Bess Glenn has spent a busy summer making memories — some impactful, some comical — with her Stillwater High volleyball teammates.
In early July, they packed boxes at a food bank in Kansas, volunteering in the state where they attended team camp. After practice on Monday, they formed a yoga mat circle on the court and learned from one of Glenn’s friends who recently became a certified instructor. The group also gathered at Coach Drue Brown’s house for wacky team-building activities, competing to see who could assemble the tallest balloon tower and sing karaoke.
Although Glenn, a senior outside hitter, is more comfortable serving a volleyball than singing a pop tune in front of her peers, she sees merit in these steps Brown has taken to unite the team.
“He’s definitely done a good job of keeping the team well balanced,” Glenn said. “He’s very important not only for the sport, but also for developing you as a person and coming together as a community, even off the pitch.”
At each team building activity, the Lady Pioneers put their values into action.
Brown begins his first season as a varsity coach when Stillwater hosts Bartlesville at 6:30 p.m. on August 11, and his team creates an identity to wear throughout the school year. This process is rooted in the field – the Lady Pioneers are implementing a new defensive style – but it doesn’t stop there. Brown has identified four core values, written in black marker on the dry-erase board in his office, that can serve as a compass for Stillwater volleyball at all levels.
“Seventh through twelfth (grades) have the same core values, and they’re taught every day,” Brown said. “They’re on our whiteboards in training, so it’s always something to come back to in everything we do.”
As a volleyball assistant, Brown helped former Stillwater coach Kyle Liechti create his “nine non-negotiables,” a list of guiding principles for the team. Brown condensed them into four main points when he took over from Liechti, who joined Dillard University’s volleyball staff in June.
The first value is “faith, family, and consistency,” three words that combine to reflect Brown’s selfless approach. He and his wife, Natalie, have already embraced the family aspect of training. For their game night this summer, they hosted about 26 team members and managers in their home and provided pizza.
As the Lady Pioneers spend time together, faith and consistency surface.
“We talked a lot, you have to trust something,” Brown said. “It doesn’t have to be a religious opinion or anything like that, but your faith has to be in your teammates or in the process of what you’re doing. When you do everything for yourself, it’s really hard to succeed.
The second principle is “Be diligent in the little things,” something Glenn said Brown often emphasizes. This involves everyday ways of showing respect: tidying up the dressing rooms, exchanging balls at the end of practices and being courteous to team leaders.
“We celebrate success and we own our mistakes” is the third on the list, and the fourth value points to the future: “Leave a legacy”. Stillwater hasn’t played in the Class 6A state tournament since reaching the finals in 2018, but Brown is working to restore prominence to the program.
“We want to make sure our heritage is known to others,” Brown said. “We want seventh graders to stay in the program. We want people to be part of what we do.
Aiming to bounce back from a 9-21 season, the Lady Pioneers will rely on a combination of seasoned starters — including Glenn, who brings three years of college experience to the team — and new faces promoted from the junior college level.
As they prepare for a busy Class 6A schedule, summer activities aren’t all fun and games.
Team camp at Wichita State gave the Lady Pioneers a grueling reintroduction to the high school volleyball routine.
“It was really intense,” said junior Olive Price, who is returning for her second season as a varsity libero. “We played about eight games a day. … I took away (that) we need to stay fit, have stamina, keep playing as hard as possible.
But there is also time to relax. Whether the Lady Pioneers refocus on yoga or share laughs during a game of Just Dance, their camaraderie grows leading up to their first match.
Through these moments, Glenn strives to reflect the team’s fourth core value.
“I’ve been able to watch seniors over the past three years and see the legacy they’ve left,” Glenn said. “So (I’m) kind of learning from that and focusing more on the relationships that I’m building with those players. Even if it’s not as long (impact), like getting a record that everybody’s going to seeing for 20 years is just the small relationship impacts I have with younger girls and girls in my class.
“I think that’s kind of the legacy I’m trying to build.”