The other side of the CSU volleyball coaching equation: Emily Kohan

Luke Zahlmann

Colorado State volleyball has a trio of coaches, all with different styles. The role of motivator is played by Assistant Coach Emily Kohan.

With the CSU staff featuring long-time coach Tom Hilbert along with fellow assistant Luke Murray, Kohan has taken a different role.

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Hilbert stands as the enforcer with Murray posing as the silent teacher, both preaching lessons through different lenses. Kohan fits the mold with yet another teaching philosophy, teaching through vocal motivation and knowledge from her constant study of volleyball.

Whether it is an in-game encouragement for the under-the-radar defensive players or galvanizing practice sessions, Kohan makes her voice heard.

Formerly an assistant on the staff of Oregon State, Kohan joined the Rams at the beginning of 2016 and set to work with the defensive players of the team. Along with the liberos and specialists, Kohan has shown the versatility to teach several position groups.

“She (doesn’t) just work with defense,” sophomore Maddi Foutz said. “She’s talking to Katie (Oleksak) for setting; she’s talking to our hitters for hitting and blocking. She coaches us in everything.”

The ability to be versatile in her coaching stems from Kohan’s study of volleyball.

In her words, Kohan was not blessed with the same physical attributes of many of the players she coaches, which led her to go the mentor route, bypassing her playing days for teaching. Having a lack of the same high-level knowledge through playing, Kohan set her sights on learning each nuance of the game. 

“For me to become a good coach, I’ve really had to watch a lot of film and listen to a lot of other good coaches,” Kohan said. “I’ve just had to teach players things from other great players.” 

Kohan’s reach extends further than just the walls of Moby Arena, though.

A propensity for learning is something Kohan extends to the Rams’ players, ensuring their success on the hardwood translates to the classroom as well.

The constant goal for the team is not only a 3.0 GPA minimum for every player but the highest in the department as well. With that mission, Kohan has extended her recruiting pitch from fantasy to reality, ensuring success after CSU for her players.

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“She was my major that I’m in right now (business),” sophomore Jenna Heinemeyer said. “So we talk a lot about my future and that she was in the business world so, we talk a lot about that.”

Outside of discussions, Kohan is notified when a player gets a bad grade on tests or other assignments. When the alert comes to her, Kohan jumps into action, scheduling tutors, studying sessions and using flashcards for the trips to the road games.

Outside of helping current players, Kohan seeks out academic hunger from prospective players.

Now responsible for large portions of bringing new talent to Fort Collins, she has made a point to recruit the right players for the team.

Though not every player entering college has visions of academic success at their forefront, Kohan has placed an emphasis on recruited players with the mindset of competitiveness in the classroom.

“We want good volleyball players, we want good students and we want them to be good community members,” Kohan said. “In the recruiting process, we might lose kids that just want volleyball, but we want kids that we’re the right fit for.”

The lessons and standards have paid off with multiple players, including junior Olivia Nicholson and Foutz.

Nicholson, a hitter and substitute libero for the Rams works at a reptile house, and Foutz makes a difference in the lives of special needs individuals off the court. Juniors Katie Oleksak and Amanda Young have also blossomed in the medical field, each attaining their licenses as certified nursing assistants.

The impact Kohan is making on the Rams, both in the game and out of the game, has transformed the way the program operates.

To go along with their 21 seasons in the NCAA Tournament under Hilbert, the team is having success in the classroom and community as well.

Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com.