New approach spikes volleyball program

Molly Kissinger is what many would call a free spirit.

The new Hood River Valley High School volleyball coach typically lives her life a few months at a time, doing as much as she can while trying to keep her feet planted on the ground.

A few months skiing in Utah, a few months windsurfing in Costa Rica, and a few months working at her home base, Cherry Hill Farms in Mosier. That’s been the norm for Kissinger the past couple of years.

Add in the responsibilities of being a mom (20-month-old son, Leo) and a yoga instructor, and it’s hard to imagine where she would find time to coach volleyball.

But, when she heard that the HRV program was in dire need of a committed coach, Kissinger jumped in head-first and took on the challenge of guiding a young group of HRV girls into the Intermountain Conference.

“Volleyball has been my big thing since I was a freshman in high school,” said the Wilmette, Ill., native. “I look at life a lot like volleyball. It’s all about getting into position.”

Kissinger has now been coaching the group of 27 girls, along with assistant Barb Hosford and JV coach Angie Cox, for three full weeks, and she has already started to implement her system.

“I don’t have much formal coaching experience, but I have a lot of playing experience,” said the former University of Illinois star. “My varied sports background has helped facilitate a greater understanding of what it will take to coach this group. And, over the past couple weeks, I have felt it start to sink in.”

Kissinger coached two freshman girls teams in the early ‘90s while living in Evanston, Ill., and benefitted from the tutelage of one of the NCAA’s top volleyball coaches, Mike Hebert, for two years at the University of Illinois.

She also spent 11 years as a guest relations manager and fitness manager at Alta Ski Resort in Utah, and now spends her winters teaching windsurfing for Three Corners Resorts in Costa Rica.

Also, during the eight months a year she lives in Mosier, Kissinger is a part-time yoga instructor at the Hood River Sports Club.

“I guess you could call it an alternative lifestyle, but I love it,” she said. “It could present a bit of a challenge with coaching because I won’t have contact with the girls until April or May. But this year will be a good test, and I’m committed to making it work.”

Just as she has done with every other challenge in her life, Kissinger has greeted her head- coaching duties with enthusiasm and vigor. But, as much as she looks forward to teaching the young HRV players, she also plans to learn a few things from them.

“I’ve been turning a lot to Meghan (Flink) so far, and sort of running things by her since she’s our most seasoned player,” she said. “The other players also look to her for guidance, and it should help to have a leader like her on the floor.”

If the first three weeks of practice are any indication, it shouldn’t be long before the players are saying the same thing about having Kissinger on the bench.

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