Grams goes from court to sidelines as grad assistant for volleyball

By Mike Romor

While every other senior on 2012’s volleyball roster stepped away from the program after last season’s end, Sam Grams remained.

Grams became the first graduate assistant to perform under coach Ray Gooden in his 12 years with NIU.

Gooden was in need of more assistance, said Grams, a graduate student in the physical therapy program. After speaking with Gooden about her availability and flexibility with her schooling, Grams found they were on the same page.

“Every time after talking to the coaches, it seemed more and more doable,” Grams said. “I became more interested in it every time. It’s only been a week so I don’t know how much it will affect school, but even as a player, Ray was always very school-first. We’re a team that’s always making sure school’s first.”

Just as Grams praised Gooden, the head volleyball coach only had good things to add about her duties with the team.

Gooden had been looking to have a graduate assistant for years now, but Grams was the first former player to meet the needs he was looking for in order to take a little bit of a load off his staff, which includes assistant coaches Lynnette Moster and Joe Julkowski.

“There are a lot of things that need to be done and her being here lessens the burden of the rest of the staff,” Gooden said. “Having her helps make our program become that much more efficient and smooth-running.”

As an assistant, Grams is doing more work off the court than she had over the last four years. In her position, she is not allowed to do actual coaching with the team, but she does help the coaches out by lessening their burdens in any way possible.

“It’s a lot different of an experience,” Grams said. “But at the same time, I understand my role here and I respect it. Having been a player for four years, you are definitely ready to move on and you’re done as a player, but it’s also been awesome to help the team out while I’m still here at Northern.”

Grams has been designated with a lot of behind-the-scenes work for the team, confirming travel accommodations and controlling marketing and public relations work with the players.

The operations aspect of her job has allowed Grams to see a little bit more of the coaching side of volleyball. She has not determined if she wants to get into coaching, but she has not shied away from the thought of possibly becoming one in the future.

“It’s not something I know for sure I’ll always want to do, but I want it as an option,” Grams said. “Being able to get this experience and see how much goes on behind the scenes, whether it’s compliance, marketing or business, it all intertwines. I enjoy getting to learn more about how everything works.”

As a middle blocker for the Huskies, Grams played in 48 matches over the course of her career. As a senior, she had career-highs in kills and blocks with 28 and 39, respectively.