A Chat with Ellen Yopchick, Assistant Volleyball Coach, UIC Flames. In 2012, Yopchick was named an American Volleyball Coaches Association's (AVCA) "Thirty Under 30" recipient.
How would you define leadership? Leadership is the ability to communicate and motivate a group of people to accomplish specific goals.
What makes an effective leader? I am not sure there is a specific make up of what a great leader is, but in my experience all great leaders that I have had the opportunity to work with or be around have several common characteristics. These include: excellent communication skills, a passion for people, and a high level of integrity.
Why is leadership important in collegiate athletics today? Leadership is vital in collegiate athletics today because we have the great opportunity and responsibility to help mold future leaders of society. We need effective leaders to guide these student-athletes and help them reach their goals on and off the courts and fields. The experiences they have with the leaders around them- coaches, athletic directors, administrators will impact them long after they have hung up their uniform.
Collegiate athletics has and is experiencing great change today? How has this impacted you as a coach? If you ask any coach in any sport at any level they will tell you that the landscape of collegiate athletics is changing constantly. A lot of that change is coming from the use of social media. Social media is a big role player in recruiting, marketing/branding, communicating with players, etc. In some ways social media has made my job a little easier. The ability to communicate instantly and effortlessly with hundreds of people is amazing. With platforms such as Snapchat, Periscope, and Instagram we can literally take our fans and recruits behind the scenes. We can tell the world we won and scream it from seven different outlets. However, in other ways, it has made it more challenging. Social media has created a transparency. Our student-athletes, both current and prospective, have to be more careful because there are more eyes on them than ever before. They are exposed from all different angles and they are still young and learning themselves. As leaders and coaches, it is our responsibility to help guide them through these unchartered territories and help them “think twice, and act once.”
What are your greatest challenges? My greatest challenge is creating an environment for our players that enables them to accomplish their goals academically, socially and athletically. This environment is constantly evolving in order to best meet the needs of current and future women of our program. It is both my job and challenge to help these women become the best version of themselves.
How do you measure success? I am always torn by this idea of measuring success. At first thought, I know that I will always measure success in wins and losses. However, I have come to measure success in other ways as well. I measure success in our graduation rate, our alumni that come back year-after-year to support the program, in community service projects, and in our team GPA. These are all measurements of success and perhaps hold more truth and carry more weight than the wins and losses.