Volleyball team welcomes new head coach


Courtesy of Baker University Athletics

At the beginning of March, it was announced the Nil Nielsen would be taking over as the head volleyball coach. Nielsen was previously the volunteer assistant coach at Kansas University

On Wednesday, March 2, Athletic Director Nate Houser announced the hiring of Nils Nielsen as the next head volleyball coach at Baker University. 

Growing up in Fallbrook, Calif., Nielsen attended Fallbrook Union High School (FUHS) where he played volleyball and club volleyball for Shorebreak Volleyball Club. After graduating from California State Northridge with a history degree, Nielsen decided he wanted to be a teacher.

“I had some good teachers growing up in both middle school and high school that influenced me in a positive way,” Nielsen said. “So I always thought that teaching would be a fun way to interact with other people.” 

Nielsen then was able to play professional volleyball in Switzerland with two of his former teammates.

“That kind of sent me on this route of playing professionally. I went from one job to another for a long time,” Nilsen said.

Shortly after his time in Switzerland in 2006, he got the opportunity to train in Anaheim, Calif. with the U.S. Men’s National Team. 

Later, Nielsen started coaching a club that was practicing in the same facility as the U.S. Men’s National Team.

“It was a really formative experience for me,” Nielsen said. “I was developing as a player more as I was also coaching.”

Before moving to Kansas, Nielsen was running a small middle school program as the varsity boys and girls coach. At the same time, Nielsen’s wife Kaitlin was the assistant coach for the UCLA women’s volleyball program. 

Kaitlin later had the opportunity for the assistant coaching job at the University of Kansas. For the past two seasons, Nielsen served as the volunteer assistant at KU.

Nielsen was looking for somewhere closer to coach since living in Lawrence. After doing a quick search of the surrounding areas for volleyball opportunities from high schools to colleges, Nielsen found a perfect match. Not only was Baker close but it was exactly what Nielsen was looking for.

“It was a pipe dream,” Nielsen said. “I thought ‘that would be cool, but what are the chances that a school that has been around that long and has that well of an established program goes through a coaching change while we’re here?’” 

After applying and going through the process, Nielsen was very hopeful and excited about the possibility. When Athletic Director Nate Houser called and offered him the job, Nielsen was thrilled.

“I was elated. I was really, really excited. I’m still excited about it,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen believes that there is something significant about the Baker team.

“The team and the girls that I’ve inherited have been awesome,” Nielsen said. “They’ve been open to my style of coaching. They’ve actually been very trusting and willing when it comes to the way I explain and see things.”

Freshman Emma Berkley, a member of the team, is excited that Nielsen is taking over as head coach.

“I think he is going to take this program in a great direction,” Berkley said. “He’s a whole lot different than our last head coach, he’s very outgoing and kind.”

Another member of the team, Freshman Kady Vialpando is looking forward to the new season.

“I think he has really great potential to make our program great,” Vialpando said. “I am really excited for what he’s going to bring for our next season this coming fall.”

One of Nielsen’s goals for the upcoming season is for the team to become one of the best in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. Despite understanding the difficulty of this, he believes that it is possible.

“This next season is really to maximize the potential of the girls that we have in the gym. I think if we do that it’s possible for us to make the post-season tournament,” Nielsen said.