For the Hale family, coaching is not just a job, but a shared passion. Sisters Jen (Hale) Higley and Kelly Hale grew up around athletics with their mother, Cheryl Hale, coaching. The Hale women have long been encouraging those around them with their abilities on the court as players, as coaches, and as fans.
Jen and Kelly were first introduced to athletics by sitting through the start of their mother's coaching career. Cheryl began as a physical education teacher with Concord Community Schools and was thrown into coaching in the 1971-1972 season where she ran about every sport she could. Her coaching career continued there for the next 36 years where she concentrated on volleyball and basketball.
Cheryl recalled her coaching days saying, "that (coaching) was the best part of my day, I loved it. That's the reason I still go watch my daughters coach. Volleyball was my first love."
Her love of sport definitely wore off on her two daughters as well as her son, Brian, at a young age. The three began their athletic careers together on a local Elkhart AAU Track Team. From there, Jen pursued a volleyball and basketball career, while Kelly progressed into a three-sport athlete in volleyball, basketball, and track.
"From the get-go our mom and dad were a huge influence and in a sense our coaches," sisters Jen and Kelly recall of their first experiences as athletes.
As Cheryl continued her coaching career, Jen and Kelly went on to continue their love of the game at the collegiate level. With Jen at Taylor University for volleyball in 2000 and Kelly at Ohio Northern for volleyball and track in 2003, the duo saw what it was to be a teammate and saw glimpses of themselves in their coaches. This is where they both truly decided that they wanted to go on to coach their own teams in the future.
"I can't say enough about my college coach, she taught me so much," says Jen of her experience with head coach Angie Fincannon at Taylor.
After graduation Jen went on to coach a few club teams, including Crossroads of America before returning to her alma mater, Concord High School, to join her high school coach, Jim Routhier.
When Kelly graduated, the duo linked up again to coach the Concord junior varsity team for a year. After that, Kelly stayed at Concord to continue coaching the junior varsity volleyball team as well as the track hurdlers, while Jen followed Routhier to Goshen College for his first season in 2009.
"I was searching for more opportunity at the college level and I'm so glad that I did. I love the maturity at the collegiate level and every experience has been incredible," said Higley of her choice to coach at the college level.
After Higley's third season with the Maple Leafs, Kelly got in with the team as well and has started this season alongside her sister as an assistant coach for the varsity and junior varsity teams. Cheryl can be seen at almost every home match to see her daughters side-by-side following in her footsteps in the game they have all grown to love.
"It's not just about the game," says Kelly, "it's about developing your players physically as well as mentally as a person. When girls I have coached in the past come back and tell me that I made a difference in their lives, that has to be the most rewarding part about being a coach."
When asked what makes each of them continue to coach they all looked at Jen for the best choice of words. She responded saying that "her own experiences with coaches as a player as well as her experiences coaching have taught her about all aspects of life. Like how to be a mother, or a sister, or a good friend. You take a lot away from the relationships and bonds formed while a part of a team."
By: Lexi Kantz
Sports Information Intern