Sept. 1, 2005
By Brett Roberts, Iowa Sports Information
Cindy Fredrick knew Iowa’s volleyball program needed help when she interviewed for the head coaching position prior to the 2004 season. At that point the Hawkeyes had won just six conference games out of the previous 60 and had endured losing seasons in 11 of the previous 13 years.
Fredrick could have put together a laundry list of things that needed to be fixed in the volleyball program. But when school officials interviewed Fredrick, they didn’t ask for a laundry list. They only asked for one thing she would change.
Narrowing down the changes from a laundry list to one thing may have been difficult for some coaches, but not for Fredrick. The first move was obvious to her. She wanted to change the court’s layout.
Carver-Hawkeye Arena used to hold two volleyball courts running parallel to the basketball court. This year there will be three volleyball courts running perpendicular to the basketball court.
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The change was made to improve atmosphere at volleyball games. Under the old layout, fans sat nearly 25 feet away from the court. But, with courtside seating this year, Hawkeye faithful can sit just a few feet away and feel the excitement. Fredrick says this change will be a big improvement to Iowa’s home-court advantage.
“Carver was not a volleyball-friendly facility the way it was set up before,” says Fredrick. “You could have had a decent crowd of 1,000 people and it felt like nobody was there. Now it’s a lot more intimate. The fans will be a lot closer.”
Instead of feeling swallowed up in the 15,500-seat Carver-Hawkeye Arena, games will have a much more personal feel for both fans and the team. A long, black curtain runs across the basketball half-court line during games to focus the action on one end of the court. Regular arena seating will still be open, but fans can pick from plenty of floor-side chairs on three sides of the court.
Not only will Iowa players, coaches, and fans enjoy this new look, but Fredrick says even Hawkeye opponents will appreciate the change. “Other coaches I had talked to didn’t mind playing at Carver. They didn’t think Carver provided a home-court advantage for Iowa,” says Frederick. “They didn’t like playing here because it was so quiet. You couldn’t hear any of the fans.”
Anytime you want to make a connection between your fans and your athletes, they have to be able to see each other. They have to be there. I think this helps a lot.
Frederick hopes the improved atmosphere will create a bond between fans and the players. A bond the program may have lacked in the past.
“Anytime you want to make a connection between your fans and your athletes, they have to be able to see each other. They have to be there. I think this helps a lot,” says Fredrick who had wanted the change since she was an assistant coach at Iowa in the early 80’s.
The three court layout also gives coaches and players one more court to practice on. Now the team can easily work its middle hitters, outside hitters, and defensive players all at once and not feel pinched for space.
Changing the court’s layout was just one thing Fredrick wanted to change as head volleyball coach. Since arriving in Iowa City two years ago, she has also witnessed upgrades in the locker room. Fredrick says facility alterations are already helping with recruiting.
“Student athletes today want to go somewhere where they’re treated really well and they want the facilities to reflect that,” says Frederick. “When you’re recruiting, these are the things people look at.”
Fredrick hopes the changes off the court will help produce changes on the court. Since last season, Fredrick’s staff has added eight new faces to the roster. Of the 14-member 2005 squad, seven are freshman and one is a transfer. Fredrick says the new recruits, along with other facility upgrades, prove the Iowa volleyball program is headed in the right direction.
“This is kind of the rejuvenation of the program and I think it has been a long time coming,” says Fredrick. “This program needs to be exemplary of what Iowa athletics is. Our goal is to make this is a flagship program for the university. We know we’ve got a lot of work to do, but that’s ok. That’s what makes it fun.”