From Wilmette Beacon, July 31, 2019
Michelle Orth knew from a young age that she wanted to be a coach. Even during her playing days, the New Trier graduate was coaching up her teammates, as well as younger kids in club practices and tournaments.
While her high school career didn’t go any further than her Trevian playing days, she was able to turn her experience into something more valuable: helping teach younger kids the game of volleyball through coaching.
“I played club and high school volleyball for a long time and then prior to going to college, I made the active decision that I didn’t want to play and that’s a difficult decision coming from a competitive environment,” Orth said. “From there I got involved with intramurals and then my senior year of high school I started coaching. When I came home (after college) I realized I was going to touch on some of my connections at the club level and the school level and I found myself
applying for a job at Regina as well as for a coaching position and then from there it kind of took off,”
Now Orth will face a new challenge: being a varsity coach at the high school level for the first time. She takes over a Regina program that had been led by Robert Hughes for over a decade. Hughes left the Wilmette school earlier this summer and accepted a job as an assistant coach at the University of Iowa.
Orth spent this past season coaching both the Freshman A and B at the school and is also a health and physical education teacher at the school. This past year was her first in both roles at Regina.
Being in the building during the day, along with the rest of the girls in the program, is something that the new coach thinks will be of a help to all of those involved.
“I’m really fortunate,” she said. “I get to teach freshman no matter what when they come in and also sophomores so I see them right when they get in the building, they know who I am, I get to actually meet some of them over the summer.
“Having them at a younger level and then watching them grow, it’s really great for setting the core, and also knowing me as a person, a teacher, and a coach. There is obviously a fine line to walk that teacher role with coach conflict and it is really important to me, to keep the teaching and the coaching separate. I love my job, I love that I’m able to teach in a classroom, I teach in the gym and then I get to be back in the gym after school.”
Recently, many teams have started to try to make their program like one big family, mixing in all playing levels in a lot of what the program does. Regina, too, will follow in that same mold in Orth’s first year.
“I think having just one program, we’re lucky enough here that we field four teams, which is extremely important for our enrollment and the competitive nature of the program,” Orth said. “One thing we do is we incorporate things called buddy families, they’re big sister/little sister so a player from each team is assigned essentially a family and then we have different days, they’re practice days, that we will get together, different things maybe one or the other gets something, gets a small gift like ‘here’s a piece of ribbon,’ for example.”
The Panthers and Orth begin the season in mid-August and will face Northside Prep Aug. 27 on the road in their new coach’s debut.