Player to coach

Former Bulldog lands new coaching job

Former Ferris volleyball standout Caroline Heitzman has landed an assistant coaching job at the University of West Alabama (UWA).

Heitzman accepted the job as a graduate assistant in February after UWA flew her to Livingston, Alabama for an interview. She was looking for a coaching job that would help pay for her Master’s program which UWA provided. Plus, the Alabama weather didn’t hurt.

Heitzman said, “I just fell in love with the campus. When I went back to the Michigan snow, I knew I wanted to be here.”

She is now part of a revamped UWA coaching staff. Former Head Coach Jordan Lay accepted a job at Wofford College after Heitzman’s arrival leaving assistant coach Alexis Meeks the head coaching position. Meeks then hired former University of Essex graduate student assistant Robert Chilcoat as an assistant coach.

The UWA Tigers have been stagnant, going 20-41 over the previous two seasons. Heitzman and this young coaching staff look like they’re changing that trajectory. This team has gone under .500 in the preseason for the last four years but the Tigers have gone 3-1 this year.

“This start is so monumental,” Heitzman said. “I’m looking forward to turning this program around.”

Heitzman happens to know quite a bit when it comes to winning volleyball. She was a key part of a Bulldog squad that went 33-3 last year and was ranked No. 1 in the nation for several weeks. She herself was an All-GLIAC and two-time NCAA Div. 2 Midwest Region All-Tournament player.

From a player to a coach, she has now seen both sides of the sport.

“Playing as a Bulldog was the time of my life,” said Heitzman. “If I were to continue volleyball I knew I would need a different role.”

Communicating her volleyball knowledge to her players was a bit of a struggle when she first started this coaching job.

“Coaching is like having a thousand keys and a thousand doors. You have to find the one that matches,” said Heitzman. “It’s tough, but rewarding.”

Heitzman will spend two years at UWA earning her Master’s degree in student affairs in higher education. Afterwards, she hopes to work with student athletes through advising or recruiting. As a former student athlete, she understands the importance of these roles.

“I firmly believe everyone has a niche they can pay forward,” Heitzman said. “My niche is being organized and efficient at time management. Helping students gain organization and time management in their academics is an area I want to assist in.”

From a Bulldog to a Tiger, player to coach— Heitzman looks to turn around a program and hopefully some students’ lives.