Kennedy Muff (left), a Westosha Central High School graduate, and Brooklyn VandeHei, a Burlington High School graduate, share a light moment in between coaching drills July 1 at Herner’s Hideway in Genoa City (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Two local grads spend the summer mentoring youth players

By Jason Arndt

Overseeing more than 100 youth and prep sand volleyball players during the summer can present challenges for some people.

But for Kennedy Muff, a 2019 Westosha Central High School graduate, and 2018 Burlington High School graduate Brooklyn VandeHei, they don’t see their summer tasks as challenging.

In fact, they are thriving as coaches for Sky High Volleyball, a Crystal Lake, Illinois, club program, serving as mentors for younger players.

Muff, who now attends Flager College in Florida, finds coaching with VandeHei and overseeing hundreds as an enlightening experience.

“It is so amazing. It is so good to work with such versatile players,” said Muff. “Sky High has given these girls the opportunity to play.”

Sky High Volleyball, which holds weekend tournaments, plays matches at Herner’s Hideaway in Genoa City and in two Illinois locations.

For VandeHei, the weather is the only challenge she sees, but otherwise, Sky High Volleyball club players have been receptive to direction and she has enjoyed coaching with Muff this summer.

“We have the same mindset on how to run things, so we work well together,” said VandeHei, an incoming junior collegiate volleyball player at Keiser University in Florida.

“The girls are all really nice and work, and do everything well.”

Herner’s Hideaway, the Wisconsin site for Sky High, was lauded by both for its facilities and upkeep.

Coaching approach
VandeHei’s coaching philosophy places an emphasis on focus and mental composure.

“Once you stop focusing, then your game goes out the window, so you have to keep your mind in the game,” she said.

Muff looks to her mother, Rebecca, who serves as Sky High’s Youth Program and Player Development Director, for guidance on how to lead on the court.

“My coaching philosophy is to get to know the players as fast as possible. Each player responds differently to criticism and I know that as a player myself, I think it helps me,” Muff said.

“My mom has been coaching for such a long time, so it has been really fun to learn from her, her technique, her philosophy.”

Coming together
So, how did two players from opposing high schools come together?

The journey, according to VandeHei, began when she and Muff played club volleyball at Wisconsin Juniors in Pleasant Prairie.

“We became friends probably when I was 16, she was 15, playing on Wisconsin Juniors and then we started playing beach volleyball together when I was 17,” VandeHei recalled. “We have been friends ever since and then we both moved to Sky High.”

Since then, although they competed against each other in high school, both have worked out together during the summer and occasionally meet up during the school year in Florida.

Muff, meanwhile, describes VandeHei as a player who doesn’t give up, often chasing after balls on the court.

“The most dominant trait with Brooklyn is that she goes after every ball,” Muff said. “She is a baller no matter what and that is something I learned playing beach volleyball with her.”

“Honestly, she works harder than anyone I know,” Muff added.

VandeHei, meanwhile, finds Muff’s energy as contagious and noted she always motivated her teammates while on the court.

“She motivates her teammates so much, and always has high energy and keeps the team pumped up and ready to go no matter what,” VandeHei said.

Record holder
Muff, a setter for Division II Flagler College, broke the all-time assists record for the Westosha Central girls volleyball program.

With the Falcons, she earned honorable mention All-State, Southern Lakes Conference first-team honors, among multiple other achievements.

Since then, while with the Saints in Florida, Muff collected Freshman of the Year honors in the Peach Belt Conference, where she also picked up second-team All-Conference accolades.

Muff, who departed for Florida Wednesday to start team training, found the Freshman of the Year award as most memorable during her inaugural collegiate season.

“It has been awesome. It has been amazing for me. It has been a good experience to get away and be independent,” she said.

Muff, however, said the collegiate game cannot compare to high school competition because of the pace.

The pace of play, along with more competitive players, has forced Muff to step up the intensity.

“The biggest thing is the pace of the game. In college, it speeds up a lot and you always have to be ready for everything,” Muff said. “Everyone is so competitive at the college level. No matter what, you can’t take a day off, you got to keep working every single day.”

Muff, who is studying business, said she looks forward to her upcoming volleyball season.

Her preseason slate begins Aug. 16.

“We are super-excited and everyone has been in staying in touch, we do Zoom conferences frequently with our coaches and players,” she said. “We are ready to go.”

Setting up for success
VandeHei, also a setter, was named second team All-Conference and honorable mention All-State after her senior season at Burlington.

As a sophomore with the Keiser Seahawks, she earned Setter of the Year in the Sun Conference, where VandeHei earned recognition on the first team.

VandeHei led the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in total assists with 1,746, the most in Keiser program history, according to her collegiate biography.

Additionally, she surpassed 2,000 career assists as a sophomore, boasted a season-high 63 assists in the regular season finale against Southeastern.

VandeHei, like Muff, found the college game presented a faster pace.

She also acknowledged each player is competing at a higher level for a reason.

“The college game is a lot faster pace. (In) high school, it goes a lot slower because you have girls from different competition levels,” she said. “But college, you are motivated to be there and players want to be there.”

VandeHei, a sports management major, said she has enjoyed Keiser University’s supportive environment and athletes from all sports have formed a strong bond while on campus.


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