Calvin College volleyball coach Amber Warners has a long history of West Michigan athletic excellence. During her time at Calvin, she has won the Great Lakes Coach of the Year awards for both softball and volleyball.
Before she was a coach, Warners played basketball, volleyball and softball for Holland Christian High School. At Calvin, she continued to play both volleyball and softball, playing in the NCAA Division III finals her first year at Calvin.
During her first year on Calvin’s volleyball team, the team made it to the national championship game. She recalled that it was a great memory, because she “didn’t have a care in the world other than setting better for [her] teammates.”
For softball, she said one game that stuck out was a tournament game at Rose Hulman where, during a rain delay, the team participated in rain delay antics, such as sliding on the tarps and other things professional players do.
After graduating, Warners took an opening as Calvin’s softball coach while waiting to apply for the volleyball position.
“I was coaching [softball at Calvin for] five or six years before volleyball opened up,” Warners said. “ I really wanted that position, but the problem I had was that I loved coaching softball and I didn’t want to let my players down, so I did both for three years.”
“That third year, I had my third child and was finishing up my PhD, and my husband and I decided I couldn’t do both,” said Warners.
Warners received her masters in sports psychology and PhD in psychology and sociology of physical activity, both from Michigan State University. Her education reflects the reason why she is a coach:
“I love the inner workings of a group,” Warners said. “What drives me as a coach are the relationships.” She said she enjoys “being able to read what the group needs and communicating with individuals in such a way that there is grace and truth.”
Calvin’s mission for sports is one of the reasons Warners has stayed with Calvin’s team for the past 13 years:
“There are two things that are going on,” Warners said. “One, we are trying to build a program that wins. The other thing going on that is way more important in the big picture is that, after [student athletes] play in our program, they are changed people in every area of their life. I want them to be able to say, ‘My faith is stronger because I played volleyball at Calvin.’”
Warners brought up the Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 28, which addresses being thankful in times of adversity.
“I don’t second guess anymore the things that happen during the season with my players. I think we are called by God to follow whatever path is in front of us. God uses the little things like losing and winning to shape us.”
Division III has been the arena where Warners has applied her philosophies for many years. She believes that the importance of sport in the division is a philosophy that is tough to mimic, and she couldn’t see herself anywhere else.