Assistant volleyball coach talks about his first season at NIU

By Mike Romor

Both assistant coaches left NIU volleyball after the 2011 season, but coach Ray Gooden quickly rebuilt a strong supporting cast.

Former Lakeland College standout player and coach Joe Julkowski jumped from Division III to Division I by taking an assistant job under Gooden.

Despite being busy with helping to build a nationally-recognized program, Julkowski found time to speak with the Northern Star.

Northern Star: How has your first season at NIU been?

Joe Julkowski: It’s been great. I come from a program where I spent a lot more time on the behind the scenes stuff. I love doing the scouting reports and just being able to help the players on individual skills in the gym. Just watching them put these things together is what makes coaching fun.

NS: How did your time at Lakeland prepare you for what you are doing now?

JJ: As a head coach at Lakeland, I learned a lot more responsibility. I took on everything. As an assistant coach at Lakeland my first year, I didn’t have to do as much and didn’t have as much responsibility. Then I became a head coach and got to see the whole picture. Seeing the whole picture and being able to take a lot of things off Ray’s plate here allows him to focus a lot more on what he needs to do to help the program grow. Just being able to help him help the program grow and make that contribution is a lot of fun.

NS: At what point during your playing career at Lakeland did you think coaching would be an option?

JJ: During my junior year when I became a captain. My coach quoted me as being one of the assistant coaches on the court. The same time I got to do that I was also the manager for the women’s program, so I was coaching in practice. It was a lot of fun to do that and just coaching on the court as a leader kind of grew into something I enjoyed. I don’t see it as a job all the time while I’m in the gym and in the office doing scouting.

NS: You graduated with a degree in criminal justice. Do you ever see that coming back into the picture?

JJ: Not really. I graduated with that degree in ’09. I went to become a police officer and took a bunch of tests. It didn’t really fit what I wanted to do. I didn’t really feel it, so then I went back to school to get my master’s and I’m just three credits shy, an internship shy, of my Master’s of Counseling and Higher Education.

NS: In what ways would that help you?

JJ: I think that kind of fits with coaching a lot. You get to see a lot of different personalities and the girls are doing a lot of work at the gym and spending a lot of time here and they have personal lives. So with that background in counseling, I get to put that all together and it helps me as a coach to see their side. Yeah, sometimes we beat them down in practice, we have to drill them and make sure they’re getting the things that we’re trying to drive into them, but then you also have to think about what’s going on outside of the gym, think if they have personal lives and be sympathetic toward them. That helps me help the girls in the program.