Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk: Jill Stinson

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What do you do when you grow up in a small Kansas town as the youngest girl with two brothers and two sisters and a dad (Harold “Moon” Stinson) who was a career teacher, coach and administrator who was inducted into the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Halls of Fame? Simple…you get pulled around by your pigtails, chased around the neighborhood, challenged in every sport and shoved to the turf more times than you can count. As is tradition, older brothers and sisters never give you the easy path. You learned “survival of the fittest,” the excitement of competition and the emotions of winning and losing.

“My dad was an Oklahoma football player and later, after a tour of duty in the military, had a pro contract from the old 49ers’ professional football franchise,” explained Jill Stinson. “Dad chose instead to begin his career as a teacher and coach. He was an advocate for girls’ sports, promoting competition well before the onset of Title IX.”

Jill Stinson was an all-sports letterwinner in high school and voted the school’s outstanding athlete. She accepted a scholarship to Cowley County Community College, now known as Cowley College, as a three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball and softball) where she played from 1978-80. Her accolades at Cowley are remarkable, having led the school to conference and regional championships in both volleyball and basketball.

“Sports and education at Cowley were rewarding for me,” Stinson recalled. “At the end of my second year, I got a call from the volleyball coach at the University of Kansas. I scheduled a recruiting visit with KU’s Coach (Bob) Lockwood. After touring the University campus and athletic facilities, Coach asked me for my thoughts on KU. I remember saying ‘It’s so big.'”

Stinson signed a volleyball letter of intent and scholarship agreement to attend the University of Kansas. Her dad, a loyal “Okie,” had some reservations, but later gave Jill and the Jayhawks his blessing. Volleyball and education at the University of Kansas created a family loyalty to Crimson and Blue, the Rock Chalk Chant and the admission of “Once a Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk.”

Stinson, a 30-inch-plus vertical jumper, played outside hitter for Kansas. She was a fierce competitor, a “lead-by-example” player and was elected team captain her senior year by her teammates. Following her collegiate playing career, Stinson remained at KU as a volleyball assistant coach while completing her Master’s degree in exercise physiology and physical education administration.

After attaining her graduate degree and getting some experience on the sidelines under her belt, Stinson landed the head coaching position at Benedictine College. A year later, she moved to Penn Valley Community College, where she coached for four seasons (1987-90) and earned Region 16 Coach of the Year honors.

As she moved up the coaching ranks, Stinson explained, “I had the opportunity to apply for the Johnson County Community College (JCCC) teaching and volleyball coaching position. JCCC had a strong tradition in athletics and academics. It seemed like a perfect match and a great opportunity for me.”

And that it was. In 11 seasons at the helm of the JCCC volleyball program, Stinson compiled a 299-120-1 record that included five conference titles, four regional championships and four top-10 national tournament finishes, including a National Championship in 2005 and a runner-up result in 2007. At Johnson County, she produced 53 all-conference players, 35 all-region players, 10 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Americans and three American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) All-Americans. In addition, Stinson coached 15 NJCAA Academic All-Americans and had a winning percentage of .713, both records which still stand today at JCCC.

A two-year AVCA College National Volleyball Coach of the Year and the Division II NJCAA National Tournament Coach of the Year in 2005, Stinson’s coaching accomplishments led to her induction into the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006, the Cowley College Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Johnson County Community College Hall of Fame in 2010.

In addition to becoming a successful volleyball coach, Stinson also continued to play the game herself at a high level. An active USA Volleyball player, her team won the Heart of America Regional Championships 13 out of 14 years. She was named First Team All-American in the United States Volley Ball Association (USVBA)/USA Open National Championships six times and was the USVBA/USA Master’s Division (35 & over division) Most Valuable Player in 1997. She played professionally for the Kansas City Lightning in 1998 and was inducted into the Heart of America Volleyball Hall of Fame. She also received the prestigious USVBA/USA National Award for Service.

Stinson has now entered into the professional coaching ranks, as she was named the first head coach for the Heart of America’s new professional volleyball team, the Heart of America Havoc, for the 2013 season.

“I loved that I had the opportunity to get to know MANY years of Jayhawk volleyball teams as I played against many of them, and got to know them through coaching at the KU volleyball camps,” Stinson said. “I also had a wonderful opportunity to coach four former Jayhawks on the Havoc team in Emily Brown, Molly (Scavuzzo) Nichols, Molly (LaMere) Haggerty and Jenna Kaiser.”

Currently still teaching at JCCC, in the classroom Stinson exudes the same passion that identifies her soul. She embraces the “people business,” and still leads by example.

She is married to Don Barnum and the couple has two children, Rylie and Ryan. “I think the first words that each of my kids said was ‘Wock (Rock) Chalk’, and I remember singing the KU Alma Mater to them at bedtime.”

For all her accomplishments, awards and recognitions, Stinson remains humble. She is still much like that bright-eyed high school kid who constantly looked toward the future. A Club member as a letterwinner for the University of Kansas, Stinson is an avid supporter of the K Club mission of connecting with former participants, supporting present athletes and preserving the rich KU history and tradition.

A legendary volleyball personality and a strong supporter of KU volleyball, Jill Stinson proudly wears KU Crimson and Blue and definitely fits the mold of Once A Jayhawk, Always A Jayhawk.

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