SF State volleyball coaches lead team as brother-sister duo

Jamie R Wells

“I don’t know if I gave him a choice,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just kind of one of those things that whether it’s helping out with the team or helping out with my son, it’s kind of, you ask and he probably feels obligated but that’s fine, that’s what brothers are there for.”

Jason commends his sister for all of the hard work she has put in with the team. He said people don’t realize how much work goes into being a head coach, when the program was being completely rebuilt.

He said he enjoys coaching with his sister because the two can bounce things off of each other.

“I can kind of be an ear to listen and tell her my thoughts about what she’s saying or what she needs to do,” Jason said. “It works well, I think.”

Player Iris Tolenada says it’s obvious that her two coaches are related.

“It’s pretty funny when they both play, like against us, because they both play like brother and sister,” Tolenada said. “You can tell they grew up playing volleyball together. It’s just the chemistry they have on the court.”

Although Jason can only make it to weeknight or weekend games he still finds ways to contribute. He works at a printing company in Concord, and designs and makes all of the team’s gear.

Michelle said it meant a lot to her to know she can count on her family. Even though their mother passed away six years ago and Lisa is an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University, the family retains its close bond.

Still, Michelle and Jason are just like any other siblings.

“(We) fought all the time. It’s kind of a hard dynamic to explain,” Michelle said. “It kind of turned from the fighting and the arguing to where we always took care of each other, but that’s my whole family.”

Michelle was an assistant coach at the University of Wyoming when her mother passed away. She was happy to accept the SF State’s job offer for several reasons, but she said she was “coming home no matter what.”

“To be able to come back to the area you grew up in and actually have a coaching job at this level, I don’t know if it’s lucky but it’s very rare to be able to get back to your hometown,” Michelle said. “I’m very blessed with that.”

Having her older brother as an assistant is an added bonus.

“He definitely knows my style. I’m pretty feisty on the bench. I know what I want to happen and if it’s not happening, I’m very direct,” Michelle said. “I know that sometimes that brother-sister frustration can be there but he’s very good at getting (what I want) done.”

Underneath everything, the layer of trust their parents fostered in the family remains strong.

“Volleyball was such a big part of our lives,” Jason said. “Just growing up and having someone that does the same thing and loves the same thing as you… It was a great thing, you know, something I’ll always remember.”