These three Womxn Coaches in Switzerland are making a difference in the lives of their athletes every single day!
Volunteer Assistant Coach Haley Brightwell (USA), Head Coach Lauren Bertolacci (AUS), and Assistant Coach Aïda Shouk (CHE) leading and supporting the Swiss Womxn’s National Team.
Lauren, Aïda, and Haley offer so much insight and experience into what it means to be womxn coaching womxn’s volleyball. If you haven’t already heard about the powerful volleyball dynasty that Lauren Bertolacci (Australia) has built in Neuchâtel, Switzerland….
Haley Brightwell (USA) contributes as the main assistant coach in NUC. Aïda Shouk (Switzerland) currently works with the talented youth players in Aarau. They team up together under Lauren’s leadership with the Swiss Womxn’s National Team. They have graciously agreed to share their passion and wisdom with us at ACES | Womxn 4 Volleyball!
Why do you coach womxn’s volleyball?
Lauren: I coached men’s volleyball professionally prior to taking an opportunity in womxn’s volleyball. I enjoy both a lot, however it is definitely satisfying being able to help young womxn reach their potential and guide them in their growth as a volleyball player and person.
Aïda: I played for 20 years and really enjoyed it. While I was playing, some people told me that I could be a good coach since I played every position and was really passionate about my sport. After my career, I stepped a little out of volleyball but realized that the 8 to 5 job wasn’t exciting enough. So I took some chances and decided to go back to volleyball. I also had a very good time as a player and it brought me a lot to my life. I want to give it back and help younger womxn to develop themselves and follow their dreams and goals.
Haley: I started coaching as a graduate assistant at the college I played for and never really looked back. There is something about working intensely everyday towards a goal and seeing the progress right in front of you that is very motivating.
Which value(s) do you find the most relevant to your coaching philosophy and why?
Lauren: I find authenticity and expertise as the most relevant to my coaching. What you say and do must be in alignment. This is for your own mental well-being as a coach and your ability to instill a sense of trust in your players. Expertise is what we owe players. Athletes deserve to have a coach with a high level of knowledge to guide them through their process and journey as a volleyball player.
Aïda: Respect: the way to communicate to each other in a team or with individuals. Sharing: the experience we all get to pass some good and bad moments together. Work ethic with a good balance between pressure and lightness. The moments we share are memories for life. Trust: sincerity on all sides, no backbiting or judgment. The kindness that builds trust.
Haley: Authenticity is probably the most important. To create a healthy coach and athlete working relationship I do find it important that we all see each other as human beings. We need to know that both athletes and coaches have difficult days. We both have mental health troubles. All of us have to balance family and relationship dynamics. Everyone gets uncomfortable in our jobs. I need to be authentic enough to create an environment that includes empathy. We are together almost everyday for 9-10 months. Empathy and authenticity allow all of us to have up and down days while still being able work incredibly hard towards a goal.
Lauren, how do you think clubs can be more progressive in their hiring philosophies and treatment of personnel?
I am lucky enough to be in a more progressive hiring philosophy in terms of gender equity. We have a female president, and have hired female assistant coaches and head coaches in our various leagues for many years. This helps build the narrative that women can be high level coaches, “we can’t be what we can’t see.” However, in general as a sport, I believe we are behind in terms of support for coaches and players with families. Though this tends to affect womxn more often, it is very relevant to all genders.
Structures need to be built to support families in terms of child care, paid travel, etc. In addition, the paradigm of coaching volleyball (especially as a lower-resourced sport) is one that tells us if you want to be the very best it allows no time off. It is a job you carry with you 24/7. Though I certainly perpetuate that, it does fit into my lifestyle without children. This is not the case for everyone. We should start to change the paradigm providing larger staffs, family support, mental health care and career guidance.
Aïda, what are your goals for womxn’s volleyball in Switzerland?
To develop the best structure for the young player. To have more professional players that have good spots in the best teams in the world so we can have a stronger national team.
Haley, which challenges in EU/Swiss volleyball do you experience differently compared to in America?
For me specifically, language is a major challenge. In a country with 3 official languages, I have enough trouble just learning one. More globally, there are more challenges/limitations in womxn getting coaching jobs in Europe as compared to USA. Many leagues are seemingly off the table for female coaches, which can make progression in a career more difficult. Fortunately, Switzerland is not one of those countries.
Special thanks to Lauren, Aïda, and Haley, for taking the time to talk with me (Swags) in between their Swiss NT trainings. We are all learning so much from each of you, and thankful for the path you are laying for more of us to coach in our own sport!
Be sure to follow and support the successes of these great coaches on their Instagram accounts:
Lauren Bertolacci: @laurenberto
Aïda Shouk: @aida_shouk
Haley Brightwell: @coachbrightwell