Sonya Locke named Female Coach of the Year

By Gus Bode

Sonya Locke named Female Coach of the Year

Locke receives award along with Tyrone Willingham

SIU head volleyball coach Sonya Locke was named the Black Coaches Association’s 2003 National Female Coach of the Year early Wednesday, marking the first time in the association’s history it has given the award to a non-basketball female coach.

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In June, the BCA awards banquet will honor Locke and the 2003 Male Coach of the Year, Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame’s football coach, at the national convention in Indianapolis.

“That makes this award even more unbelievable,” Locke said. “I can’t put it into words. It’s pretty awesome to be on the same stage as Tyrone Willingham.”

Locke credited the team and the athletic department with making her a successful coach. She said the team’s hard work and the athletic department’s support made her successful coaching possible. However, Locke had trouble believing the news.

“There aren’t many times when I’m speechless. I probably asked the lady on the phone ‘was she sure?'” Locke said.

Founded in 1988, the BCA is a non-profit association that helps promote minorities in the sports administration industry. Covering 44 states, the association works to support minorities in all athletic levels – amateur, collegiate and professional – nationally and internationally.

The BCA awarded Locke based on the following criteria:team success during the season, team improvement from the previous season, fulfillment of team potential and the coach’s level of professional manner and attitude.

Kristie Kemner, a graduating senior who rewrote SIU’s record books under Locke, wasn’t surprised as much as thrilled to hear that her coach received the award. She said was pleased to know that her mentor is being recognized.

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“She coached me, she developed me and she’s become a part of my life as I’ve become in hers,” Kemner said. “I’m very happy for her.”

Locke made great strides for the athletic department. After leading the team to its best record in 14 years, Locke was awarded the 2002 Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year. Before her, no other SIU volleyball coach had received that honor.

Locke’s honor will bring positive effects to the team, said Matt Affolder, one of the team’s assistant coaches.

“This is an unimaginable boost to the volleyball program,” Affolder said. “This fall was the record-setting year. Now, being honored with this is very humbling. I think it’s definitely a selling tool.”

Affolder said next year’s media guide noting Locke’s award will “put us on the map more than ever” and help the recruitment process.

Britten Follett, who graduated in December, said Locke was a motivating leader who kept a positive attitude about the team’s talent despite “a lot of ups and downs” in the past four years.

“Sonya definitely gave me her love for the program, her dedication for the program,” said Follett, who set the all-time record for sets in a season in 2002. “She pushed me to be the best setter that I can be. She never doubted what we had in us to succeed. She never gave up on us.”

In her 12th season, Locke earned her first 20-win campaign, gaining her 200th career win at Indiana State on Oct. 19. Locke played on SIU’s volleyball team for four years and was an assistant coach for eight years.

“Anytime you are recognized by your peers it’s special because there are so many coaches who work just as hard as I do or even harder,” Locke said. “I’m humbled by the idea of being labeled national coach of the year.

“It’s definitely a blessing from above.”

Reporter Jane Huh can be reached at [email protected]

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