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Debbie Kirch steps down as head coach

Clint Berge, Assistant Sports Editor
December 4, 2012
Filed under Sports

After 16 seasons and 174 victories, Debbie Kirch has stepped down as the head volleyball coach of the Green Bay Phoenix. She will assume the role of Assistant AD for Compliance and Student Services and Senior Woman Administrator.

Kirch steps down as the winningest and longest tenured coach in team history. She took over the program in 1997 after the Phoenix went 3-26 the previous season. She resurrected the program and led it to a 23-11 record and the NCAA Tournament in 2003 for the first time. Kirch went on to be named the Midwest Region Coach of the Year and was among nine finalists for National Coach of the Year that same year.

This past season the Phoenix finished at 15-14 and 6-8 in Horizon League play. The Phoenix qualified for the Horizon League Tournament and took on fourth–seeded Loyola but was defeated 3-0.

Next year the team will be a veteran team with seven seniors, which will help make the adjustment easier with a new coach.

According to athletics director Ken Bothof, Kirch is ready for the new job.

“I have always recognized she is a very good administrator,” Bothof said. “She is one of those people with a great understanding of NCAA rules.”

Bothof said Kirch will have three major responsibilities in her new position. She will monitor and work with coaches on NCAA compliance and ruling on NCAA rules. She will also serve as an administrator for some of the university’s athletic programs including men’s and women’s cross country, women’s golf, her former volleyball program and the academics of student athletes. Her third major responsibility will be to serve as a Senior Woman Administrator where she will deal with gender equity responsibilities.

Kirch knows it will not be easy moving from coaching, but she is ready for a new chapter in her career.

“This gives me the opportunity to make a wider impact for multiple programs,” Kirch said. “I was thankful for the opportunity.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in communication in 1988, she earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Mississippi State in 1990. Both put her in position for her new job, a job she had not thought of before.

“Coaching is something I will always love to do,” Kirch said. “Quite honestly, I never even considered leaving coaching; it’s something I thought I would do forever.”

Prior to Green Bay, Kirch coached at Northwestern University, where she was the assistant women’s volleyball coach, and head coach of the men’s club volleyball team. She was also an assistant at Mississippi State University.

All of the coaching positions became a lot of work for Kirch, and she was ready to move on.

“I have been coaching for around 25 years,” Kirch said. “There is a lot of coaching outside the gym and it does take its toll.”

Moving on is never easy and it will be difficult not just for Kirch, but for the entire university.

“It will be difficult for the students and the alumni,” Bothof said. “She has been there and gone through it all.”

Looking ahead to next season and knowing she will not be the coach is going to be a change of pace, but knew now was the time.

“I was thinking about the big senior class next year and not being able to finish out their time here with them,” Kirch said. “At the same time there would always be the reason of another group.”

While reflecting on her successes with the job, Kirch is excited to expand upon in her new role.

“I have always tried to run a program not only successfully on the court, but in the classroom and in the community,” Kirch said. “Being able to be more involved in academics and community service is something I am really excited about.”

Kirch and the volleyball program participate in the Phuture Phoenix Program, Phoenix Fan Fest and Kids Night out and they also spent time at local schools and community centers. The team also participates in a community service activity at the end of each season.

Kirch also implemented a breast cancer awareness program including pink out games and money-raising activities. In 2004, the team received the Horizon League’s Community Outreach Award, which is given to the conference’s athletics team that best represented its community off the court.

Moving forward, a new coach will be found ideally by January according to Bothof so the program can continue moving forward while Kirch continues work with her new position.

For more information on the Phoenix volleyball team, visit the Green Bay Phoenix website.