Aug. 30, 2008
Editor’s Note: Sharon Dingman was introduced as the eighth head volleyball coach at the University of Iowa on March 25, 2008. In 17 seasons as head coach at Auburn, Butler and Illinois State, Dingman has won more than 61 percent of her matches and had season won-loss records of .500 or above 15 times. She is a native of Monticello, Ind., and played two seasons at Purdue before transferring to Northern Michigan, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1984. And, yesterday, she won her first match as head coach of the Hawkeyes, defeating Nicholls State in three games at the Hampton Inn/Bama Bash.
Question No. 1: They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. What was your initial reaction to the University of Iowa?
The people were so genuine and this is truly an institution that cares about its athletes. The student-athlete experience is very, very important to me. I’ve coached for 25 years and I want our players to have a great experience and certainly winning helps that experience, but this is an easy place to move to because of the people.
Question No. 2: What are some of the most appealing aspects of rebuilding a volleyball program?
Challenges. I love challenges. I think most people in athletics enjoy and appreciate a good challenge and that’s certainly what we have ahead of us. I feel this administration is committed to volleyball and I sensed that when I interviewed. These players are committed to winning and getting this program going in the direction everyone wants to see it go. (Former head coach) Cindy (Fredrick) did a tremendous job of laying some foundation and now it’s just building on her hard work, too. The challenge of playing in the Big Ten Conference is very, very appealing to any coach or any athlete. You want to play or coach at the highest level and we’re getting that opportunity at the University of Iowa.
Question No. 3: What has impressed you most about the students you inherited in your program?They’ve been incredibly open and welcoming to our staff and the changes we’ve asked them to make. I can’t even believe how they’ve embraced that — and certainly the quality of students that they are. You find that across the board with volleyball. You tend to get some really, really good, solid, students and these kids do great in the classroom. There’s carry-over to every aspect of your life. If there’s discipline in the classroom, then there’s going to be discipline on the court and vice versa. I’ve been impressed with their ability to embrace us and they have great attitudes going into this. They’re looking forward to this as much as I’m looking forward to this. They’ve been a joy to be around. They’re enthusiastic.
Question No. 4: How will you gauge success during the 2008 season?
There are so many levels of success. I want the players to enjoy playing volleyball. I think that’s been lost over the last couple years a little bit for some of them. I really want to get back to where they enjoy the game of volleyball. We want to look at our progress as we go throughout the season. Their legacy is going to be something very different than the recruiting class that we get in 2011 or 2012. They are the ones who want to say, `Hey, I was on that team that got it turned around.’ It’s not always the wins and the losses. Do we understand that it’s a matter of how hard you compete every day? Do we understand how hard it is to train and play at a really high level? Those are the things that we’ll be looking for — certainly as well as winning. That’s how we’re all judged. Unfortunately, the crowd is not in the gym every day watching us practice and seeing the progress we’re making there. We’re just judged on winning or losing on Friday and Saturday nights. You can’t ever escape that.
Question No. 5: In your opinion, what sets the sport of volleyball apart from any others?
Every sport is unique. Every sport has its nuances — volleyball is the ultimate in team sports because your success depends on the person next to you…the contact that happens before you. The setter can only be as good as the passers. The attackers can only be as good as the setters. There are so many things that have to happen in volleyball before you score one point. Match-ups are so critical in volleyball and once you get a certain match-up, you have to play a 25-point game with that match-up. You turn your lineup in and you can’t change it. We’re limited in substitutions. There are so many components that make strategy fun and strategy is my favorite part of the game.
“The people were so genuine and this is truly an institution that cares about its athletes. The student-athlete experience is very, very important to me. I’ve coached for 25 years and I want our players to have a great experience and certainly winning helps that experience, but this is an easy place to move to because of the people.”
New UI Volleyball Coach
Question No. 6: If you could coach any other sport at the collegiate level, what would it be and why?
I would love to coach football. I love the team aspect of it. I would say it’s very similar to volleyball in that there are so many jobs that have to be executed prior to what we see happening, whether it be a two-yard gain or a touchdown run. So many things have to happen. I would love to sit down and pick the brain of our great football coach and gosh, you talk about having to be detail-oriented. I absolutely love football.
Question No. 7: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a coach?
The interaction with the student-athletes. That’s a simple, short answer.
Question No. 8: While at Illinois State, can you discuss your impression of the Big Ten Conference?
It is a very big, physical conference. The Missouri Valley is a great conference. It had four teams in the tournament last year and the Big Ten had six. So if you’re going to use that as a measure of success, the Valley wasn’t that far behind. The Valley is smaller, probably a little bit more athletic as far as speed and jumping ability. The Big Ten is big and physical. I don’t think there is a more physical conference than the Big Ten. The women in this league hit the ball really hard. The power behind the game is amazing in this conference.
Question No. 9: What were some of the things that helped make this an easy transition for you to the Iowa City community and the University of Iowa?
The team, first of all. They embrace everything that I’m trying to bring here. That made it an easy transition. The people here are tremendous. Talk about a comfortable place. At my age and where I am in this profession, that was a little scary probably, but everyone has been so welcoming.
Question No. 10: Who were some of the people that inspired you as an athlete or after you entered the coaching profession?
Certainly my coach at Purdue, Carol Dewey, was a very big influence. I could go as far back as my high school coaches. They had a large impact on me and wanting to pursue my career as a college athlete. Carol at Purdue has been a tremendous role model for me and I think as my career has progressed, there are two other people — Kathy DeBoer, she was the woman I worked for when I was an assistant at Kentucky. As a professional and the point in my life I was, she by far had the largest impact on my life. Mary Wise, the coach at Florida, continues to have an impact on my daily life. There’s not much I don’t run by Mary if it’s a major decision.
Bonus Question: Athletes can be superstitious. As a coach, do you have any consistent pre-game routines or rituals?
Yeah, I give my assistant Chris (Gaskill) a hard time because he’s so superstitious. I’m not superstitious at all. I don’t even know if I have any rituals. If I do, I don’t even recognize them as rituals. But Chris is so superstitious, so of course I love to give him a hard time about being superstitious.
Bonus Question: What does the $47 million addition and renovation project for Carver-Hawkeye Arena mean to you?
What a tremendous boost for our entire athletic department. There is going to be an immediate impact for the sports that use Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but there is going to be an impact for every sport with the new strength training and conditioning area. This is a great building, it has served its purpose over the past 25 years, but it does need a facelift and this is very exciting. I’m sure Todd (Lickliter) and Lisa (Bluder) are excited, too. It’s fun to actually have something now that we can talk with recruits and say `this is happening.’ It’s exciting and that was quite influential on my decision to come here. I get excited thinking about being part of something like that.
Bonus Question: What was it about the University of Iowa that prompted you to apply for the head coaching vacancy?
The Big Ten Conference and working for a world-renowned institution. That’s hard to pass up. I’ve been to Iowa City enough to know how much I really liked it here. The very first thing you look at is that this is an opportunity to coach in the Big Ten.
Bonus Question: Discuss some of the challenges as your first preseason with the Hawkeyes nears.
It’s learning the system — who to contact for this or that or the other thing. Those little things take a lot of time, learning how to do them all. My entire staff is new. Those are probably the challenges. I am so excited about training camp. I can’t wait for it to get started.
Bonus Question: Can you summarize your first four months at the University of Iowa?
It’s been great. The adjustment has been easier than I ever could have imagined. I haven’t been disappointed for one minute of a day of what I thought I was getting when I interviewed here and what I observed during the interview process. It has gone above and beyond my expectations from what I thought it would be. Now, we haven’t played one Big Ten match yet, so ask me at the end of September.