In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Donald Emmons talked with Bedford High volleyball coach Jodi Manore about her time spent as coach of her alma mater, as well as serving as the first women's volleyball coach at the University of Toledo.
Jodi Manore has spent most of the past 21 summers exactly the same way.
Bedford's longtime volleyball coach enjoyed sunny days spent by her pool reading books. That was the routine for the better part of her summer vacations.
But that will change for the coaching legend next month as a result of a court ruling that switched the Michigan high school girls volleyball season from the winter sports calendar to fall. It's a ruling that will have her cutting her summer vacation short to prepare for the quickly upcoming season.
Manore, who ranks second all-time in Michigan high school girls volleyball history with 1,334 match wins, expects to adjust and her record supports adaptability. She has led Bedford to three state championships (1998, 2001, 2005) and finished state runner-up four times. Bedford has claimed 20 district titles in 22 years, as well as 17 regional championships during her tenure. More than 70 of her former players have gone on to play some level of college volleyball.
Manore, who was the first women's volleyball coach at the University of Toledo (1980 to 1988), looks at the upcoming school year with anticipation. It's an opportunity for a new start to something she's been doing since graduating from Michigan State University, where she played volleyball during the early 1970s. Even if it means giving up her summer routine.
"IT'S [WOMEN'S ATHLETICS] just changed tremendously. I always felt I was a few years too early. At Michigan State it was an established sport, but they didn't play in the Big Ten. They played against schools like Calvin College [in Grand Rapids, Mich.].
"I knew I wanted to be a teacher because that's what I always wanted to do as a career. I really didn't think about being a coach.
"There was an ad in The Blade about the University of Toledo looking for a volleyball coach. I applied for the job and got it. There weren't that many people with intercollegiate playing experience at that time, so I was the first University of Toledo volleyball coach. I just did it [applied for the job] out of curiosity. I never anticipated really being hired. I was a 23-year-old just out of college.
"It was the beginning of the program and there were some growing stages. We didn't get any scholarships for the first two or three years. I was just part-time.
"Toledo was kind of in the back of the MAC and I was trying to catch up. We had gotten to the point in the mid-1980s where we got a couple of winning seasons. I thought we could at least compete with the middle to the back [of the conference]. Western Michigan was way ahead of everybody else. I think they had won 10 straight MAC championships. I loved the travel and I loved the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was only part-time until the last couple of years. Recruiting was just starting to get going in the late 80s."
"THE SUPPORT HERE [at Bedford] has always been great from the athletic department and the parents. There's great spirit and they've got the tradition. Those kids come in wanting to play volleyball. Those little kids growing up here want to be a part of this and that's an advantage and it's all good.
"Once I got into coaching I found out that I had a passion for coaching. I've always wanted to be involved in sports. It's a challenge. I'm not ready to quit. I can't imagine sitting at home knitting or something. There's always that one kid or few kids coming up and you can always look down and go, 'the seventh-grade class is really good and I'll stay for them.' But there's always someone else following them.
"The 1998 [state championship] team will always be special because it was the first championship. That was a team of seniors. It was kind of neat because seven or eight seniors were on the team. Five of them started and finally broke through to get that state championship. In 2001, again, there were quite a few seniors, but it was the big comeback because the other team [Portage Northern] had us down 14-11 and we came back and won that game and then the third game. In 2005, it was a little bit of a surprise because it was a mostly junior team.
"It's been kind of neat coaching my high school because I've lived in Bedford all my life. I'm proud of the school and community."
"I LIKE IT [previous volleyball schedule] the way it was because we were the only volleyball game in town at the time. We were different from everyone else. I think we will lose some of the publicity because we're not the only game on Saturdays anymore. I like the schedule because I was also able to go and watch my former players play in college and I won't be able to do that now.
"I hate it. I loved my summers and the fall. It's a quick turnaround for the kids. I'm still trying to get in the mode of meeting three weeks before school starts. We've got to get ready.
"I'm just counting on them to come in shape and counting on them knowing what they had to do.
"If we have to play in the fall we're going to do it right and I'll run it like a college practice. We'll do two-a-days. If you're going to do things do it right.
"I've always liked playing volleyball in the winter because it made the winter fly by. It was mid-March when the season was over. I don't know what I'm going to do now."
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