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Why ISU Coach Stepped Away After Another Family Tragedy

Melissa Myers on the court
Redbird Athletics
Former Redbird volleyball coach Melissa Myers.

Melissa Myers was all set to return for her 10th season as Illinois State’s volleyball coach this season.

Things were shaping up for a highly successful season with a number of returnees from last year’s squad that advanced to the championship match of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.

But a tragic turn of events in April turned Myers’ world upside down and caused her to step back and take a look at life outside of volleyball.

“In late April my sister and niece were killed in a car accident,” said Myers, who surprised many by resigning from her position at ISU last month. “They lived in the Dallas area and there was a young man, who was intoxicated and doing some drugs and we believe passed out at the wheel and crossed the median and hit them head-on. They died instantly.”

And it wasn’t the first time Myers had to deal with a tragic death in her family.

"I don't know if I'll ever coach again. I just know I needed a little time away from it to catch my breath."

“My youngest sister was killed 17 years ago around the same time in a car accident,” said Myers, who admitted she started looking at her life from a different perspective after the most recent death of her sister.

“I started reflecting on things and came to the conclusion I was totally being selfish to myself,” said Myers, who grew up in a family of six. “My parents are in Pennsylvania. I have a brother in New Jersey; my sisters are in the Dallas area and my boyfriend is in Louisiana.

“Because of my coaching career, I realized I was missing out on a lot of family activities. My family went on a vacation last summer and I couldn’t go because of coaching commitments. When this happened I sort of felt like ‘how do I handle this?’

“I realized I’ve really given up a lot of family time over the course of the last 30 years—20 years as a coach and before that as an athlete—and you feel guilt when something like this happens.

“I’ve always had regrets, but as you get older you start having these philosophical conversations with yourself and you really ask yourself, ‘What are we doing and why are we doing it.’

“The one thing I learned is you can’t take any of this with you when you go. We’re all going to die. That’s inevitable and life can be very unpredictable. We just don’t know, but when these things happen they really make you step back and say, ‘Are you really living your life the way you want and are you really doing the things you want to be doing.’ ”

That’s when Myers came to the decision that it was time to resign.

“I just felt I needed to be more accessible to my family and my boyfriend,” she added. “We have people in our lives that are important too.”

Myers, who compiled a 168-116 record at ISU and guided the team to the Valley regular season and tournament championship and NCAA Tournament berth in 2014, admitted it wasn’t an easy decision.

“It wasn’t a decision I certainly took lightly,” she said. “The thing that was important in terms of timing was I knew it had to be as soon as possible, so ISU would have time to hire someone new (Leah Johnson was hired earlier this month) and let them get settled and let the team get settled before the season because I really believe this team is going to be really good.

“It’s a great group of students; a great group of athletes; a great group of people and I wanted to do the best thing for them and make sure they were in a good position moving forward. It was a surprise for a lot of people, but it wasn’t something I intended to do as a surprise.”

And what does the future hold for Myers?

“I honestly don’t know yet,” she said. “I’m moving to Louisiana to be with my boyfriend and I want to spend time with my family. I am truly grateful for my time and experience at ISU.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever coach again. I just know I needed a little time away from it to catch my breath. I’m at peace with my decision, totally at peace. I think it’s really the right time in my life to make a change.”

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