By Paul Money
First-year Garaway junior varsity volleyball coach Karissa Swihart called a timeout during a game this season and showed some intensity, letting her team know they needed to turn around their play.
As the huddle broke, Karissa Swihart made eye contact with her mother, varsity coach Deb Swihart, and got a nod as to say, “Well done, daughter.”
They returned to the bench, sat down and paid close attention to how the players were going to react to the pep talk.
The telepathy that happened in that huddle is just one of the advantages this family duo is bringing to the volleyball team in Sugarcreek.
“The greatest thing is she knows exactly how I want things,” Deb Swihart, fifth-year Garaway varsity coach, said. “I never have to worry about her telling a player something wrong. It’s like having someone on the bench that can read my mind.”
It also helps that Karissa Swihart was a superb athlete in her days as a Pirate. The recent 2014 graduate started her freshman year in volleyball and played all four years, and went to state in the shot put her freshman, sophomore and junior year. Her junior year at state Swihart finished eighth and made the podium in Division III.
A knee injury plagued Karissa Swihart’s senior track season and she was not able to compete.
So far Karissa Swihart said her team has taught her a lot of things including settling in being a coach before a player.
“We have ups and downs,” Karissa Swihart said. “They have taught me to be more calm than I use to be. It’s hard at times, but my players are good kids and want to learn and to win.”
As far as being right next to her mom for the whole game, Karissa Swihart said her mother and she both like to raise the games ferocity and energy.
“We’re very intense and we like the intensity to be way up,” Karissa Swihart said.
The fire that Karissa brings to the bench isn’t the only thing that is helping the Pirates’ this campaign. Deb Swihart described her daughter as a “great blocker” and having her able to go out and play with the team is a big benefit.
“Having her has improved our blocking this season,” Deb Swihart said. “Karissa led the area in blocking while she was here and has a real knack for the technique.”
Karissa Swihart does have some coaching experience. Last season she was the throwing coach for Walsh Jesuit High School while also being a student at The University of Akron.
“She learned patience as a track coach at Walsh Jesuit last season, and through that and coaching volleyball with me this year she is starting to learn that nothing comes naturally for everybody,” Deb Swihart said. “She figured out that the players don’t know everything she knows and she has to give them more guidance.”
The players are learning from Karissa Swihart at the same time she is learning the coaching ropes from her mom.
“There’s a tradition to carry on here of working hard and getting where you want to go,” said Karissa Swihart said. “That’s what I’ve learned from Mom.”