One is a vocal teacher, the other a little more reserved. But both have a tenacious appetite for competition, especially against each other.
Laura and Chrissie Jeannin are four years apart in age. They never got to play with each other on the volleyball court, but are making up for that now as prep head coaches in the sport.
Laura is in her fifth season as head coach of the Ottawa High School volleyball program. Her sister, Chrissie, is in the midst of her first high school coaching job at the helm of the volleyball program at Tonganoxie, where the two grew up.
The two sisters and their teams have already met once this season, Ottawa winning 22-25, 25-16, 25-19 Sept. 16 in the Rossville Invitational. Tonganoxie hosts its home tournament today with Ottawa invited. The two teams won’t see each other in pool matches, but a potential matchup in bracket play could turn opportunity for Chrissie and her Lady Chieftains squad to seek revenge.
“I still really wanted to win,” Chrissie said with a chuckle, thinking back on the first meeting between the two teams.
Competitiveness and athleticism runs in the Jeannin family. Laura and Chrissie’s oldest sister, Katelyn Volk, now an optometrist in Tonganoxie, played volleyball at Tonganoxie and “paved the way” for the other two, Laura said. She went on to play softball at Johnson County Community College and Truman State.
Volleyball wasn’t the norm for the Jeannin sisters right away, Laura said. Softball was a big sport for the family, and Chrissie played a lot of basketball before the sisters got started in volleyball in middle school. The sport stuck with them through high school, college and now adulthood. Both Laura and Chrissie played volleyball at Ottawa University, with Laura graduating in 2009, and Chrissie in 2013.
Funny enough, Laura and Chrissie saw each other the night before Rossville at Katelyn’s birthday party in Tonganoxie.
“We had eaten out the night before with my parents and everyone for her birthday, and we were really trying not to say much,” Laura said. “When it is all said and done, at this point in the season, it is how the girls perform. Us coaches, we impact our teams, but it is in the girls’ hands when it comes game time.
“It is kind of fun. My dad was there at the game, but my mom had to work.”
Not a whole lot was said after the match, either. The fiery competitive is there, but so is mutual respect.
“Throughout the day we kind of talked a little bit,” Chrissie said. “Before, I wanted to beat her really bad, and I know she wanted to beat me. She couldn’t let me beat her. I’ve coached a lot of the girls at Ottawa, so one of them came up to me and said, ‘We had to beat you because I knew you would give us a hard time if you didn’t.’ It is weird to see them on the other side of the net, but I enjoy coaching, and seeing them do well too is nice.”
Laura laughed thinking back on the past few years of her and her sister living together in Ottawa before Chrissie left for Tonganoxie, thinking of her almost like her significant other, she said. But forming a personal bond with members of the Lady Cyclones, including helping train setters (Chrissie was a honorable mention All-American setter for the Ottawa University volleyball team her senior year in 2012), has helped her in handling her own team.
“I’ve seen her after games, preseason, postseason, what she does,” Chrissie said. “It has been nice to kind of slowly get into it, and see what the behind the scenes are and stuff like that. I know I can call her up and be like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do.’ It has been nice to see what it takes to be a coach at the high school level.”
While the sisters get mistaken for each other all the time, Laura said, the two couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to coaching style and personality.
“I wear my emotions on the outside, and she is a little more internal about her emotions,” Laura said. “She is very calm. She is like that as a coach as well. She lets her girls do what they need to do, and doesn’t say a lot unless she has to.”
“She is more vocal than I am,” she said of Laura. “I am a little more withdrawn. I say what needs to be said. She talks so much more than I do. When I was playing, I was even the same way. I said what I needed to say, but I wasn’t the vocal leader.”
Personalities aside, the Jeannin sisters hope to make a tradition of competitive volleyball matches in the Frontier League, which Tonganoxie is set to join in 2018.
“My family has always been very competitive,” Laura said. “We are very, very supportive of one another in our athletic endeavors, and really just everything in life. I am in full support of her team against anyone else but me,” she continued with a laugh.
“There’s that rivalry there, but I’m also big sis cheering her on. I want to help her any way that I can, and I want her to be successful as a coach, and her team to be successful.”