‘You have to put on a show’


For as long as she can remember, Jennifer Shade said she has loved volleyball.

Following her playing days at IUPUI, she had a chance to return to her hometown to coach and jumped at it.

“I love Brownstown. I love this community, being able to coach here and build our community. I’m just proud of that,” Shade said. “I’m proud of the girls that have come through our program and made it such a good thing.

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“I feel it takes an entire community to have a successful program. You have to have the fans’ support, you have to have the monetary support from people who are willing to donate to help your program, you have to have parents who are willing to take kids to club ball during the offseason and parents who are willing to support you as a coach and be on board with you versus against you.”

Shade knows the dedication it takes to build a winning program.

“You have to have kids that are willing to work hard and kids who will come in the summer and spend their time in the summer and do everything they can to get better,” she said. “If we didn’t have the entire community behind us, we would just be mediocre.

“One of the biggest things I tell my players is ‘You have to put on a show when you play because you have to keep those fans that support you coming back because that’s the only way we’re going to be successful.’”

Shade has coached the Braves since 1998 and has led teams to 16 sectional titles, 14 regional titles and nine state tourna- ment appearances.

Under Shade, Brownstown also has won 15 Mid-Southern Conference championships.

The Braves have been state runners-up seven times.

Shade played volleyball and basketball at BCHS, graduating in 1990. Janet VanLiew was her varsity volleyball coach.

Shade then played volleyball at Georgetown College in Kentucky for two years before playing at IUPUI for two years as a setter.

“During my years at IUPUI, I coached a club team, so I actually started coaching while I was in college in the offseason,” she said.

She coached seventh-grade volleyball at Brownstown Central Middle School in 1994 and 1995, and then coached the junior varsity team at BCHS for two years before becoming varsity coach.

Shade said since she started coaching, the speed of the game has improved, and the way matches are scored has undergone several changes.

“The speed of the game is so much better,” she said. “You can just see that in the way the girls are having to work harder to get to that level. When I started, we didn’t have rally scoring. You played two out of three to 15, and there was no rally scoring.

“Then it went to 21, and then it went to rally scoring, and then it went to three out of five matches and to 25 points. It has really developed. It kind of starts in the club division, and then it works its way down to high school. Usually what you see in the club season, you’ll see the high schools adopt that a couple years later.”

Overall, Shade likes the changes, even though adjustments needed to be made.

“The three of five matches is probably one of the toughest I’ve learned to coach because keeping girls focused for that amount of time is hard, but yet, I think the true better team most of the time comes out because you have time to show what you have,” Shade said.

“You can have one bad game and lose a match. Now, with a three out of five match, you have time to gain your composure and actually compete. There’s good and bad to both. It makes for long school nights, but it’s fun for the girls to actually compete against a team.”

She said club programs have had a big influence on high school programs.

“I’ve always said, ‘It would be nice if nobody played club because then no parents would have to spend the money,’ but if we’re going to continue to be competitive, our girls have to put time into the offseason,” Shade said. “They have to play club ball, so you have to make a decision as a coach how you want your team to be. If you want your team to be state competitive and stay among the top teams, you have to push kids to play club ball.”

Shade said adding a libero also has improved the game.

“Having a libero means that your back court play is so much stronger throughout the entire match,” she said. “When I first started coaching, you would have to have your big middle blockers go to the back row and play defense because you would run out of substitutions.

“They’ve changed the game so that it stays competitive from the first point to the end of the game so that those players can keep going back in and the libero doesn’t count as a substitution. She can go in as much as she wants, and that keeps the game competitive all the way to the end.”

The Braves have moved from Class 2A to Class 3A since Shade became head coach. The schedule has evolved to include more Class 4A teams.

“When I first started, we played a schedule where we tried to stay close to home, and I didn’t feel it was helping us when it came to tournament time,” Shade said. “When we’d start to see some of the bigger schools, we just weren’t ready for that. We hadn’t faced that type of competition.

“So one of my goals was, the very first year I came in, I wanted to see some schedule changes. I don’t look at records, I don’t look at stats because that really means nothing when it comes to game time. You can have the best record or the best stats, but when it comes to tournament time, you will not be prepared if you haven’t done what you needed to do, so I don’t spend a lot of time on that.”

Shade always has put the team’s achievements over individual accolades.

“Stats and all that really don’t mean anything when it comes to awards and that type of thing,” she said. “When it comes to game time, you’ve got to be prepared to play. We are trying to get our schedule as strong as we can, and I don’t care if it shows a lot of losses. Those losses will still prepare me when it comes to sectional time.

“With the conference, I have seen improvement, and a lot of that is because of availability to club ball. There are some new club programs that have developed in the south, so you see the Corydon kids, the Charlestown kids. Those kids are starting to feed into those club programs.”

Shade also had the opportunity to coach her daughter, Abbi, who is now an assistant coach.

“That was special,” Jennifer said. “That’s why I stayed in it at that time because I knew I had a daughter coming up. We gave her the choice that she didn’t have to play volleyball, but she chose volleyball. I said, ‘If you play, you’re going to take it really serious.’ We took her to Circle City (Indianapolis), and she played competitive. She was a big part of our program. She was easy to coach. She listened. She didn’t cause any problems. She has been in the gym with me since she was little. She knew when she stepped on the court what I expected.”

Through Saturday’s tournament at Providence High School, Shade has 539 career wins.

“I’ve been blessed to stay here for as many years as I have,” she said. “I’ve been blessed by the kids that have come through and worked hard. I’ve gotten to experience some things I never dreamed I could as a player. I’ve gotten to do that through coaching. My nieces are on the team now. I’ve gotten to coach family members. I’ve coached kids that I never would have known had I not coached volleyball.

“There have been hard times, there have been rough times, but the good times way outweigh those times. People keep asking me why I’m still doing this, and I just keep hiring really good assistants, and that keeps the program growing.”

Jennifer and her husband, Scott, have two children, Abbi, a teacher at Brownstown Elementary School, and Jacoby, a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus studying business.

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