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Trading colors for opportunity: Hillsdale JV volleyball coach takes varsity gig at Jonesville


A Hornet for more than a decade, Debbie Proctor-Bigelow is now officially a major piece of a cross-town rivals’ volleyball program.

Trading in her blue and gold for black and orange and the opportunity to coach at a higher level, the former Hillsdale JV volleyball coach was approved by the Jonesville School Board as the newest Comets’ varsity head coach Monday.

“I’m really excited and have wanted to be a head coach for a varsity program for a while now,” Proctor-Bigelow said. “I found out about the position through word of mouth, and I knew (athletic director) Kathy (Bondsteel) well, and everything just worked out.”

Bigelow has coached in the Hillsdale district at every level from middle school to JV for the last 13 years and that is something that caught Bondsteel’s attention during the interview process.

“I want Jonesville volleyball to be a program. Not that it hasn’t been in some ways before now, but we think it can be done better,” said Bondsteel, who interviewed five or six candidates for the position. “Debbie has worked with all ages and all sorts of programs over the years and she has also had some administrative experience with AAU teams.”

We want the varsity program to be working with staff all the way down at the elementary level, so when the girls get to middle school and high school we’re not still teaching the basics, we’re working on their higher development. We think Debbie is a great fit for what we want to do.”

The Comets’ program has been up and down year-to-year recently, and although half of last year’s roster graduated, Bigelow is confident this is the right fit for her, and success will follow if she works on things one step at a time.

“I’ve learned you need to be well-rounded in this kind of job. Our first responsibility is to educate and develop life skills, and also allow them to have fun,” she said. “I explain to the girls the privilege they have, because I grew up before Title IX, when there wasn’t yet high school volleyball. Every good coach knows it is important to be successful, but you have to have other things in line first before winning comes.”

Bigelow said she didn’t even play volleyball until she was almost 30, but she feels like she has earned a right to be considered for the position she has now been entrusted with.

“I can look at this job from a lot of different aspects, because I’ve been involved with club volleyball, AAU stuff, rec leagues and high school volleyball,” she said. “I had a wonderful experience at Hillsdale and coaching those girls was something I will always have to look back on.”

While she is no longer a Hornet in an athletic sense, she still has plenty of ties to the district, as a Responsible Thinking Classroom teacher at Hillsdale High School. Proctor-Bigelow said it will be weird wearing so much

Jonesville gear at first and she’s expecting plenty of heckling from people in both districts.

“It will be a huge color change for me,” she said. “It will be funny, because I volunteered as a ticket taker over in Jonesville sometimes, and even just doing that I would get plenty of ribbing, people asking what a Hornet was doing in that gym.”

A new JV volleyball coach was also officially hired Monday, when the board approved Joshua Butler for the position.

Bondsteel said Butler, who lives in North Adams and volunteered for the Comets’ volleyball program last year “is very excited about coming on board and should be a great addition.”

The varsity volleyball team begins its season with a tournament at Addison on Aug. 22 and the JV team gets things underway on Aug. 26 in a quad meet at Onsted.

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About rjwalters

I am what you think I am — a journalist. Actually when I was hired at my current job, which by the way is Sports Editor of the Hillsdale Daily News in Hillsdale, Mich., I applied for a position titled "Wordsmith", so at my best I'll call myself a writer attempting to be a wordsmith extraordinaire.

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