ROCK SPRINGS – Western Wyoming Community College welcomed its new head volleyball coach, Justin Hoskins, to campus on Wednesday, just in time for the team to begin preparations for the 2016 campaign.
Hoskins comes to Rock Springs from Bolivia, North Carolina, where he spent two years as head coach for Brunswick Community College. Prior to that, he served as assistant coach for one season at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.
BCC is an NJCAA Division II program and a non-residential college, and Hoskins said fan support at the school for volleyball was modest. The Omaha, Neb. native expressed excitement about joining the NJCAA Division I Mustangs and coaching in the nationally renowned Region IX.
“From a volleyball standpoint, you’re not going to find better (two-year) volleyball around,” Hoskins, 29, said this week. “I’m definitely impressed with the level of play and the level of competition. It’s one of those things where, every night, you’re going out and you know you’re in for a battle. So that’s one of the exciting things about it, for sure.”
Hoskins succeeds Wendy Bider, who coached the Mustangs last season on an interim basis following the departure of longtime head coach Rick Reynolds. Reynolds left for the NCAA Division I ranks at Idaho State University in June after a enjoying a successful run at Western that included third- and second-place National Tournament finishes in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Bider took over with just weeks to go before the 2015 season and coached the squad to the Region IX Tournament final in November.
Rock Springs is a long way from North Carolina but not so different from Nebraska, and Hoskins said he’s accustomed to frosty winters and windswept landscapes. And Rock Springs is considerably larger than Bolivia, which has about 150 residents.
“Bolivia is tiny. It’s right in between Wilmington, N.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., about 30 miles from each,” the coach said. “BCC itself was actually the south side of town. It was seven miles from Bolivia. It was kind of a unique situation, too, in that they were seven miles outside of town but they didn’t have dorms. So that was the biggest challenge we faced in recruiting.”
“I was looking for something that I could settle into,” Hoskins added. “BCC was a good stepping stone, but it wasn’t something that I wanted to be doing long-term. I was looking for a little bit better situation, and it was also a step up as far as the level of play and being a little bit more of a challenge.”
Hoskins earned his bachelor’s degree in K-12 health and physical education from Wayne State College. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in athletics administration through Concordia – Irvine, an online program. The coach admitted that he did not envision himself as a volleyball coach when planning his career in college athletics.
“It wasn’t something I ever planned on getting into,” he said. “When I was getting my degree, I had to have three different coaching theory classes to get my coaching endorsement. So I did baseball and basketball, which were easy choices for me because I’ve done them all my life. And then volleyball was an indoor sport during the fall, which was a lot better than an outdoor sport during the fall.”
Once he moved into the coaching ranks, Hoskins found that the focus and intensity of the sport appealed to him.
“It was one of those things that was just new and a challenge to me,” he said. “And I really liked the energy of the sport and being able to relate with the student-athletes.”
Hoskins has six returning sophomores for next season, and he will look to complement that core of veterans with a strong recruiting class. As with his Mustang coaching counterparts in basketball, soccer and wrestling, Hoskins isn’t just looking for high-quality athletes; he’s also looking for good students and fine campus citizens.
“How do they fit into Western? How do they fit into the culture that we’re trying to form here?” he said. “Do they relate well with the girls who are already here and with what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish?
“The biggest thing is just continuing to evolve and continuing to build the program that we want, and what we want our focuses to be here, and really, what we want our program to be known for,” he said. “We want to be hard-working; we want to be high-character. If we do those two things, wins and losses will kind of take care of themselves.”
Though the majority of his time at Western will be spent leading the volleyball team, Hoskins’s duties also include academic advising in Western’s ACE-IT Center. It’s not a responsibility he takes lightly or considers to be secondary to his coaching job.
“It’s about putting as much importance on that as you do coaching,” he said. “The kids that you work with there are working to get through school. You definitely want to be genuinely interested in them and not just see it as part of your volleyball job. It is a job in itself. It isn’t a side piece.”
If history is any indication, Hoskins shouldn’t have to do much extra advising for his own players. As with all of the Mustang squads, the volleyball team performs very well academically and typically ranks very highly in the NJCAA for team grade-point average.
“Any time you can have a 3.6 while you’re in season, that’s impressive,” the coach said. “It’s definitely something we will look to continue and improve.”
In keeping with Western’s commitment to community-based engagement for its student-athletes, Hoskins said his team will be involved in volunteer efforts around Sweetwater County. Each year, Mustang student-athletes read to kids at elementary schools, participate in campus fundraisers, and assist in a variety of community projects.
“Any time we can get in with the younger kids, that’s a good thing, but I like to do stuff with other demographics, also,” Hoskins explained. “Like things we did at BCC – we coached the Special Olympics volleyball in the area. The girls liked working with volleyball, obviously, but they also liked working with a different group of people than they were used to. We also did some stuff with a senior living home there. We took their residents fishing; we worked their Halloween party.”