The GLVC is known nationally across several sports for intense competition and producing gifted athletes year in and year out. Evidently, the strong conference also has a knack for turning those players into coaches as Erin Higgins, former University of Missouri-St. Louis volleyball standout, steps in as Truman volleyball’s new assistant coach.
Erin Higgins joined the staff in May 2017 when former Assistant Coach Megan Wargo-Kearney accepted a position at Div. I University of Arkansas.
Head Coach Ben Briney said he has known his new coaching partner for years and remembers her as the impressive right side playing for UMSL a few years back. As a four-year starter for the Tritons, Higgins became well-known all over the conference, racking up all-conference accolades. She was named First-Team All-GLVC in 2009 and Second-Team All-GLVC in 2010 and 2011.
Higgins hung up the Tritons jersey after her senior season in 2011, but soon returned to the game — this time as a coach. In 2014, Higgins accepted the head coaching position at Davenport Central High School, close to her hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa. In only three seasons as head coach, the program improved their conference finishes from 8th in 2014 to 5th in 2015 to 4th in 2016. Higgins helped develop 10 All-Conference, three All-Metro and three All-District players.
As impressive of a volleyball player as Higgins was, Briney was even more impressed by her ability to turn around the Davenport Central program, and by her passion for teaching the game of volleyball.
“We’re excited to have Erin here, and we’re excited that she accepted the position,” Briney said. “From the beginning, she has already started being an impact on our program. The things I’ve put her in charge of, she has jumped right in and is willing to learn. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Briney is not the only one impressed. Junior setter Savvy Hughes and sophomore opposite hitter Emma Berthold both said they enjoy the positive energy and valuable feedback Higgins brings to practice. They said they are learning new ways to improve their game every day in the opening weeks of fall practice.
Berthold said Higgins is already building positive relationships with the players. Berthold said she likes that Higgins is able to relate to and understand what the girls are going through as student-athletes because she personally experienced it not so long ago.
Likewise, Higgins said she is pleased with the team and the way her first few weeks as a Bulldog have unfolded.
“I’ve felt so welcomed by everyone since the first day,” Higgins said. “The girls have taken my feedback and the way I coach really well, which is exactly what you want going into your first-year coaching job—especially with a program that has consistently done so well.”
Though Higgins enjoys being around the players, maintaining a professional balance is important to her. Higgins said she thinks there are advantages and disadvantages to being a younger female coach. For her, it was important to set the tone early.
Higgins said she will be able to relate the players because she has been out of the game for only five years. She said that she will look to set boundaries and gain respect from them as the season progresses.
Despite the challenges of taking on a new position, Higgins said she is ready to take them head on and use her recent knowledge and experiences of playing in the GLVC to her advantage.
For now, the team is preparing for their first tournament Sept. 1 and 2 against Ashland University in Ohio.