Madeline St. John
Enter the front doors of the Sports and Recreation Center (SRC). Navigate through narrow corridors, past workout equipment, past students doing sit-ups on the floor, up and down stairs. You will come upon a door. It will most likely be on the left. Through this door, you will be greeted by the young and friendly face of Coach Kelli Wilkinson.
Don’t let her youthful appearance fool you. Goucher’s new volleyball coach is seasoned and experienced. Prior to coming to Goucher, she coached for 12 years at St. Paul’s School for Girls, for 8 years at Notre Dame (Md.), and for two years at Stevenson. “It’s my passion,” she says, a glow in her eye. “I’ve been coaching for over 20 years.”
In Goucher’s women, Coach Wilkinson sees a future full of possibility. “It’s a great group of girls and a small team, so they will all get a lot of minutes [of] playing time. And there is a lot of potential recruiting-wise.”
Last weekend, the team challenged Stevenson, Hopkins, and Bridgewater in the Greg Giovannazzi Memorial Tournament. Coach Wilkinson is proud to represent Goucher. “I am thrilled to be here, working with a great group. I am looking forward to building a winning program.”
Luckily, the team seems to be just as excited for the season. According to team captains Hannah Kuehl and Michelle Tweedie, Coach Wilkinson has some winning qualities, she is “straight-forward, encouraging,” and “approachable.” In her, they see potential for change. “It’s a really positive environment,” says Kuehl. “I can’t think of a better word for it than positive.”
“She believes in us,” says Tweedie. Kuehl and Tweedie, who have been on the team the past two years, are enjoying Coach Wilkinson’s direction. “She cares about us,” says Kuehl. “Not only as players, but as students, as friends. She takes in all aspects.” “And she took us to the movies!” adds Tweedie, with a laugh. “10 points, right there!”
The team has enjoyed each other’s company in a number of settings: participating in a scavenger hunt, going to a movie, and having lunch together. “When you spend time together outside of practice, you can relax and get to know each other,” says Coach Wilkinson. “You see each other in a different light.” And since volleyball season is a short and intense two-and-a-half months, the team must come together quickly.
Even after 20 years, Coach Wilkinson has not grown weary of doing what she does. “I wanted to give back to a game that gave so much to me,” she says. “I want to inspire these girls to give back.” So far, Coach Wilkinson seems to be achieving this goal. According to Kuehl and Tweedie, they “just love to come in and play.” “It’s a support system outside of school,” says Kuehl. “It is really nice to have that support system away from home. And we get to do something we love every day.”
“The more passionate you are, the harder you’ll play,” says Coach Wilkinson, with a smile. “I love getting them to love the game.”