Harthun looking forward to coaching career

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Erin McGroarty / Sun Star

This fall Sam Harthun, a 21-year-old student majoring in art, will be taking the position of volunteer assistant coach for Lewis and Clark College women’s volleyball team in Portland, near her hometown of Oregon City.  With her college volleyball career coming to an end, senior outside hitter, Harthun is now looking forward to passing on what she has learned.

“I actually sought them out,” she said. “I knew I wanted to do it in Oregon, so then it was just a matter of trying to figure out who I already knew.”

A former club league coach of Harthun’s, now working for Lewis and Clark team, was able to put her in contact with the head coach there.

“I want to learn as much as possible before I take on any kind of actual coaching position,” she said.

Nanook Head Coach Brian Scott has high hopes for the newest career move by his former star.

“Sam is going to make a great coach, in large part because of her love for the game,” Scott said. “As a player she was constantly striving to become better and looked for ways to help her teammates do the same.”

Harthun started playing volleyball at the age of 8, but did not definitively see herself playing in college until the end of high school.

“In my junior year, I went through a period of thinking that I didn’t want to,” she recalled. That changed when she started contacting colleges. “Once I started hearing back from them, I started getting excited and definitely knew I wanted to continue playing.”

During the player’s first few years at UAF, she seriously considered playing professionally following graduation. That meant going overseas, as the United States does not have professional volleyball leagues. As graduation drew nearer, she realized that path was not for her.

“I think my body physically is done and I’m ready to move on to the next level of my life,” she said.

Harthun has been coaching club league volleyball since her sophomore year in college, but had not considered coaching as a career until much more recently.

“This summer I was coaching different camps back home and it sort of clicked,” Harthun said. “I realized I could be good at this.”

Last spring, when the UAF women’s volleyball team was in between coaches, many of the coaching responsibilities fell on Harthun and the other team captains.

“That gave me a lot of insight into the duties of a coach and I think between that and the camps over the summer I realized ‘Hey I really want to do this,'” she said.

The senior had the beneficial experience of having three different sets of coaches in her college career. Phil Shoemaker was the head coach when Harthun joined the team as a freshman. However, the next year Mallory Larranaga took over as head coach. Larranaga coached Harthun for two years until current head coach Brian Scott took over in fall 2015.

“Sam was a competitive athlete that never settled for where she was athletically. I think that is what is going to propel her into the coaching transition so well.” Larranaga said, “You have to be able to push athletes beyond what they think they are capable of. Sam will be able to do that without skipping a beat.”

Harthun said she will be taking advice from each set of coaches with her on the road.

“I learned a lot from Phil and Mal about what kind of coach I want to be and what aspects of their coaching I’d like to take away with me,” Harthun said. “But Brian and Robbie have taught me a lot about the technical side of coaching, which made me smarter as a player and I think will make me a better coach.”

“It is a natural instinct for her to find ways to help those around her,” Scott said. “This ability and her drive to succeed will serve her well as a coach.”

Scott said he wishes he and the team could have Harthun for longer but are extremely hopeful for her future.

Harthun explained that her coaches’ personal attributes have had a significant effect on her decision to pursue a career in coaching collegiate volleyball.

“As people they also made me want to be a coach,” she said. “Volleyball is the smallest part of what you’re teaching teaching these people. There’s a lot about life there too and I can’t wait.”

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