New volleyball and wrestling coaches look to make a splash in debut seasons

        This year, two Westminster sports teams received brand new head coaches, as learning specialist Catherine Monroe leads the varsity girls volleyball team this fall, while permanent substitute teacher LB Joel will be coaching the wrestling team come October. For now, Coach Joel is an assistant coach on the football team, working with the offensive and defensive linemen.

        For Monroe, volleyball has always been a large part of life, either playing and coaching since childhood.

        “I grew up in Texas and played college volleyball there as well,” said Monroe. After college, Monroe spent some time coaching volleyball at a large Texas high school, until she decided to make a big move all the way across the Atlantic.

        “I moved to the Netherlands after coaching in Texas for eight years,” said Monroe. “I worked at an independent school much like Westminster, coaching volleyball. It was a really enlightening experience, living overseas. I’m glad I did it, but also very glad to be back in the States now.” Monroe moved to Atlanta directly after her time in the Netherlands. Now, she heads the Westminster volleyball team, which has had an impressive start on the season.

        “We have a really talented group, both athletically and in their own skillsets,” said Monroe, who has helped lead the Cats to a 14-6 record. “They also have a really high volleyball IQ, which is something that all really good players have.” Monroe also has very high expectations for the upcoming state playoffs, where the VolleyCats have experienced large amounts of success in recent years.

       “From what I’ve seen, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the state finals,” said Monroe. “We do have a big team, and more than half of the girls are new to varsity, but we’ve played well and beaten very tough sides, including Riverwood and GAC. So, I think there’s no reason we shouldn’t be there.”

       However, volleyball isn’t just about wins and losses for Monroe and her team.

       “There are a lot more parts of the program than just volleyball,” said Monroe. “We take advantage of service learning opportunities, have team mindfulness sessions, complete team bonding exercises, and the girls even went rock climbing together this year. I’m just really about the whole experience.” In her free time, Monroe takes care of her three kids and competes in long distance endurance running events.

        “I just try to keep everything in perspective and live a balanced lifestyle,” said Monroe. Hopefully, Monroe and her squad will be able to keep their balance as well, eyeing another state championship this year.

        LB Joel, the new wrestling coach and assistant football coach, had a pretty wild ride since graduating from Westminster.

        “I graduated from Westminster in 2009, and UNC in 2013. Two weeks after graduating, I moved to California, where I was working for computer software companies in San Jose,” said Joel. “I moved to San Francisco after a year or two, and started coaching wrestling at a small high school down there for about 3 years.” Westminster’s wrestling team will be Joel’s first head coaching position. But, don’t be fooled, he is more than ready for the challenge.

        “When I was coaching in San Fran, we had four girls on the team,” said Joel. One of my biggest accomplishments was having each of those girls get a least one win over a boy in the same year. It’s just a whole different type of coaching, and I think it really prepared me to be a great coach for Westminster this year.”  Joel, along with his new wrestlers, are very excited for the upcoming season.

        “I’m really pumped for the season to start,” said Joel. “We got kids who are working really hard in the offseason, and we have a great coaching staff to supplement that. I also expect a lot of younger guys to step up and help the team in big ways.”

        Junior Matt Hoffman also expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming season.

        “It’s going to be dope,” said Hoffman. “I really like Coach Joel, and he’s already taken a good amount of time to get to know us and familiarize himself with the program. Hopefully, with these offseason workouts, we’ll get off to a great start this year.” Joel also made it clear that these “younger guys” can step up all the way up to captaincy, if they work hard enough.

        “When I was wrestling here, being a captain as a junior helped me grow a lot as a wrestler and a leader,” said Joel. “So, I’m not going to limit captaincy to just seniors. Anyone, freshman included, can become a captain if they work hard enough and are committed to the team.” Joel was a 2009 GHSA wrestling state champion in the heavyweight weight class. In his free time, Joel’s favorite hobbies are concerts and coaching wrestling and track.

        “I like that coaching wrestling and track are my hobbies,” said Joel. “It wouldn’t be fun if they weren’t. I also really like concerts. I’m actually seeing Post Malone in San Diego on Friday, even though he is here in Atlanta on Saturday for Music Midtown. Wish I had known about that.” If you’ve seen Joel walking around campus, or possibly acting as your substitute teacher, he may have seemed a little unapproachable.

        “I know I seem a little scary based on my resting complexion, but don’t worry,” said Joel. “I’m really a softie, so come and say hey. I promise I won’t bite.” With his previous wrestling experience, all-inclusive coaching philosophy, and intimidating complexion, Joel and his new wrestling team are looking to have a great season this winter, hopefully bringing back that state championship mentality.

        While both coaches bring something new and different to the table, their goals are still the same: to have fun and win championships. With the right mindset, both of those goals just might be achieved.