Finding her (skill) set
April 5, 2010
Sometimes an individual's greatest opportunity is close to home. For Laura Bindon, that has been the case.
Currently the varsity assistant coach with the Calvin women's volleyball team and the school's assistant director of athletics, Bindon grew up in nearby Holland and attended Holland Christian High School. As a senior, she had a choice to make. A standout volleyball player, Bindon had the option of attending Calvin, where she was recruited by then-head coach Mary Schutten, or attending an institution further from home.
Bindon chose Calvin. "There were over 50 members of my high school graduating class scheduled to attend Calvin," she said Bindon. "I had it in my head that I was not going to do what everyone else was doing. Initially I resisted coming to Calvin, visited a number of other schools and finally chose Calvin as my fall-back choice. I came into Calvin pretty close minded, without looking at any of the opportunities around me."
Although she was a member of the Calvin volleyball program as a freshman, Bindon struggled with mononucleosis. After one year, she thought a change of scenery might help and transferred to Division II Lake Superior State University.
"I wanted to get away from home and try something new," said Bindon, "but it did not take long before I started to realize how much I missed Calvin and everything it had to offer. I struggled with the idea that maybe I was turning my back on what God's plan was for my life."
Bindon transferred back to Calvin in time for the 2001 fall semester and rejoined the Calvin volleyball team for her junior year. During her junior campaign, she helped the Knights advance to the NCAA III Tournament with strong play off the bench. Her senior year was an even bigger success story, as she landed a spot on the All-MIAA first team as a setter, averaging 13.84 assists-per-game, which still ranks as the second-best single-season average in Calvin women's volleyball history.
Looking back, Bindon sees her time away from Calvin as a blessing in disguise. "Without that time away, I would not have been open to the blessings that Calvin had for me—more than just as a volleyball player," she said. "I was not even sure if the coaches and volleyball team would accept me back, but I found out that my worries were unfounded, particularly with the coaching staff. At Calvin, I found that I had Christian coaches who were concerned more about me as a person than just what I could contribute on a stat line in a box score."
After graduating from Calvin in the spring of 2003 with a degree in exercise science, Bindon joined the Calvin volleyball coaching staff that fall as an assistant coach, working underneath her former head coach Amber Warners, and has continued in the role since then. During her seven-year tenure as assistant coach, the Calvin women's volleyball program has earned six trips to the NCAA III Tournament, capturing five MIAA Tournament titles, two MIAA regular season crowns and three 30-win campaigns.
Seven years after bringing her on board, Warners says that Bindon has been a big part of the success of the Calvin women's volleyball program. "Laura brings signicant experience to our program with an expertise in physical training," said Warners. "She has become a coach who I trust with all areas of our program—the physical training, leading practices, game strategy and in personnel evaluation, to mention just a few. We are very fortunate to have someone like Laura be a part of our program."
Bindon credits Warners for her growth as a coach. "I owe a lot to Amber, said Bindon, "One of the best things that she did for me as a first-year assistant coach was entrusting me in making key decisions right from the start," said Bindon. "I've become a better assistant coach because of her faith in me. Amber does not do anything half-heartedly. She goes above and beyond with everything she does, and that has taught me to pour my heart into my coaching and instill confidence in our players just as she instilled confidence in me as a coach."
Up and comer
This past month, Bindon was named a recipient of the American Volleyball Coaches Association's yearly Thirty-Under-30 Award. The award recognizes 30 of the up-and-coming volleyball coaches under 30 years old in the sport at all levels of the game.
"I was very excited when I learned of the award," said Bindon. "Amber and I have had such a good working relationship together over the last seven years that I feel that this award is a reflection of our teamwork between head coach and assistant coach. It is not just an exciting award for me; it is an exciting award for both of us."
Bindon has also thrived in the administrative side of athletics, starting as an intern in the department of health, physical education, recreation, dance and sport and moving up to assistant director of athletics. She also serves as an instructor for a handful of classes in the Calvin HPERDS department and is currently working on her master's degree in exercise physiology at Michigan State University.
"I've learned so much more about the behind-the-scenes workings of an athletic department,” said Bindon. "I've been blessed to learn underneath Nancy Meyer and Jim Timmer (women’s and men’s athletic directors, respectively.) They have taught me so much. I have had so many different experiences at Calvin and I feel that all of those experiences have helped me in the roles that I am serving in right now."
Throughout her career, Bindon has developed a firm philosophy of coaching volleyball within a Christian framework. "I think the biggest goal in the Calvin volleyball program is to make each individual a better person, particularly with their Christian faith," said Bindon. "Our goal is to develop them as God-fearing women. We also expect hard work both in the classroom and on the volleyball court. We want to excel on the volleyball court but we also want our student-athletes prepared for the next step in life after they graduate."