Q&A with VCU Volleyball coach Jody Rogers

Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.
Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.
Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.

If there is one thing you notice about Jody Rogers when you first meet her, it’s her passion. The next thing you might notice is how much she dedicates to her craft: Volleyball.

Rogers has coached the women’s volleyball team for 23 years. Not only has she learned an immense amount about managing people, coworkers and student-athletes over the years, she has wedded herself to influencing younger women to pursue their dreams.

How did you first become involved in Volleyball?

Actually, I started at a very young age. I was not even in junior high yet but there was a league in Massachusetts, and I was not quite old enough to join. But this lady was like, ‘she is very eager to play,’ so I got to play even when I wasn’t of age.

How many years did you play?

Over 20 years,  which have been awesome but I always knew that I wanted to coach. So even when I was in high school I had aspirations. I wanted to get into college and start coaching. So I directly went on to get my Master’s at Springfield College and then I was a G.A. (graduate assistant coach) there for two years, and then right from there I got a job at a college in Massachusetts and a high school varsity volleyball team. And after six months, I got a college job at the University of Indianapolis and I was there for 17 years.

Do you define success by how much you win or by how much you can inspire others?

Definitely by how much I can inspire others, because women need women to be inspiring to be inspired. Men coaching can do a good job at it but it’s great for young girls to see women coaching and being strong leaders so that they can be inspired and be strong leaders for another girl or woman down the road. So I think that success always comes when you have a bunch of people around you who are pushing towards a common goal and love what they are doing.

How do you think the addition of Assistant Coach Patrick Maloney will result for the team?

I need someone who loves what they do, and it seeps out of every part of their body that they love the sport. And that is what Patrick brings. He is very enthusiastic and it’s contagious. So are my other assistants – Tim (Doyle) and Jenna (Orner), who is the new G.A., she is a type A, very strong personality and so we all gravitate towards each other. It’s been an amazing staff since I got here. I’ve had great assistants in the past since I have been at VCU, but I think that this staff really clicks on all cylinders. We get each other. We motivate each other, and like I said getting people who are passionate and work hard and want to be better — you want to be around them.

What are you most excited about and expect from this team?

Growth. Freshmen become sophomores, and every year is different but we always have expectations. We want to get the Atlantic-10 Championship so we can get to the NCAA Championship. However, it is more about how we gradually get better, because we want to incrementally be getting better everyday and then contend for a championship. So yeah, we want to win every game but I am not going to put that expectation on them. There are goals and expectations and that brings a lot of pressure, but as soon as I start seeing success that’s when I will apply more pressure and we can do different things, but for now I am just going to take it by segments. That is something I want my players to tie into their lives, even four years from now when they leave me; that they need to have goals that are short term and then have long term ones.

You have acquired the nickname “born winner.” Why do you think that is?

When I was growing up, my mom brought me and my sister up and I didn’t have a father in my life. My mother could not make it to any of my games. So I picked up athletics and got to be in the paper and my mom was really proud of me. Not to say that she was not already, but me and my sister wanted to be in the paper so we could get attention that way. Which sounds sick but not really. It started out very young that my mom made me work for what I wanted, and when I could get a job, I worked so that I could play sports and everything was accounted for. Which has made me be this way, but I think that a born winner is someone who wants to do well in whatever they do in life, and my mother pushed that into me and my sister. That is what made me become a coach because I look at people who have inspired me fondly and I want to be that person for someone.

How do you make sure your players give 100 percent of themselves during games or practices?

I want to give them a lot of responsibilities and give them the room to do them. I don’t get mad if a mistake is made during a game or practice, I get mad at their attitude and effort and how they treat each other. So I cultivate that by making sure that we are all treating each other with respect and that we trust each other; that we are honest with ourselves and stay true to who you really are and being direct. I am never black and white, I don’t sugar coat anything. I always try to tell them if you love this sport you can only get better and I help them by giving them parameters and responsibilities so that they feel ownership, because at the end of the day, it’s your team.

Keyris Manzanares, Contributing Writer

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