The Sanford POWER Volleyball Academy and the Sanford Pentagon volleyball clubs are welcoming a new addition to the coaching staff who’s looking to elevate the skills and confidence of young players. Volleyball player and two-time Olympian Courtney Thompson knows this is an exciting time for the growing sport.
“I really enjoy working with people that are trying to be their best in everything they do, and the Pentagon is a great example of doing that across many fields,” says Thompson, who led the volleyball clinic at this year’s Hy-Vee/Sanford Legends event.
Because she is a player herself, Thompson has a valuable perspective on what it means to succeed on the court.
“It’s so easy as a kid to look at players that have competed at a high level -– whether it’s college or beyond –- and just think they must have always been that good or never doubted themselves. That they’re so different,” she says. “It’s fun for me to just remind kids it’s normal to struggle and that’s all part of the process, so instead of trying to avoid that we can embrace those times and we’re going to get better sooner.”
Mark McCloskey, volleyball coordinator at the Sanford Pentagon, says Thompson will be a huge boost for the year-round volleyball clubs and academy.
“Her on-the-court resume is as good as you’ll find, but the best part is her personality and what she brings to our kids,” McCloskey says. “She’s a great role model for our players as to what a volleyball player should be, both on and off the court.”
Her extensive playing experiences make Thompson a coach with a lot of credibility for Sanford Health’s volleyball clubs. A native of Kent, Washington, she helped the University of Washington win a NCAA championship where she won the Honda Sports Award, which is given to the best collegiate female athletes.
Thompson went on to compete for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, winning a silver medal and a bronze medal, respectively.
“It’s always good to have somebody coaching that’s been there, had the same goals and achieved them,” McCloskey says. “I think it’s a great benefit for our kids to learn from what her experiences were at every age level, whether she was in high school or whether she was at the Olympics.”
Thompson will be coaching players both virtually and in person. She will be at the Sanford Pentagon at different points throughout the year to coach and meet with players in practice and camp settings.
McCloskey has already seen Thompson’s coaching make a difference in her time working with Pentagon volleyball athletes and teams.
“She connects with our kids. They love her and they work harder when she’s here,” he says.
Not only does Thompson have wisdom to impart on the court, she also has great insight on team building and individual player development in areas like mindfulness.
“The kids can see her and know that she was in their shoes at the same age, looking to do all of the things that she ended up doing,” McCloskey says. “She’s a great role model for what hard work and belief in your own abilities can do.”
For Thompson, it’s about empowering kids to know they have what it takes.
“Anything I can do to help these kids,” she says. “I really enjoy the pursuit of what’s possible for them.”