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Moving on up to the big chair at West

Assistant Scott Sanders takes over Women of Troy volleyball
Scott Sanders talks with the West High Women of Troy before a 2016 match. Sanders has moved from Assistant Coach to Head Coach of the varsity program. (file photo by Chris Umscheid)

North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Change came to Iowa City West High’s varsity volleyball program. Randy Dolson resigned the head coach position in order to lead the fledgling Liberty High Lightning in North Liberty. Scott Sanders, his assistant, was hired to take over the West program to lead the Women of Troy.
Sanders was assistant coach at Iowa City West High for eight seasons, working with legendary West High coach Kathy “Brez” Bresnahan for five years and the past three for Dolson.
He graduated with 24 classmates from Glidden-Ralston and managed the volleyball team his senior year.
“I never thought I would be involved in it again,” he said.
While attending Iowa Central Community College (ICCC), Sanders took a work study job taking stats, driving the bus and helping the volleyball team during practices.
“By the end of the first year at ICCC, I was running a couple of drills in practices. Again, after three seasons there, I was sure that I wouldn’t be involved in the sport again.”
Not long after his time at ICCC, his employer ALDI sent him to Iowa City where he connected with the directors of the Iowa Rockets, a club program.
“I was brought on immediately and had two teams each season, and would usually be added to another roster to help them during their National Tournament.”
His 2008-2009 Rockets team had three West High girls: Natalie Mason, Katie Kelley and Jess Gehrke on it.
“They were the gateway to Brez.”
Sanders said he had one interview with her and (then) AD Marv Reiland. He was hired via text message.
“I will never forget that conversation, her saying that I was hired by text so I could be fired by text.”
Sanders was part of multiple State Tournament appearances including two State Championships.
Moving up felt like a natural progression, he said. “I think if you are worth anything as an assistant coach you always have your own ideas and concepts that you want to teach. But in the end, you still implement the head coach’s concepts. I have learned a ton from Brez and Randy.”
Bresnahan, a Hall of Fame coach, is still very much a part of the West High community, Sanders noted. “Brez has always been someone I could reach out to, and will no doubt continue to be, as well.”
Dolson also has a long involvement in Iowa volleyball, and has made many contributions to the game, he said. “I will reach out to Randy as well to pick his brain in situations.”
However, since the two will face each other on the volleyball court when Liberty and West tangle, “maybe not as much.” Sanders said he will take things from each of their styles and implement them in his own fashion. He added, “I’m not reinventing the wheel here. I helped make a part of that wheel and have seen it roll down the road.”
Now however, he’ll be in the driver’s seat rather than riding shotgun.
“It’s very exciting and something that I have thought about for awhile now. I had applied at other schools, but even when I was going through the interview process for each of them, I knew my heart belongs to West.”
He added he feels West is the best place to be for a coach because of the work he and others have put into the program.
“The culture at West among all of the athletic programs is first class, and that’s a testament to the administration, coaches, players and parents.”
Nine seniors will graduate in a few weeks, a factor Sanders is already thinking about, but with a positive outlook. “We do lose a lot of great talent to graduation, but one third of our sets played stat and kills return. Two percent of our (players who made) assists return. 11 percent of our digs return. 36 percent of our blocking returns.” However, he added, “But that doesn’t mean that the cupboard is bare. When you lose a bunch of seniors that play a significant part of your matches, that means, in a program of this caliber and size, that there is talent waiting in the wings.”
Sanders said he’s excited about the talent West has, and for being able to help them on the road they want to take.
As an assistant coach, Sanders had a different relationship with the players which, at times, resembled something of a “big brother.” Now in the top spot, the role changes a bit he said, “The big brother is always in charge but it won’t change the connections I try to make with them. The more you know about a kid, you not only get to know the type of person they are or will be, but also how they will react if they were put in a tight situation.”
Sanders is looking forward to coaching against Dolson’s Lightning along with other coaches in the area. “It will be fun. I know a few of them pretty well, and they know me, so there might be some different dynamics there, but interesting and fun.”