Staying connected through tough times

NILES — Volleyball coach Jenny Nate may not be able to work with her club team or former players in person, but that is not stopping her from helping them.

Nate, who not only coached the Niles’ varsity volleyball team, but also a club team from Southwest in St. Joseph, works with her players through social media to give them workouts, encouragement and even healthy tips on eating.

That is nothing new for Nate, with the exception of not being with her players face-to-face.

“That is kind of my motivation as a coach,” she said. “So, keeping in touch with my players every day is what I do, and what I have always done. I think it helps with the transitioning.”

Nate said that no matter what was going on around the team, she was a constant for them.”

“Whether they read it or not, I just want to be there for them like I was before.”

Nate feels that it is important during a time that may seem chaotic, that she lets her team know she is still their coach and someone they can count on day in and day out.

“I’m your coach, whether we are sitting in the gym, or you are sitting on your couch. What better time to teach my players, or even my own kids, that this is the time to learn to lead. These moments when there is adversity and we do not know what to expect, that it helps them. It also helps me.”

Some days, Nate sends her team — current, club and former — workouts they can do at home. Some days she sends them different techniques that will help them with stress.

“We do book studies throughout the year,” she said. “Somedays it is positive blogs. It is always different. But it is something I have always done. I know for some of them, it would be easy to get out of the routine of working out.”

Nate is also aware that some of her players would have been competing in spring sports the past few months. She tries to create workouts that will help them not only in volleyball, but whatever other sport they may compete in during the school year.

“I try to keep it neutral enough that it would help them in any sport,” she said. “I certainly sending them out saying only do this for volleyball. If they want to do it for volleyball that is great, but more than anything, I want them to feel like we are all in this together.”

Nate said she has given her players healthy eating tips for years.

“I talk to them about the importance of eating well,” she said.

“If you want to be an athlete, you need to eat and take care of the inside of your body like an athlete. I always tell them that if you put crappy gas in a car, it is not going to go. It is the same way with athletes.”

These tips are not just about being in sports. Nate wants to help them develop healthy eating habits for life.

“A lot of them really want to eat healthy and perform at the top of their capabilities,” Nate said. “A lot of them do not know. They ask me what is a good carb? What does that mean?”

Nate said the parents have been good about embracing everything and trying to help their children grow and develop even through these difficult times.

Nate structures her day around teaching through online learning and coaching her team. It is structured similarly to a regular school day, but she does it while staying at home and waiting for the day when she can gather her players together in the Niles High School gym and begin preparation for the upcoming season.