Following the departure of former head coach Paula Weishoff to Concordia University, Ashlie Hain has been named the head coach for the womens volleyball program.
No stranger to the program, Hain served as the starting setter for the team from 2001-2004, setting an all-time assists record of 5,698 that still holds today. As team captain, Hain led the Anteaters to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and in 2004.
Despite being a relatively young coach, Hain brings over seven years of coaching excellence to the program.
After a two-year stint playing professional in Croatia and Germany, Hain began her coaching career at Moorpark College in 2007. With Hain on the coaching staff, the Raiders were 42-7 and won two Western State Conference Championships.
In 2009, Hain took head coaching position at American River College while also serving as a professor of kinesiology. There, Hain helped reshape a program that had only won three matches in its previous season, to back-to-back Big 8 Conference titles in 2013-2014. For her efforts, Hain was named both the Conference Coach of the Year and Northern California Coach of the Year in 2013.
During her first week with the program, Hain took a moment to discuss her roots in volleyball, her coaching philosophy and her transition back to the UCI program as a head coach.
How did you get started in volleyball?
“Around the time I was seven or eight, I had an older sister, she played at Cal State Northridge and just seeing her play, I was like begging my mom to get in the gym –– I would be the girl in the corner bumping the ball against the wall, begging to go in and sometimes my older sister’s coach put me- like jump in as an eight year old in a 14 and under team and just pass balls. And I remember, I would go to my sister’s tournaments at eight, nine or ten and I would bring my knee pads and my shoes just in case like people got hurt, they needed me and I just couldn’t wait. My parents worried that I would get burnt out if I start that early, and here I am now, 32 and I’m back right now, it’s always been a passion of mine, being competitive in the sport of volleyball.
Was coaching something you ever envisioned yourself doing?
“It’s not necessarily the career path I thought I would go as a college student. I majored in psychology, minored in management, I was interested in investment banking and making more money (laughs) or going the psychology route. After playing professionally, I came back, and I worked at UBS Financial and AIG Financial. Sitting under fluorescent lighting for eight years, just ten hours sometimes, just wasn’t fulfilling for me. So I found my way back into the gym, coaching at Moorpark College. Junior college was just sort of a really unique place to coach volleyball, and I fell back in love with it and coaching came really naturally to me. I was able to relate to the girls, for obvious reasons, having just played Division 1 collegiate volleyball myself and then from there it kind of turned into a career for me, and honestly it doesn’t feel like work, cause I love doing it, so I guess I never thought about it as work, or as a career, because it was just so fun me to be mentoring girls that are collegiate level.
Did your time playing overseas change your perspective on the volleyball??
“Yeah it’s such a different style of culture over there for volleyball, that it definitely it put Division 1 volleyball into perspective for me. I think in this country, Division 1 volleyball’s like the ultimate, (while overseas) it’s been structured that everybody plays for club no matter what age, so you can be playing with a 40 year-old, you can be playing with a 16 year-old all on the same team, it just depends what your level is, and if you’re elite, then you’re on the professional team and it definitely changed my perspective. It’s just a different culture over there, whoever can play at that level plays, and it’s a totally different dynamic for sure. It makes me appreciate what Division 1 has to offer these young women, and it’s really a unique opportunity for them to play.”
What has your experience as a volleyball coach been like?
“When I started at Moorpark College, it really got me back in the gym, and I discovered this from the job description that was out there, that where you could teach and coach and help these girls get scholarships at the same time, really appreciate it because they didn’t have that opportunity out of high school, so that whole job description and position is really unique and special, and I found it very fulfilling. There’s very few, full-time community college positions available in California, so when the American River Job came open, and I applied for it, I got it, I couldn’t pass it up because it was a full-time position, and those are very hard to come by, and at that time, I didn’t necessarily have a family that I had to move, so I was willing to move to Sacramento and fulfill that role, and I’m so grateful that I did, because like I said, it’s just one of the best jobs in coaching, you can ask any coach, I mean most Division 1 coaches want to end up in a junior college, I did it backwards (laughs) I started at a junior college and ended up at D1, but the whole reason was, you know, I wouldn’t have done it for any other place except UCI, because I left something really good,and like I said, ask any Division 1 coach, everybody wants to end up at a junior college, so yeah, I wouldn’t have left that for anywhere except UCI. ”
What do you foresee as some of the challenges of taking the helm of the program at UCI?
“There’s always challenges, I’m not afraid to ask for help, being a young coach, I have a lot of great mentors and people that I call on a weekly basis and run things by them, so being a young coach at this level, I think, you can’t be afraid to ask for help when you think you need it for advice, just from people with a little bit more experience, but ultimately I would make my own decisions based on what I feel is the right thing to do. But yeah, whenever you’re dealing with college-aged students, I think challenges come up on a daily basis.”
Is there a difference between coaching players for two years and for four years?
“I mean in junior college, you’re only getting them for two years, so to boast more leadership in the gym is huge –– having the juniors and seniors that know enough that they can lead the younger guys is a luxury, so we have a upperclassmen in this group, which is huge for me as a coach.”
Are they any other differences that jump out to you?
“There’s a lot of differences, it’s a totally different dynamic. The responsibility I have, just to the program itself, and all that entails, is a huge part of my job. At the junior college I taught, so it’s just a different job description. At the same time, what I do here, a lot of it has to do with, it’s teaching the girls, and that’s the fun part. All the office work is probably the biggest difference as any Division 1 coach knows, just to be done in the office now in this day and age, so yeah, I think that’s the biggest difference just the amount of paperwork that needs to be done in your everyday life, the coaching and the volleyball are very similar, we offer scholarships so it’s a lot more competitive, we’re a lot bigger, better and more talented girls in the gym, that’s all just a blast, that’s a lot of fun. And recruiting is a big part of it as well, it’s more intense, you know you got to compete with the big guys, and for me that’s a competitive side of me coming out, that’s all a lot of fun. It’s more of a challenge just all the paperwork that goes along with it.
How has the experience of returning to your alma-mater been for you?
“Like I said in my press release, it feels like coming home, I’m so comfortable here, a lot of the same people are here, so that’s pretty special too, coming back and seeing the same faces, and working with the same people, so yeah, I kinda just picked up where I left off in a different role now, as a head coach, but it’s so much fun, I can’t even describe it and exciting to be back here as a head coach, and having some of the best years as a student-athlete, and being one of the best locations in the country, I get to raise my family here now, this is permanent position for me and as long as they’ll keep me here, I’ll stay here, and be working as hard as I can to make this program good.”
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
“My coaching philosophy is based on developing –– first and foremost, empowering these young females to be great leaders, and that’s a process you create over three or four years, so that ultimately in this gym it’s not me leading, it’s the seniors and juniors because they understand the expectation really well, and then they take those leadership skills out to a different place, wherever they go on from here, so ultimately it’s that. In transition this first year, I have to take micro-management a little bit more to really set a tone, but that’s the ultimate goal that these girls want to ownership over the program and have a lot of pride in what they do here.”
While this might be a bit early to ask, but do you have any tangible goals for the upcoming season?
“After being in the gym with (the girls) the past five days — I actually have gotten to know them pretty well. I think there’s a ton of potential here, I’m not gonna put a number on it or a record right now, I just think that looking at the schedule we have an opportunity to win every match we play with the personnel we have in here and that’s our ultimate goal, we’re going into every match feeling like we could win that match.”