Stevens Embraces New 'Assist' Role

Nov. 1, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, IowaPaige Stevens got her first taste of coaching volleyball following her sophomore season at the University of Iowa. As a junior, she earned the role of Big Ten starting setter. Entering her senior season in 2011, Stevens never thought she’d have to choose between two.

Limited by a hip injury in 2010, Stevens still managed to lead Iowa in assists despite playing with a torn labrum. She played through the pain while doctors investigated the exact diagnosis. It wasn’t until after the season the doctors revealed her only option.

“Surgery was the only option,” said Stevens. “I had extra bone growth in the hip that caused impingement, which meant my hips were five degrees out of alignment. So I could have had them saw off my hip and screw it into a different place, but I wouldn’t have been able to run again, so I just had a simple scope done.”

Stevens underwent surgery in March and set her sights on returning to the team in the fall. She said the recovery went well and turned her focus toward rebuilding strength in her legs.

“I was on the bike two days after surgery,” said Stevens. “It was a pretty speedy recovery. We focused on range of motion and strength building.”

Stevens reached her goal. She was released to practice one week prior to preseason and was back on the floor with her teammates when training camp opened in August. But the comeback proved to be too much too soon, and the pain in her hip returned after a week of training. She fought through the pain for three weeks of training camp before coming to terms with the reality she would have to endure another physically grueling season, or step aside from the sport and accept a medical redshirt.

Stevens then sat down with head coach Sharon Dingman, who presented an unknown option three.

“Going into that meeting with Sharon I was pretty much thinking it was either going to be fight through it and play in pain the rest of the season or go on a medical scholarship,” said Stevens. “But Sharon presented the idea of becoming a student-assistant coach. I didn’t even know that was an option. I thought about it for about an hour and then I called her back and accepted.”

“Paige is a well-trained setter. She understands the game and her volleyball IQ is very good,” said Dingman. “She still wanted to be involved in the program, and we wanted her around for all of those same reasons. She has great leadership skills, and we thought it was important to have people like that around a team that has 11 freshmen and sophomores.”

The transition to the bench has given Stevens the opportunity to follow through on the commitment she made to Iowa as a high school junior in Naperville, Ill. She’ll complete her four-year career as a Hawkeye student-athlete, graduate in May with a degree in civil engineering, and she’ll have no regrets.

“I played for three years and did my best to come back,” said Stevens. “I rehabbed before and after surgery, but a return to the floor wasn’t in the cards for me, so I took advantage of what was presented and became a student-assistant coach.

“I’m still a part of the program, and I’ve invested so much time into this program. The girls are my family, and I’m still able to be at practice and travel and do pretty much everything the players get to do, but now I’m not in pain every day. It’s the best of both worlds.”