Sam Ekstrom-Staff Writer
Typically, collegiate athletes move up the ladder from junior varsity to varsity – not the other way around.
Danae Geels is an exception.
The 2013 Dordt graduate and four-year varsity volleyball standout returned to coach the program’s JV squad this season. As Geels frankly admits, it wasn’t a role she ever anticipated having.
“I guess I’d never really considered it,” said Geels. “[Coach Hanson] called me one random day this summer and just asked if I had decided on anything yet, and I said ‘Nope.’”
Geels, an education major, was still in limbo about her future plans as the new school year approached. Dordt volleyball coach Chad Hanson, having known Geels for two years, thought she would be perfect as a mentor for the young athletes.
“She is able to connect and relate very well with these student-athletes,” said Hanson. “She understands what they are experiencing and possibly what they might be thinking at different times.”
It helps that Geels, 22, has been in the same position as many of the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds that she coaches. Geels began her Dordt volleyball career at the JV level without any certainty she’d continue.
A mid-season varsity call-up in 2009 helped Geels’ cause, but the strong mentorship she had along the way solidified her love of the sport.
Four years later, she gets the chance to reciprocate.
“I see this as any other kind of ministry,” said Geels. “I just want to be able to pour into these girls and invest in their lives and make them feel special for the season.”
Freshman Hope Kramer is thoroughly enjoying her time under the new junior varsity coach.
“She genuinely cares about us and is a ton of fun to play for,” said Kramer. “She knows how to get us to compete in positive ways, and I am so thankful to get to play with her as my coach.”
Geels defines herself as “chill,” never the most intense person on the court. She encourages her team to have fun.
“If you’re not having fun, then what’s the point of playing?” she asked.
Geels’ opponents over the previous four years may not have had much fun dealing with her on the front line.
During her four years at Dordt, the 6-foot-1 Geels hammered over 1,100 kills. Her team-leading 331 attacks last season helped the Defenders finish 11-5 in conference play.
As Hanson explained, her athleticism on the court is tough to replace.
“Danae played with a free spirit on the court. She was instinctive at finding an offensive opportunity to score. She is also very athletic and a tremendous jumper,” Hanson said.
Former teammate and current senior Lindsey Floen points out Geels’ intangible strengths.
“[Danae] led on the court by her actions, and she always seemed determined to do her best,” said Floen. “She was a great spiritual leader on and off the court.”
Now leading as a coach, Geels gets to pass on the knowledge she gleaned from 129 varsity matches played.
“She definitely knows her stuff,” said Kramer. “I have learned so much from her already this season, and I’m excited to keep learning more.
“Danae is a great listener,” said Floen. “I think that is a necessary quality when you are a coach.”
Geels never planned on coaching volleyball, nor does she necessarily plan to pursue it further. The Sheldon, Iowa-native is still considering a future in education as she substitute teaches part-time in local schools.
But if her young team keeps up its current pace, Coach Hanson may want to remove the “interim” label from Geels’ name. The JV team is 7-2 through nine contests.
“Coach keeps cracking jokes that he’s going to extend my contract,” said Geels.