It’s a short walk.
A familiar one Paula Weishoff has made before on the campus of Concordia University in Irvine.
Even so, as she makes her way this time from a staff meeting to her next appointment, it is hot enough outside that the air-conditioned environment of Grimm Hall offers a nice reprieve.
It’s impossible for the three-story glass building to know one of the greatest players in USA Volleyball history is sitting in its lobby, a surprising homecoming no one could’ve predicted.
About a decade ago, Weishoff, a three-time Olympian and Hall of Famer, took over the program and built Concordia into an NAIA national contender in five years at the helm. It included taking the Eagles to their first tournament appearance in her inaugural season in 2004. She was named NAIA Coach of the Year in 2008 after guiding Concordia to the national championship match.
Weishoff left the next season for UC Irvine, a Division 1 school around the corner. The Anteaters finished 19-12 overall and fourth in the Big West last year.
With the direction of UCI looking up, it leads to an easy question and one that is quite obvious.
What is Weishoff doing back at Concordia?
The Ball Gets Rolling
She’s the first to admit she didn’t see it coming.
She certainly wasn’t seeking it out.
“The culture of the team (at UCI) was the best it has been,” Weishoff said. “I adore the girls there. The administration has done a great job. Where they have brought athletics to is fantastic. It was hard to walk away from, it really was.”
After last season ended, Trevor Johnson informed Concordia that he was stepping down as head coach of the women’s volleyball team to take an assistant position with Big 12-school Baylor.
That was the beginning.
In the meantime, the Concordia program was preparing to make the jump from NAIA to NCAA Division 2 for the start of the 2015 season. Like they have in the past, officials at the school reached out to Weishoff to see if she had any recommendations for Johnson’s replacement.
“I sat down with them to see where they wanted to go, what direction they wanted to go,” she said. “They wanted someone with Division 1 experience and who has gone through it before because they were coming from NAIA.”
Though on the surface it didn’t appear there was much to think about, Weishoff’s wheels were spinning.
Still, why would someone like Weishoff leave a Division 1 program to go to back to Concordia? In some regard, wouldn’t it appear like a move in the wrong direction?
These were obvious questions, yet something was tugging at Weishoff. The timing of the situation was perfect in that Weishoff was going on a yoga retreat in Thailand for a couple of weeks.
It allowed space to sort things out.
“I meditated and was able to get away from the ego part of it,” Weishoff said. “Things were set up at UCI, so would this be taking a step backward or a step forward? All of those things crossed my mind.”
A New Challenge
This much is guaranteed.
Concordia holds a place in Weishoff’s heart.
“There is a lot of comfort coming back,” she said. “If I was going to a new institution with new people, I don’t think I would have made the choice I did. I love the mission of this university. I knew I would be comfortable coming back. Knowing the people here and knowing how great it is working with them and getting to stay local, I don’t think it would have worked out at another place.
“I said ‘Let’s do this.’ We had a national championship-caliber program here for NAIA. We can make that transition into Division 2. It’s a new challenge.”
Not having to uproot her current living situation and getting to return to a place she knows well might have played large parts in Weishoff’s return, but making Concordia a national player in Division 2 won’t happen overnight.