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Diversity draws new volleyball head coach to Mills

Susan Forbes, the Mills College volleyball team’s new head coach, has a lot of experience under her belt — she first began the sport in the fifth grade.

Susan Forbes, self-proclaimed "volley-dork" and new head coach. (courtesey of Susan Forbes)

A native of southern California, Forbes continued playing through high school, reading volleyball magazines and, during her senior year, helping to coach local youth teams. After graduation, she began to coach summer volleyball leagues, working her way up to coach the sport at the club level.

“I’m a volley-dork!” she said.

In 2006, Forbes graduated from the University of the Pacific (UOP). After graduation, she decided to take a year off, and found herself working in finance.

In the fall of 2007, Forbes went back to UOP for a masters in Educational Administration and Leadership with an emphasis in Student Affairs.

“Basically, it means student development in higher education,” said Forbes. “I wanted to help people find out what to do after sports. I realized that coaches have the greatest impact on their players.”

Forbes said she was attracted to volleyball because it’s such a technical sport. “Coaches can draw from multiple techniques to teach from.”

With coaching experience and a master’s degree in hand, Forbes began her hunt for jobs, a search which would ultimately lead her to Mills.

While researching possible job options, Forbes looked for an institution that was diverse and matched her values concerning where athletics should be placed in a student’s life. She said she believes sports open many opportunities to student athletes, and it is possible to balance sports and academics.

“The minute I drove on campus I thought, ‘Wow! This would be an amazing opportunity,'” she said.

For Forbes, the biggest difference between coaching youth volleyball and college volleyball is the interaction with players. “I get to see my team everyday and they can come into my office to talk. Greater trust and communication can develop when interaction is increased.”

Forbes stressed the importance of getting to know her players because she likes to find out what makes people who they are today. “I like to see how people react to my interactions,” she said.

Forbes’ husband, Joe, whom also played volleyball for UOP on the men’s team, helps the Mills volleyball team during practice.

“He offers good diversity to the environment,” said Forbes. “I look forward to taking the program to the next level.”