Corina Beimers—Staff Writer
In collegiate athletics, the transitions from one coach to another rarely is a smooth one. It can cause shock or fulfill expectations. It can bring heartbreak or relief. Regardless of the circumstances, the process of hiring a new coach and integrating them into a program brings unknowns.
“With any coaching change, there are always going to be challenges that the new coach, athletes, or coaching staff will face,” said Dillon Dahl, current graduate assistant for the Dordt University Women’s Volleyball program.
When Dordt’s women’s volleyball team gathered in December and learned of former head coach Chad Hanson’s resignation, they didn’t expect to find themselves in a similar meeting a few months later.
After Hansen’s resignation, the search for a new coach began in December. When February arrived, the university hired Darci Wassenaar as the new head coach As she entered the athletics department with an admirable reputation in Midwest volleyball, there were high levels of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season.
After only a few weeks with the team, however, Wassenaar announced her resignation due to personal reasons.
“It definitely came as a shock,” said junior middle blocker Danielle Vande Voort. “None of us were going into practice that day expecting to hear that.”
The news came as a disappointment to the team for more than one reason. They had lost a good coach, interrupted their offseason training, and needed to restart the process of getting acquainted with a new coach. While such circumstances typically meant the volleyball team had to go through another waiting period, a new coach was announced soon afterward.
Jacki Smith had applied to the original job posting. Before Wassenaar resigned, she planned to fill the assistant coach position for the team. When Wassenaar left, Smith stepped into the role of head coach immediately.
“Another change in coaches obviously wasn’t what we thought our offseason was going to look like, but even after our short time with Wassenaar, we want what’s best for her,” Vande Voort said. “We know that we’ll be okay, and the team is excited to work with Jacki.”
Smith comes from the Minneapolis area. She served as head coach at Carleton College in Minnesota for the 2018-21 seasons, and of Lancaster Bible College for the season prior.
Smith spent her four university years at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul as a dual-sport athlete, captaining both their volleyball and basketball programs. Her volleyball team went to four straight NCAA tournament appearances. Smith continued to Concordia University-Irvine to earn her master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration.
“She is young and relatable. Coach Smith also offers a fresh perspective when looking at things,” Dahl said. “I am excited to see how she will continue to grow the women’s volleyball program.”
After originally completing her undergraduate in marketing, Smith realized she had much more passion for coaching than for anything in the business world. Although young, Smith has discovered her own coaching style over her handful of years as a collegiate head coach.
“I do try to make the gym a place that is competitive but also fun and a source of joy,” Smith said during her interview on Defender Discussions, the Dordt Athletic Department’s podcast.
After her personal experience with collegiate coaches, Smith noted the high value she places on the relationship between coach and player.
“I am deeply relational, and I really love building that with my athletes,” Smith said. “I think it’s really important to have that piece.”
Smith enters the program with a competitive spirit, excited to take on the challenge of leading a team that has experienced significant national success under the leadership of coach Chad Hanson.