I'm Just Saying ... with Elgin Community College volleyball coach Jason LeBlanc
Jason LeBlanc has a history with Elgin Community College’s volleyball program. Now, he’s in charge of trying to create a buzz about a Spartans women’s program he is taking over. LeBlanc spent the past five years coaching at Sky High Volleyball in Crystal Lake and coaching the freshman girls team at Woodstock North. He will hold three open tryouts for the ECC program from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 15, 22 and 29.
I actually met my wife at Elgin Community College. We both were playing there like 20 years ago and I still have my (ECC) jacket. My wife kept saying, ‘You’ve got to throw that thing out, just throw it out.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to hold onto it.’ Now I have a reason to keep it. I kind of feel like I’m coming back around. When I left there, I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to play as long as I can,’ and then I wanted to get into coaching. Eventually, I knew I would love to go back and coach at ECC. When I saw the (job) opening, I said, ‘Oh, I have to do this. I just have to.’ This is my shot. I’ve always wanted to come back here and be the coach and now I’ve got my chance.
I remember when I played at ECC, the program was really strong. They won and they were competitive. I don’t think they have that now. The past few years, they’ve kind of been down and I’ve talked to some of the players and they say, ‘Yeah, there’s really no excitement.’ The players now are like, ‘You’re going to bring so much more to this.’
Right now, the most challenging thing is recruiting, because they really haven’t been a successful program for a while. A lot of players don’t even know that (ECC) has a team. So, I have a lot of work to do between now and the fall. I kind of like the idea that I get to pick the players. At Sky High and with club (volleyball), you had kids who signed up to play and who want to play and we kind of divided what we have. Now, I get to go out and look for players who I would want to play and who I think would be a good fit. I’m kind of looking forward to that.
I like my teams to be smart, I like to them to think. They’ll always know what they’ll be doing on the court. Hopefully, I can teach them all that and they can think for themselves. But we’re going to be a smart team that makes good decisions out there. I like all-around players who can play more than one specific position and I like running a faster offense. We don’t always have to have big, tall girls. I always had teams at Sky High who were kind of short and we would play against teams with tall girls and we would beat them with defense. We would just wear them down with defense. We’re fast, and we do well with that.
I know this is going to be a bit of a challenge – especially to get people excited. But I think it’s going to be a fun challenge to get them started and build that program. I don’t know if it will happen overnight, but I’m going to try to get these guys going. It may take a couple of years, but I think that will be fun. Even if I had nobody, I would recruit players and bring them in. I’ve already got a couple of players I’m looking at and I can’t wait for them to get here. When I talk about volleyball, I tend to get pretty excited about it. So I hope my passion for volleyball comes out. Hopefully, I can get them excited.
• I’m Just Saying is a regular Sunday feature. If there’s someone you would like to see featured, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.