shown a deep commitment to the program’s success and expects his players to be on board with that same approach.

“He wants to win,” Hickey said. “He lets us know when we need to be doing better, but he also reassures us that we are working hard and lets us know that he cares.”

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