March 8, 2008
By Charlie Henry
Purdue Sports Information student assistant
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Character. Positivity. Competitiveness. Three words that describe assistant volleyball coach Kathy Jewell. Since arriving on Purdue's campus in 2003, Jewell has brought these intangibles to the Boilermaker coaching staff.
She had them as a player at Northern Michigan, winning the 1994 Division II national championship and appearing in the Division II Elite Eight four years in a row.
She had them as an assistant coach at Central Michigan, learning the ropes of Division I coaching, while yearning to come back home to Indiana.
And she certainly has them now, entering her sixth season as an assistant on head coach Dave Shondell's staff and living the dream at a Big Ten university.
"I was hoping I would get back," Jewell, a Jeffersonville, Ind. native, said. "I was really lucky to have the chance to go to Central Michigan, but I wanted to get back home eventually. Plus, it's really nice to have the opportunity to coach in the Big Ten."
Now, Jewell uses the success she had as a player to translate into success as a coach. Since arriving at Purdue, Jewell and the Boilermakers have posted a 98-66 record, including four straight NCAA Tournament berths, two Sweet 16 appearances and a third-place finish in the Big Ten last season.
"I think my past success helps, especially being in the Big Ten where it's so competitive," Jewell said. "Having been in those pressure situations, like winning a national championship, and just being able to deal with that pressure, hopefully allows me to help the girls out now."
Over the last five seasons, the Boilermaker program has recruited some of the best classes of athletes in the entire nation. As the team's recruiting coordinator, Jewell has played a vital role in Purdue's success on the recruiting trail. However, she's quick to pass the praise onto her cohorts.
"I think Dave being known as a Shondell all around the country is a big factor," Jewell said. "I also think just making a huge improvement over the last five years is a big attraction.
"A lot of people that aren't familiar with Indiana are familiar with the Big Ten and they know how competitive it is. That's been a big attraction for us."
According to Shondell, Jewell's eye for talent also has a lot to do with Purdue's recruiting success.
"I think that she's learned to work really hard as a recruiting coach," Shondell said. "There are some people that go out and socialize most of the time they're out recruiting. I think, based on the results we've had here, we're not doing a lot of socializing."
While out recruiting, Purdue coaches like to be the first ones in the gym and the last ones to leave. They believe this shows the recruit, the coaches, and the parents that Purdue is going to outwork everyone else.
Shondell knows Jewell fits that bill.
"She is not afraid to do the work and she has a good knowledge of what kind of talent it is going to take to make us better," he said.
Jewell also is known for relating well with her players. As the coaching staff's lone female, she bonds with the athletes in ways the other coaches cannot. However, according to Shondell, it is her personality that draws players in.
"She cares about the program and she cares about the players. I think our athletes understand that," Shondell said. "They know she's honest and she's going to tell them what she thinks. I think those things are all very important.
"She also has a really funny and vibrant personality. There are some people that are in a room and you don't know they're there. And there are some people that you know are there. She's one of those people."
All of these things have added up to great success for Jewell and the rest of the Boilermaker coaching staff. So, why is she still at Purdue?
"Every year, I probably get three or four phone calls from mid-major athletic directors inquiring about Kathy," Shondell says. "Fortunately for me, she likes her role as an assistant coach. She's at a school that supports volleyball and she's happy here."
Jewell agrees with the sentiment.
"It's going to be very hard to pull me away," she said. "I love being close to my family. Our administrators are great. Our athletes are really good kids. I'm very comfortable."
Jewell has spent the last five years building something in West Lafayette. Once again, just like with everything else, she has done it with character, positivity and competitiveness. So, what does the future have in store for Kathy Jewell?
"I want to really work with our backcourt kids and get back to where we were when we first got here. We were a great defensive team," she said. "I think we've kind of strayed away from that. I know our kids have been working hard in the spring, though, and they're going to get a lot better."
Under Jewell's watchful guidance, there's no doubt about that.