Former Jayhawk Having Great Coaching Success

April 13, 2010


Teaching young athletes to play the game of volleyball is something Nancy Dorsey loves to do and judging by her coaching record at St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kan., it is something she was born to do. In just five seasons at the helm of the Thunder’s women’s volleyball program, Dorsey has racked up a remarkable 195-16 record, which calculates to an impressive 92.4 percent winning percentage.

But while she enjoys her teams’ successes, coaching is much more to Dorsey than teaching girls the fundamentals of volleyball.

“I love coaching and sharing my love for the sport, but the most important thing is the life lessons the players are going to walk away with,” said Dorsey. “That is really what I enjoy the most, helping these kids become women and become the people I know they can be.”

Dorsey, formerly known as Nancy Bell, played volleyball for the University of Kansas from 1997-2000 and averaged 2.38 kills per set and just over two digs per set during her Jayhawk career. She was also a three-time Academic All-Big 12 selection.

“I was the kind of player who wasn’t the biggest, who was kind of undersized and always had to fight for my spot,” Dorsey said. “Nothing was ever handed to me. I always had to work hard and I wanted to encourage other kids that even though they might not be the tallest, the biggest, the strongest or even the smartest, that doesn’t mean you can’t be the best that you can be and be super successful.”

“When I was in high school people didn’t think I could ever play front row in the Big 12 and I said ‘Watch me.’ I ended up playing in the front row at Kansas. One of my main priorities is to teach young women to have that kind of attitude about life.”

Following coaching stops at Perry LeCompton and Mill Valley High Schools after college, Dorsey arrived at St. James for its inaugural year in 2005.

“I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to get that first year or how many girls would come try out,” Dorsey said. “I have pretty high standards. The kids, the parents and the community were completely on board with that and bought into what I was selling and it worked.”

About 35 girls tried out that first year and the team went 35-0.

“I realized ‘Okay there is some talent here, I can do something with this,'” said Dorsey, who also is a history teacher at the school.

During Dorsey’s second season, her squad of sophomores and freshmen played its first varsity schedule. Despite its youth, Dorsey guided the Thunder to a 30-10 record and lost in the sub-state finals to Eudora, which went on to win the 4A title.

With more experience under its belt, the team continued to improve finishing 45-1 in the 2007 season, its single blemish coming in the state finals.

In 2008, Dorsey got approval to take her team to Chicago to participate in the Nike Challenge, one of the best high school tournaments in the country, hosted by her alma mater Mother McAuley. McAuley has a rich volleyball history and is annually one of the best programs in the nation. To date, McAuley has won 13 Illinois state championships.

St. James advanced all the way to the tournament finals but lost in the championship to Assumption (Ky.). Despite the defeat, Dorsey believes the experience is what helped the Thunder capture the state title that season and also brought national exposure to the team.

The team went 45-1 and finished the season ranked fourth in the nation, while two of its players were also named All-Americans.

This past year, St. James won state for the second consecutive year with a 40-4 overall record and saw its third player in two seasons garner All-America honors.

The talented players Dorsey has helped to develop have not gone unnoticed as six players have continued their careers at the college level in just two senior classes.

“I tell the players, of all the places I have played and of all the experiences I have had, I have never played in front of a crowd like this that cares as much about what we’re doing and are as excited about what we’re doing than here at St. James,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey attributes her coaching success to her outstanding staff and the supportive St. James community.

“My parents always encouraged me and said I could do anything,” Dorsey said. “I also had really good coaches in high school and people in my life telling me I could do anything I wanted to. I want to give girls confidence and I think sports do that. It teaches them to be strong and independent and stick up for themselves.”

With the school and community behind her, Dorsey has found a home where she can continue to act as a role model for young athletes for years to come.