Fletcher Leads Team to Nationals


Under ordinary circumstances, Karen Fletcher, lecturer of information systems at Maryville University, would not choose Minnesota as a place for a summer getaway. But given that she could return from the Gopher State with a national championship, Fletcher gladly will travel there.

Fletcher serves as co-coach with Joe Flanigan of the St. Louis CYC 13 K&J volleyball team, which will compete in the USA Junior Olympic Girls’ Championships, to be held June 29 through July 3 in Minneapolis. The team, comprised of nine 12- and 13-year-old girls who are mostly seventh graders, qualified for nationals by winning the Gateway Regional Championships in early May at Eureka High School. At nationals, the K&J team will be among 48 teams competing in the National Division, the stronger of the two divisions competing in the tournament, Fletcher said.

“I have been coaching club volleyball for 15 years and this is the first time that one of my teams has taken first place,” she commented. “This is a special group of players and parents and I am happy that our season will get to last a little longer than most (teams).”

Though happy to be going to nationals, Fletcher said the team has been working toward this goal since last October, when tryouts were held. And now that they’ve secured a spot in the tournament, they’re in to win. “We don’t want to set our goals too low,” she remarked. “These girls have a really good fighting spirit.” Fletcher noted that three team members have gone to nationals previously with other teams. Their experience, combined with the fact that this year’s team has competed in several elite tournaments, should eliminate any fear of intimidation. “They’re used to competing in this type of atmosphere,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher and Flanigan, who have known each other for nearly 20 years, are in their third year of coaching together and in their first year of coaching a 13 and under squad. Their first two years were spent with a CYC 14-and-under team but Fletcher had to switch to a younger team after becoming the head volleyball coach at Rosati-Kain High School two years ago. Under Missouri High School Athletic Association rules, high school volleyball coaches who also coach club teams are forbidden from coaching club players who may eventually play for them in high school.

Fletcher, who played volleyball in high school and basketball at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said her coaching style complements the style of Flanigan, a longtime volleyball referee. “I like to be the planner, I like to look at long-term situations, I tend to run the practices and do most of the talking at practices,” Fletcher said. “Joe, being a referee, is more attuned to the game-time situations. During games, I sit back, for the most part, and let him do the coaching.” She said with a chuckle that it took the players awhile to notice the arrangement. “One day, one of the players asked me, ‘Karen, why do you do all the talking at practice and Joe does all the talking at games?'”

Fletcher draws parallels between her teaching duties at Maryville University and her coaching responsibilities. For the past two years, she has been a member of the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, which encourages faculty members to take an introspective look at their teaching styles and perhaps come up with innovative methods to present course material.

“I’ve done that with my coaching, too, which is a form of teaching,” Fletcher remarked. “I look at what I’ve done and how I can do things better.”

Maryville University is a private institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven masters and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers.

Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.