Stephanie Holthus' passion has become her vocation.
And the 2010 Burlington Central High School graduate is tickled pink about it.
After a three-year professional volleyball stint that took her to Puerto Rico, Peru and England, Holthus is back in the area and ready to tackle the ambitious undertaking of starting a girls' volleyball club in a volleyball-rich suburban Chicago landscape, almost from scratch.
Holthus is getting the girls' arm of the Schaumburg-based Pipeline Volleyball Club up and running. To date, Pipeline had been a boys' only club in existence since 2010 and running out of the Schaumburg Sports Club and the Hanover Park District. The boys' club will field 12 teams this year.
"I had been interested in opening up a club for quite some time," Holthus told me earlier this week. "I didn't really know how to do it or how to go about it. I had been overseas playing and always said I would keep playing overseas until there was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
That opportunity occurred when the Pipeline situation presented itself.
"Pipeline was too good an opportunity to pass up," she said. "When I was younger, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Other coaches I had thought I would end up being a coach."
Holthus, one of the more prolific offensive players in Northwestern University women's volleyball history, got a taste of the club game early on during her tenure in Evanston, coaching in the Wildcats Juniors program.
"At Wildcats, I fell in love with coaching," she said. "I ended up studying education. I love coaching and I love teaching kids. Both are similar, just in different environments. I want to give the girls the same opportunity I had in club and give them the same opportunity to have doors opened for them like I had. I'm super-excited to be able to head up a program."
Holthus, a key player on Central's Class 3A state runner-up team of 2009, played locally for the Fusion club while at Central. She ended up coaching at Wildcats Juniors for five years and helped run area summer camps. Her big problem with getting her coaching career off the ground was her overseas professional career.
"It always was hard to be able to coach for a full season," she said. "I ended up doing a lot of side coaching here and there."
Holthus, who earned her master's degree in education while playing in England, said she owes a ton to her club and high-school volleyball upbringings.
"My parents joke that I really grew up in a gym," she said. "I love the sport and I had a lot of great coaches who provided the opportunity to go every day and practice and get better. Volleyball has opened so many doors for me whether it was getting a scholarship to Northwestern, the trips around the world or playing overseas. My best friends in high school were my club teammates. You grow up with those people. I can't wait to give those same opportunities and help the kids have the same experience I had with so many things. You can take so many things in club and transfer them into real life."
Holthus, who is the JV coach and varsity assistant coach at Schaumburg High School this fall, can't wait to hit the ground running. Right now, volleyball is where her focus is, though she didn't rule out putting those education degrees to good use.
"Coaching pushed me into education," she said. "I thought I would try and get the club up and running first. I didn't want to be split half coaching and half teaching. I'm giving all myself to Pipeline."
Holthus' goal is to form as many teams as possible out of two upcoming October tryouts. She's been encouraged by the response from several clinics she's put on in the Pipeline area.
"We're open to 12s to 18s and would like to have both regional and national programs," she said. "We're getting the word out. Last Sunday, we had 25 kids at one of our clinics and we're doing some other ones the next few Sundays."
Holthus also has the advantage of having the Pipeline name already established in the community.
"Pipeline already is a good name in the area on the boys' side," said Holthus, who also played three years in the USA Volleyball youth high-performance pipeline (1 year on the youth national team and two seasons on the junior national team). "Our boys' players are our biggest advocates because they have sisters and they have girlfriends. They are some of our best advocates. Our goal is to get a lot of kids in the gym and grow a lot and show everybody they will have a great time playing here. I know there is a lot of volleyball in the area to choose from. I'm up to the challenge. I'm going to offer girls' a great volleyball experience."
Mike Miazga has been writing about sports in the Fox Valley for 25 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.