Michelle McCulloch - Head Volleyball Coach
Michelle McCulloch joined the Skippers volleyball program amid the 2019 season and never looked back. The dedicated coach, teacher, wife, and mother is no stranger to balancing life and its many challenges, and she said she's looking forward to what's ahead this fall.
"It was an unexpected hire," she said. "I was hired late in the season—they'd already started —but there was a transition of coaches and they asked me if I'd basically just come and be an interim coach for the time being, and it was just born out of that. Once I was there for a couple weeks, I thought, 'Yeah, this is where I want to stay.'"
She said the team handled the transition well and was even able to make a strong run in the regional tournament. They hope to build off that experience and make it even further this year. For McCulloch, the key to achieving that goal is the team culture.
"Our goal is to build off of how we ended last year and really create a culture of strong athletes, smart girls, and strong characters," she said. "Our goal is to recruit and retain girls who are going to fit our mold and work ethics. We were happy with the progress we made last year, and we're excited to see where we can go from there."
Sophomore Sarah Steen said she also thought the season went well despite the quick transition.
"It was a blessing in disguise for everyone. It couldn't have gone better with her as our coach," she said. "[McCulloch] is like the smartest person I know about volleyball or life in general. She's a big mentor to me and it's nice to have a coach as smart as her."
As a well-known coach in the Blue Water Area, McCulloch has built many relationships with athletes and coaches, which she says helps when building a program. She's coached girls at several different schools and levels, and she's excited to now be coaching at the college level. Because of her experience, she's able to recruit some of the area's top talent.
In the Skippers' off-season, she coaches the Blue Water Club Volleyball program, which runs from November to May, and sometimes even June.
"It's definitely a year-round gig," she said. "It's a great opportunity to do recruiting, because recruiting happens during club, so sometimes we'll finish a match and then I'll run over to the next court to go watch another girl. I've found it to be really helpful."
While she enjoys brining in the local players, McCulloch also seeks out girls form elsewhere too, as it helps strengthen the community.
"I think the goal is to find the best quality players in the area first, and I think we really did that this year," she said. "And then going outside the Blue Water Area is important too so we can bring them in and maybe, thinking in the long term, they'll stay here."
McCulloch knows firsthand the experience of being a Skipper. She played on SC4's inaugural volleyball team in 1998, as well the women's basketball and softball teams. After a volleyball injury, she sat out her sophomore season and just focused on softball that spring.
From there, she went on to play softball at Saginaw Valley State University. After college, she said she felt burnt out from softball, but would continue to play a lot of recreational volleyball.
"I think volleyball was just always my passion. I loved it," she said. "Since I was young, I enjoyed any sport, but as I got older and more competitive, and I was coached really well, I just grew a passion for it."
So now she continues pursuing that passion and passing down the skills and lessons she's learned from her own experiences. She said it's sometimes hard to juggle it all, but she has a strong and supportive family who helps her achieve her goals.
"It's definitely a balance and requires a really strong partner, and there's no doubt my husband is a big piece of hat puzzle," she said. "And my kids are very mobile. They pack up and come to the gym with me and do their homework in the gym. They're always in a gym with me."
She's now using some of this rare down time to be at home as a family and prep for the upcoming season with high expectations.
"I have no intentions of moving any time soon. I think it's a really good fit for our family, for where we live, and the level of play I want to coach," she said. "I'd like to really build something special here."