MENDOTA – The Mendota Spikers have found their woman to take over the head coaching duties this fall, and she brings an impressive volleyball resume with her to Mendota High School. Nicci Gibson was approved for the position by the MHS Board of Education at its meeting on Feb. 18.
Gibson has coached, played or been involved with volleyball for more than 30 years. She is a 1991 graduate of Hall High School where she played volleyball and was the first female athlete from Hall to get a Division I scholarship. While in high school, Gibson played club volleyball at Top Gun Volleyball Club and Rockford Volleyball Club.
She proceeded on with her volleyball career at Georgia Southern University on a full-ride scholarship and graduated from there in 1996 with a health and physical education degree. Right out of college, Gibson was the head coach at a high school in Savannah, Ga., for two years before moving to the Atlanta area (1996-1998). She was then head volleyball coach at an Atlanta high school where she was 5A Volleyball Coach of the Year two of her five years, while also coaching at Atlanta Volleyball Club 16U.
Gibson moved back to Illinois in 2005 where she was the head volleyball coach at IVCC for five years before giving that up to be a mom. She started coaching at LaSalle-Peru High School as head sophomore coach and assistant varsity from 2010-2015. She gave up that position due to her daughter, Taylor, going to Wright State University on a full-ride volleyball scholarship and wanted to “watch her play in college her four years and not miss a thing.” She added that her younger daughter, Kaitlyn, was playing travel softball in the fall (her schedule is very demanding in the fall as is the biggest time for recruiters to watch softball players), and that “being a mom is the most important thing in my life.”
Gibson, who is a faculty member at L-P, said that it was her family that encouraged her to pursue the volleyball coaching position at MHS.
“My family and daughters started the conversation,” Gibson said. “They said, ‘Mom, it’s time to do something for you and something you are good at, passionate about and truly love. Coaching volleyball and teaching are what defines you as a person other than being our mom. You have traveled all over the United States supporting us, watching us, and being there for us and now it's time for you again.’”
Gibson said, “Taylor is graduating from Wright State in May with a degree in Sports Science and playing four years of D1 volleyball, and I got to watch her play all four years, and my younger daughter, Kaitlyn, just accepted a scholarship offer and committed to play softball at D1 Ball State in the fall of 2021. So, I have time where I can pursue my passion again and coach the sport I love.”
Gibson inherits a Spiker team that finished with a 21-13-2 record in the fall and loses only two seniors. She is anxious to introduce herself to everyone at all levels, including the other coaches, and talk about what her goals are for the program and for the varsity squad.
“I would then like to get their input as to what they want, what they expect, and what their thoughts are and to know each one individually and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a player and what they can contribute to the Mendota Spiker culture, our team, and program as a whole,” she said. “I have prior background knowledge of many of the girls due to my younger daughter Kaitlyn being the same age as the juniors and she has played against them or with them in volleyball, basketball, and softball. And being a volleyball fanatic, I keep up with volleyball in the paper and throughout the area.
“I have high expectations for the girls and the program as a whole. I think they have a great base to start with, but I want to bring them to the next level. They have many talented athletes throughout the program and the school. I will run them through drills, practices, open gyms and game play, and evaluate them each and every day and each and every time they contact a volleyball. I will document things I see at practice and videotape practices and game play to see what our needs are and who will be best for what position.
“Everyone will have a responsibility and job on the team. That's how you build a culture. I am looking for girls that want to work hard, want to win, and want to be part of building a winning culture and program.”
Gibson said she has lofty expectations of her players as well as herself in continuing a long-standing winning volleyball tradition at Mendota High School.
“I will give them everything I have and expect the same in return,” she said. “I build my culture and programs on Character, Culture, Communication, Control, and Consistency. The BIG 5 for me. A culture takes all players, coaches, parents, school, teachers, and community to be on board.
“We all have to be there for one another and to help and support one another at all times. I want them to leave the program feeling like they left their family and have a fun and memorable experience.”
Gibson said the timing of the coaching position being available in Mendota could not have worked out any better, and she feels truly blessed and excited to have this opportunity in her life right now.
“I always tell my kids, things happen for a reason and when the time is right, you will have a sign,” she said. “And here I am. I want to thank the administration at Mendota, the Board of Education, and my family for giving me this opportunity to do something I am truly passionate about, knowledgeable of, and love.”