Q&A with New Volleyball Coach Suzie Fritz
Aug. 20, 2001
With the departure of four-year head coach Jim McLaughlin to become the head coach at University of Washington in late July, his longtime assistant coach Suzie Fritz was elevated to interim head coach on August 1 for the 2001 season. For the energetic Fritz, the past 12 months have been a whirlwind. First, she gets married (to K-State assistant track coach Steve Fritz), has her first child (T.J. born in January) and now becomes a head coach for the first time. Here's a closer look at the Wildcats' newest head coach.
Q: It's been a life-changing past 12 months for you. Now you are thrust into the head coaching role less than week before the players report for fall practice. Talk about the change and your thoughts right now.
A: "I'm thinking about a lot of things, but ultimately, I want to do what's right for the program and I'm trying to look at the big picture. Ultimately, the most important thing I can do is just get us better every day. I want to enter practice the first day with, `What do we have to do to get better today?' What are the most important thing we need to do to get ready for competition?"
Q: How will you handle the transition from being an assistant coach to now becoming the head coach? How did Jim McLaughlin prepare you for this challenge?
A: "One of the many things that Jim (McLaughlin) allowed me to do was have a lot of responsibility within the program. Between (assistant coach) Jason (Watson) and myself, we were able to do a lot of things: plan practice, organize recruiting, scout opponents, do travel and budget. A lot of things it takes to run a volleyball program. I believe that these experiences have prepared me fully to make this a smooth transition. My role changes a little bit because I now become ultimately responsible. I believe in the things that we do, I will be myself and I will grow with the job."
Q: Talk about the relationship you had with Jim McLaughlin and the opportunity you now have as head coach.
A: "Jim is very important to me. He's been my mentor, my friend and he's been the very good to me. He is a teacher of the game, he diligently prepared and studied our team. He allowed me to do a lot of things as an assistant, gave me significant responsibility and taught me many lessons. Ideally, in a perfect world nothing changes and its stays the same and we continue to build on what we do together during the past four years. But it's not reality and once you get past that emotion and that you are sad to see him go, you realize it is a great opportunity for me. I'm so excited. I couldn't be entering into the job with a better group of women."
Q: How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
A: "I think of myself as a teacher, not a classroom teacher, but a volleyball teacher. Coaching, more than anything is about relationships. It is my responsibility to provide an environment that is conducive to learning, taking into account methods, mechanics and motivation. Therefore, it is necessary to put our team in situations that occur most at the highest level and then give them opportunities to respond. All the while, providing positive feedback, and measuring progress."
Q: Talk about growing up in a family of coaches. Led by your father, Larry Wiemers, just about every member of your family is a coach in one way or another.
A: "It's wonderful to have grow up in a family of coaches. I'm very proud of my family, and I knew very early on that I wanted to coach, like my dad. He was a high school football coach for 25 years, before going to Emporia (Kan.) State to coach linebackers and assist my older brother, Dave, who is the head coach. My younger brother, Jon, is the offensive line coach at ESU and even my mom (Sandi) has coached dance and baton twirling for years. As legendary Olympic coach Carl McGown, who is now winning national titles for the BYU men's volleyball program, says this about coaching. `Coaching can be among life's greatest pleasures, it can be incredibly rewarding. Much of what we are required to do in this society is no particularly interesting, let along exciting. Coaching can be both.' I suppose that's why we do it."
Q: What are some of the goals the team has set for the coming season?
A: "We talk very little about wins and losses, but I know that they have very high expectations to do well in the conference, and go deep into the NCAA Tournament. For now, we just want to get a little better each day."
Q: With all the losses that have occurred since last December, how do see the state of program?
A: "There is always a lot of doom and gloom about the state of a program after a coaching change, but the success this program has enjoyed over the last four years wasn't built overnight and it's not going to suddenly fall off. When I got here four years ago with Jim (McLaughlin), we were 37th in the country and this past year we finished 16th, so this program has emerged from just a good one to one of the nation's premier programs. Undoubtedly, returning four starters should help sustain some of that success, but we can't forget the lessons we have learned and take for granted the success we have already attained."
Q: How has the success of the last four years influenced the program in terms of exposure and recruiting? How will the team react to added pressure?
A: "Undoubtedly we are on the map now and people are paying attention. In terms of recruiting, it's hard to say, but great players want to be surrounded by other great players. ...Pressure is relative. We want to be as good as we can possibly be, but the team has always had high expectations. I don't think that changes now."
Q: As the the recruiting coordinator the last four years, what are some of the ingredients that you look for in a player?
A: "I think, like most coaches, we look for ability first and foremost. You have to first have the ability to play at the level we expect here at Kansas State. Secondly, we look for competitiveness in a player. We want to have good competition at every position to ensure we have the best players on the floor. Finally, we look for character. In this program, you are expected to excel not only on the court, but in the classroom and in the community."