SCC’s winning volleyball coach; Laurie Nash always maintains a competitive edge

Svetlana Varkentin listens as City College head coach Laurie Nash talks about blocking at the net in the match against Santa Rosa College at North Gym on Sept. 30th.  ©2016 Dianne RoseSvetlana Varkentin listens as City College head coach Laurie Nash talks about blocking at the net in the match against Santa Rosa College at North Gym on Sept. 30th. ©2016 Dianne Rose
Svetlana Varkentin listens as City College head coach Laurie Nash talks about blocking at the net in the match against Santa Rosa College at North Gym on Sept. 30th. ©2016 Dianne Rose

Svetlana Varkentin listens as City College head coach Laurie Nash talks about blocking at the net in the match against Santa Rosa College at North Gym on Sept. 30th. ©2016 Dianne Rose

Waking up every day wanting to be the best you can be is a common cliché that Laurie Nash is aware of, a cliché she embodies no matter how corny or recycled it sounds. Not only does she want to be the best, she also wants to be “awesome,” which happens to be her favorite word.

“I want to be the best I can be every day, and I’m not saying that just because it sounds cool,” Nash says. “That’s just the person that I am. That’s in my daily life as well as in my career. It sounds cheesy, but when I wake up in the morning I want to be the best mom, I want to be the best wife, I want to be the best coach, I want be the best instructor that I can be on a daily basis. I just want to be as awesome as I can.”

Laurie Nash, 48, is a kinesiology, health and athletics professor, but most importantly, she is the City College volleyball coach who recently had her 300th victory this season.

This is Nash’s 22nd year coaching at City College. She took over full-time coaching duties in 2000 from former head coach Debbie Blair, whom she credits with helping her come full-circle in life because Nash never thought she would end up being a volleyball head coach.

“She wanted to move closer to her family, and go back to CSUS for her master’s degree,” says Blair. “She and I have many of the same coaching philosophies, so it helped us both.”

Nash says her original route in life was to attend a technical vocational school and become a court reporter and work at a law firm because she was good at certain business classes. After playing volleyball at American River College for three years, Nash received a scholarship to play volleyball at Cal Poly, Pomona, a Division 2 program. During her final year there, she started coaching a club called the Poly Juniors, while finishing her degree.

“While I did that, I applied for a high school coaching position at Claremont High School, and then that’s when I realized I really liked it—my first year of high school coaching—so I stayed there for three years,” Nash says. “I didn’t decide to make it a career until I had graduated from Cal Poly, and realized that I wasn’t real excited about my major, which was graphic design. And I wasn’t really wanting to pursue the advertising and marketing career, so I decided that I was going back to school at that point.”

Once Nash started coaching, she eventually met up with her former coach, Debbie Blair, who was now coaching at City College. Nash realized coaching was something she wanted to do for a living because she was good at it. That was 1995. Blair told her it was a big deal to come coach for her because she could be a full-time coach and instructor at a community college and that it could be her only job for the rest of her career.

Blair called it a“pretty good gig if you want to go for it.”

Nash went for it.

It was a lightbulb moment for her. She went back to school again and became the full-time coach in 2000.

“I was prompted to hire her as my assistant coach,” says Blair, “because when she came back to Northern California, she was assisting at Napa College, and with her help, they beat us for the first time. She had them playing such great defense, I knew it was what we were missing.”

Blair knew her program was in good hands, and Nash has done nothing but leave an incredible mark on people, including players and fellow faculty.

Nash has an admirer in City College’s wrestling coach, David Pacheco, Nash’s office mate on the second floor of the North Gym.

“Laurie believes in hard work and loyalty,” Pacheco says. “She is loyal to her players and they in turn, give their all to help the team be successful.”

Another person Nash has touched over the years is ex-player Nastasha Vinnikova, who had just moved to the U.S. and was looking for a good place to play volleyball. Vinnikova was told by friends to check out City College’s team because they had a great coach in Nash. Vinnikova decided to check it out.

“After the first practice I knew that I wanted to play for this coach,” says Vinnikova. “I think I opened up as a good player while playing for Laurie. I played before, but Laurie helped me to open even more. She makes you think, and I respect her a lot.”

Nash had been scouting Vinnikova and gladly welcomed her to the team. Vinnikova was part of the 2009 team that started 30-0 for the first time before state tournament play. Nash has used the 2009 team as an example in team meetings and during motivational speeches this year. She says this year’s team and the 2009 team are similar because of their competitive spirit.

To win 300 games in 16 years of head coaching has to make a person extremely competitive, which Nash is. She says she hates to lose more than she loves winning. For most people it’s the total opposite. But Nash isn’t particularly motivated by anything in particular.

“I am self-driven, internally motivated, always have been,” Nash says. “I don’t need anything to push me or motivate me. I find it easy to do it myself.  This applies to everything I do in my personal life and work life.”

Nash loves coaching volleyball because it’s fast-paced and exciting. To her, volleyball is dynamic because of the strategy involved and the interaction between players, because of ongoing communication among the team and coach. Volleyball is the perfect sport for her because she’s very active and can’t sit for very long.

“There’s so many moments within such a short amount of time where you can make a difference as an athlete,” Nash says. “I like to have my hands in a lot of things. I like being in control and being able to create what happens on the court.”

Nash is “awesome” at coaching and exemplifies being the best that she can be. Even though she is coaching right now, she’s in the middle of recruiting, an aspect of coaching she relishes.

“I’m also looking to the future and trying to recruit the best athletes in the Sacramento area,” Nash says. “I also want to bring in quality kids who understand how awesome it is here at Sac City.”

Nash says it is her job to bring recruits to City College to continue the volleyball program’s success. She says she has satisfied her job when a parent of a recruit has no questions after meeting. She feels they are on the right path to keep building the program.

“I love being here. I love working here. I love coaching here,” Nash says. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”