Bourbonnais, Ill. – By the conclusion of last year’s volleyball season, Tiger Volleyball Head Coach Brenda Williams had amassed 908 career collegiate coaching victories. These wins had been split between two institutions over a 35-year head coaching career. Her time as a head coach began at the University of Alabama-Birmingham where she amassed 290 wins in 12 seasons. After a five-year break from college coaching, Williams came to Olivet in 1996 and has earned 618 wins over 23 seasons. Her 908 combined wins placed Williams fourth on the NAIA active coaches list at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Coming into 2019, the question was how many more wins would Williams be able to add to this total this season.
The answer to this question came earlier this month when Williams announced that she will be stepping down as the head coach of the Tiger volleyball team. Williams came to the decision to move away from being the head coach due to health issues she experienced during the 2018 season, issues that have become more intense since the conclusion of the season. With the departure of Williams from the head coach’s seat, Cynthia Anderson has been appointed Interim Head Coach by Gary Newsome, Olivet’s Director of Athletics.
Williams felt that the volleyball program had the necessary pieces in place to make this decision now. She explains, “Stepping down from being the Head Women’s Volleyball Coach after 23 seasons at ONU was not an easy decision to make. I know that it was the best thing for my health and the best thing for my team and staff. God has blessed me with a great coaching staff. Cynthia Anderson will do a great job in coaching the girls as she takes over as Interim Head Coach. Gabby Hilliard will be excellent at assisting with the varsity and running the JV team this fall. These two helped give me such a great peace about stepping down as I knew my team was in very good hands.”
Anderson also feels that the team is in a good spot for these changes to be made. Regarding the transition, the first-year interim head coach said, “I feel prepared for this after my experience this last year at ONU. I am thankful to have Gabrielle with me as we balance each other out well. The girls have been working so hard in the gym, and I am very confident as to what we will be able to accomplish this season. I believe the changes that have been made are what is best for everyone in the program, and I am grateful to God, Coach Williams, and ONU for this opportunity.”
Williams’s influence will still be felt at ONU and in ONU athletics. Williams will remain an assistant professor at the university, a teaching role that she has maintained during her time at Olivet. In addition to teaching, Williams has also been named the Senior Women’s Administrator for the athletic department. This role will require her to assist Newsome with a variety of administrative responsibilities within the department. Williams will also remain active with the volleyball program as Newsome has named her the Program Director for Volleyball. This role will require her to handle the administrative tasks associated with the program
While she will still be involved with a variety of activities at the University, Williams knows that she will miss being active in coaching the game she has been around for so long. Williams reflected on this transition by saying, “I will miss being on the sidelines as volleyball has been very, very good to me for over 37 years of intercollegiate coaching. I will miss all my coaching friends and most of all I will miss the time I get to spend with some of the best women athletes ever. The ladies I coach are all my second family and I am so very, very thankful for their love and support in this decision.” Williams went on to add, “To all my opponents over the years, thank you for not only making me a better coach but also being some great friends! I will miss you all!”