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The Drill: JO volleyball coach Haley Unke enjoys working with kids

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Unke (left)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- When Haley Unke was a young girl growing up in Cottonwood, she was inspired by her older brother Jamie, who was an outstanding basketball player. Haley looked up to him and went to every one of his high school games.

But, Haley recalls, when Jamie tried to dispense helpful sports information to her, she wasn’t always interested. She wanted to figure things out for herself.

“I wish I would’ve taken his help at the time,” Haley said.

Now a freshman at Minnesota West Community and Technical College participating in basketball and volleyball, some might find it ironic that Haley Unke passed on her brother’s aid when she could have benefitted from it. It’s probably even more ironic that Unke is more than willing to share her own sports knowledge with younger players.

Unke is working this spring as a local coach for two Junior Olympic volleyball teams -- one of them a team of 12-year-olds, and the other a team of 18-year olds. It’s a natural fit for someone like her, who loves kids and who loves volleyball, too.

The Globe identified Unke as a good Drill candidate recently, so we found her at the Worthington Area YMCA dispensing valuable information to her 12-year-olds. You can see the video online at Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: What are some of the most important things you’re trying to teach your Junior Olympic recruits?

ANSWER: “The most important thing I’d like to teach my girls as athletes is the love of the sport. If you don’t love the sport, you’re not going to have the effort, you’re not going to have the hustle. Make friends, enjoy the sport, enjoy it while you’re still a young age.”

QUESTION: What, in your estimation, is the most valuable advice you have received in your athletic career?

ANSWER: “The most valuable lesson I’ve received as an athlete from my coach would be to hustle and give it your all. If you’re not athletic, that’s fine. But if you’re giving hustle and you’re giving your effort and you’re loving the game, you’re a good asset.”

QUESTION: Tell us about some of your interests outside of sports.

ANSWER: “Outside of sports, I love children. I adore them. I baby-sit. I baby-sat since I was 14 years old. I do child-watch at the YMCA, and I study child development at Minnesota West. Once I graduate from the child development program, I’m thinking about doing occupational therapy as well. If I don’t take that path, I would love to open my own daycare in the future.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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