New Fairbanks High School varsity volleyball coach Ryanne Ufferman (left) demonstrates a drill with the help of Lady Panther junior Anna Higbee. Ufferman replaces Ed Marsman, who retired after the 2019 season. (Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
There is always a learning curve for athletic teams when a new head coach is hired.
It is actually a time of transition not only for players, but also for the new person in charge.
Imagine how much more difficult it would be for a new coach in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ryanne Ufferman has faced that type of challenge this summer as the new head coach of the Fairbanks High School volleyball program.
Ufferman was hired this past spring to replace Ed Marsman, who retired from the position after the 2019 season.
Ufferman, who formerly was the head coach at Fredericktown, Benjamin Logan and Hilliard Bradley, was originally scheduled to meet her team a couple of months ago.
“We had a meet and greet scheduled shortly after I was hired,” said Ufferman. “I was really excited to meet the girls, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.”
The new head coach didn’t get to formally meet her team until summer workouts began a couple of weeks ago.
“It felt great to get into the gym,” said Ufferman.
Along with learning the names of a number of Lady Panther players, the coach said the workouts have been a challenge under virus guidelines.
“We’ve been adjusting to social distancing,” said Ufferman. “That’s become a part of our routine, but it’s hard for a coach not to give a player a ‘high five’ after a good play.”
Ufferman describes herself as a “detail” type of coach.
“I’m really big on paying attention to detail and discipline,” said Ufferman. “We’ve especially been working on footwork and focusing on fundamentals.”
Although the Lady Panthers weren’t allowed inside the gym until recently, their new head coach kept in contact with them.
“I set up videos and gave the girls workouts they could do on their own during the quarantine,” said Ufferman. “I could tell from the first day of workouts they all had been doing something related to volleyball.
“However, going through drills in the gym is very different.”
Ufferman doesn’t feel the Lady Panthers are behind other high school volleyball teams.
“Everyone has basically been the same during the pandemic,” she said.
While the FHS spikers haven’t been together very long as a team this summer, Ufferman likes what she has seen to date.
“These girls are very hard workers and they have responded well to everything we’ve done,” she said.
Ufferman will continue to work as a 3D art teacher at Hilliard Memorial Middle School once the 2020-21 academic year begins.
She did, however, jump at the chance to take over a successful FHS program from Marsman.
“First of all, my family and I live in the Fairbanks district,” she said. “It’s nice to get home from practices in six minutes instead of 26.
“I’ve also coached some of these girls over the years of club volleyball in Plain City,” said Ufferman. “I knew some of them from back then and I’m anxious to coach them at a higher level.”
Although COVID-19 could create problems for 2020 high school fall sports, the new head coach has plans for the Lady Panthers.
“I want to work on building our youth program for grades 3-6,” she said.
“I love coaching volleyball and this is an opportunity to see Fairbanks girls play and to continue to build the program.”
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