Halfway through the semester, Wellesley College Volleyball has already competed in 18 matches since the start of their season on Sept. 31. On Tuesday Oct. 2, Volleyball Head Coach Dorothy Webb earned her 600th career win as the Blue swept past Clark University 3-0 in a match for New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in the Dorothy Towne Fieldhouse. Two days later, I had an opportunity to interview Coach Webb, wanting to know more about her career, experience with the team and future plans. Despite one match coming later that day and two more matches during the weekend, Coach Webb’s confident and delightful smile assured me that the Blue is ready for another victory and incoming challenges.
Starting her 26th season for Wellesley College athletics this year, Coach Webb has been endorsing Wellesley’s liberal and supportive environment since she started here. Before joining the Wellesley Athletics faculty, she earned a Master’s of Arts in English and literary criticism at Brown University. “I think a background in literature and women’s study is fabulous training for this job,” she said, “especially for recruiting and team communication. I think it is a wonderful background for any faculty position at Wellesley.” Webb had not decided to make coaching her career when she came to Wellesley; “I was thinking about an athletic administration position,” she said, smiling. “However, several people including the Director of Athletics here at the time, Louise O’Neill, told me that I had the best background for coaching and she offered me a great faculty position of being the volleyball coach. And she was right. It was a better fit.” And so, Coach Webb started her 26 years of coaching at Wellesley College.
Apart from training the volleyball team, Coach Webb also invests herself in teaching fitness classes including beginning volleyball, fusion fitness, tennis and strength training at Wellesley. “I have been involved in athletics all my life and started tennis even earlier than volleyball,” she recalled. “I think I picked my college with a good volleyball program over any other sports.” As a student athlete at the University of the Pacific, Webb was a four-year starter and a member of two Division I National Championship teams before competing in three professional leagues: Major League Volleyball, the Women’s Professional Volleyball Association and the Bud Light Four-Person Volleyball League.
Following her collegiate playing career, she went to Brown University to pursue her Master’s degree while serving as Head Volleyball Coach for one year after being the Assistant Coach for two years. During her time coaching the volleyball team at Brown, the university announced that it was going to cut four sports teams to reduce costs. With more money cut from the women’s programs than the men’s programs, women comprised 48 percent of Brown’s total student population but only about 37 percent of the available athletic positions after the cuts were made. Amy Cohen, a member of the women’s gymnastics team, and several other student-athletes filed suit against Brown alleging that the institution violated Title IX. Heavily involved in this Cohen vs. Brown lawsuit that helped establish Title IX law nationwide, Webb continued to coach the volleyball team during the difficult period, raising funds from team members’ families until Cohen won the case and positions were reinstated.
Even though Webb has spent three years coaching the volleyball team at Brown, she remarked that her experience at Wellesley has been different. Being able to coach highly motivated women in such a driven academic setting has been a unique and exciting experience for her. Even though in the game, it is indeed about winning and performing at the highest level, Coach Webb has also been proud of seeing everyone flourish in their academic work and maintain a balance between life, sports and study. That is why she encourages reasonable practice schedule despite busy match arrangements. There is only one two-and-a-half-hour commitment every day when the whole team does strength training, practices, and conditioning. Coach Webb has also been trying her best to facilitate open conversations among teammates. With 23 members on the team, one would assume that conflicts are inevitable. Coach Webb explained that it was all about communication and great team leadership, so they would be able to establish strong bonds among teammates in and outside competitions.
Winning 15 matches out of 18 so far, Wellesley Volleyball has surely had a great start to their season. Coach Webb later stated that her future goal is to get the team back on national rankings and into the final four teams that qualify for the championship round in the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Volleyball Tournament. She proudly said, “We are steadily good. We have a lot of good seniors who are leading very well, and everybody is so talented. Because we are deep, it is not just that we had a good start. We have a really great team all the way down.”
Looking back at her time at Wellesley, Coach Webb highlighted that her best time was taking the team to Final Four, and not only witnessing motivated women go through the program and become great athletes but also watching them mature, graduate and go out there to achieve great things. As members of Wellesley, we are sanguine about how far Coach Webb will lead the team this year because we are assured by how much effort everyone has put into the program. We are looking forward to the rest of the season because we know Wellesley Blue is always up for challenges.