By Kyle LoJacono
Most college athletic departments have one program that sets the mark for all others to follow. For many that tradition is created on the football gridiron, on the basketball court of on the baseball diamond.
For Pasco-Hernando Community College, the bar is set by the volleyball program inside the fitness gym with coach Kim Whitney leading the way.
“From what I’ve seen from her this year I’m very impressed,” said first-year PHCC athletic director James Johnson. “She definitely knows what she’s doing and how to get the most out of her players. She has set the standard every other one of our programs are striving for.”
Whitney became the Conquistador leader eight years ago and has compiled a 226-79 record, including 22-6 through the first 28 matches of this season.
Volleyball has been a big part of Whitney’s life since she first started playing in sixth grade.
“My older sister (Kristen) played and I wanted to give it a try too,” Whitney said. “Certainly glad I tried out.”
Whitney was primarily an outside hitter, but also played right side and middle hitter as well as libero. She attended Kansas State University, where she still holds the program record for most digs, double-doubles and sets played.
Her collegiate playing career earned Whitney a spot on the U.S. Women’s National Team in 2001. After college, she played professionally in various leagues in this country and in Spain. She also coached club volleyball and ran summer camps across Florida before taking her first college head coaching job at PHCC.
Whitney may have been a standout individually, but she concentrates more on getting a team to come together as a coach.
“That is always a big thing I focus on is how can every one of my players work to make the team better,” Whitney said. “I think it’s a good lesson for life because the people who succeed are the ones who don’t try to be the superstar all the time. You want to be the contributor to the winning team. You might get the recognition, but the goals need to be how do I make the team better?”
Whitney is also very direct in her methods.
“She is very down to business,” said sophomore right side hitter and team captain Jessica Imbimbo. “She’s all about this is what we need to do and this is how we do it. She’s never mean. She’s never once been the over-aggressive coach yelling at people. She makes you want to be better for the team and for her because of the kind of person she is. You want to win for her.”
Sophomore outside hitter Torii Koester said Whitney’s methods of coaching were a big reason why she chose PHCC.
“I tried out for another school, but it just didn’t click like the way it did when I tried out for coach Whitney,” Koester said. She then added, “When we came in for the first practice last year I was already learning things. From Day 1 I was getting better because of her. She has such a love for the sport and she pushes you to get the best out of you.”
During her tenure, Whitney has helped the Conquistadors win three Suncoast Conference titles and the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) Division II national champion in 2010.
Whitney was named the Suncoast Conference Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2007. She was also voted the Two-Year College Northeast-Southeast region Coach of the Year by American Volleyball Coaches Association twice for the 2005-06 and 2009-10 seasons.
She has tasted conference and national championships and received numerous coaching honors, but Whitney is ready to bring even more success to PHCC.
“I’m a very motivated person,” Whitney said. “I can always create new things to motivate me. With what we did last year it makes it harder to get back to that point again. Finding the weaknesses and making the players better. How do we use our strengths, and that’s fun for me. It’s like a puzzle and you have to figure out how it’s all going to work.”
PHCC will play in the regional finals in North Carolina starting on Nov. 5.
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