Fans of high school girls' volleyball may know Jennifer Reichard as the coach at Eastern York High School for the past four years.
Or they may know her as the mother of Lauren Reichard, who is a standout on the volleyball court for the Golden Knights.
What they may not know is that Reichard was quite the standout in the sport during both her high school career at Spring Grove, where she was a three-time York County all-star, and in college at NCAA Division I Eastern Kentucky University. It's her accomplishments on the court at EKU from 1988-1991 that have earned her a new honor. She will be inducted into the EKU Hall of Fame in October.
Reichard, who was known as Jennifer James back then, was a four-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection during her time playing with the Colonels. She finished her four-year career as the OVC Player of the Year in 1991 and is the last EKU player to have won that honor.
The former Rocket standout slammed down a school-record 709 kills that season, breaking her own school-record set the year before of 585. She still remains atop the school's record book in career kills (1,909) and total attacks (4,785) by wide margins.
She parlayed those stats into an invitation to be a part of the U.S. Women's Olympic volleyball team in 1992. While she didn't get to participate on the active roster, Reichard was the team's first alternate for the games, which were held in Barcelona, Spain, that year.
We caught up with Reichard for this edition of Sports Q&A.
Q: How did you find out that you were going to be inducted into the EKU Hall of Fame?
A: "The athletic director of the school contacted me. I guess social media helped because he knew who I was friends with and that's how he got in touch with me."
Q: Were you aware you were being nominated and considered before that?
A: "No. I had no idea, so it was a nice surprise."
Q: It looks like the EKU Hall of Fame is somewhat new. It only started back in 2006, right?
A: "From what he told me, they have inducted a lot of males so far. A lot of guys that have played in the NFL and stuff like that. So I think they are trying to get more females inducted."
Q: If I have it right, you still hold some pretty big records from your days down there, so it seems like you'd be a pretty obvious choice, right?
A: "Yeah, I do, which is kind of cool."
Q: Are you amazed that those records — most kills in a season and in a career, among others — have stood the test of time?
A: "Yeah. I've been out since 1992, so it's been a long time."
Q: What are some of your favorite memories from playing back then?
A: "Oh, my gosh. Just the friendships and the teammates that I got to play with. Just that whole team concept. Just those four years that I played down there, I loved every bit of it. Now I'm very much of a home person, born and raised in Spring Grove, and to go that far away and to not know anybody and just become part of a family was a pretty cool part of it."
Q: So how did you get noticed by Eastern Kentucky and how did your recruitment all come about?
A: "I think it was my junior year of playing club ball. We had a tournament playing in New Mexico and that's actually where my college coach saw me."
Q: Your daughter, Lauren, plays for you at Eastern York and is probably kind of going through the same things you went through, right?
A: "Correct. Yeah, we're going through the whole recruiting process right now. It's kind of overwhelming, but it's fun."
Q: So how does the process she's going through now compare with the one you went through years ago?
A: "It's so much more ... I can't really describe it. Hers started a lot sooner than mine did. She's been getting contacts from schools pretty much since her sophomore year. So we're kind of narrowing things down now and it's a lot more intense than when I went through it."
Q: Are you able to shed light on things because of your experiences?
A: "Yeah. It's kind of cool because we talk a lot and speak about what's to be expected at the next level. I've been there and done that before so she kind of knows that. I try to separate being mom and coach. It's hard, but I've learned after three years of being with her how to separate it that it works. We make it work."
Q: You're getting inducted in October, right? How does that play out in regards to your coaching schedule?
A: "Actually that kind of worked out nice. The first thing I did was check our schedule and we don't have any tournaments or anything scheduled that weekend. It's pretty much in the heart of our season schedule. So I was kind of worried, but it kind of worked out pretty well."
Q: What was your Olympic experience like?
A: "I'll never forget that. First, I got a letter in the mail stating that I was being considered to tryout for this week-long training session in Colorado Springs. They were basically getting ready to pick a team to go to Barcelona. So I got this letter and was thinking that there are 12 girls that they're going to pick and I went to a small Division I school. It wasn't like I went to Stanford or UCLA or I was a big-time player. So they looked at stats, but honestly I don't know how they determined exactly the numbers of the girls that were going. But there I was getting a letter saying I was one of the 12 that was picked. And for me to go out to Colorado Springs and compete with these girls, and, I'm the shortest girl and I'm 6-1, is amazing. You know, back then, I was one of the tallest girls around and out there I wasn't. But the whole thing was unbelievable. You train with that caliber of player and of coaching and it was honestly one of the best experiences ever. I got home and I thought that regardless of what happens, that I'm just glad I had that experience."
Q: Did you get to play with the team in Barcelona?
A: "No, I didn't. I was the first alternate. So (only) if somebody would have got hurt. They said to basically just keep my phone on me because if somebody got hurt or sick that they'd send me right over. But, unfortunately I didn't get to go, but the whole thing was really cool."
Q: What's the toughest part of being a coach, in general, but then also to be the coach for Lauren as well?
A: "When I first got into coaching at Eastern, and I had coached at Central York and at York Suburban and loved it, and I said when I was at Central that when my daughter starts playing volleyball that I'm going to stop coaching because I would want to watch her play. But fortunately the Eastern position opened up and I got it. So I sat down with (Lauren) and I wanted to make sure she was OK with me coaching her. I know that nowadays it can be really crazy coaching your kid and I wanted to do what's best for her. So I had to really sit down with myself and figure out how do I separate being mom and coach at the same time. And I got some really good advice from some former coaches that I have known for years that coached their kids and they basically said that as soon as you step out of that gym, you're mom. We can talk about dinner, we can talk about boyfriends, or anything. And that's kind of how it's worked for her and I."
Q: What's the biggest difference between when you played in high school and what kids are going through now?
A: "I just feel that there's a lot of pressure that a lot of these kids are putting on themselves because they play club or are concentrating on one sport, that 'I should be on a scholarship.' And unfortunately some of my best friends are parents who feel that if they put their kid in say football that they should be in Division I. So it's just really hard and kind of frustrating to a degree."
Q: Finally, how much do you love coaching and how long do you think you'll continue to coach for?
A: "I absolutely love coaching more than I ever loved playing, which sounds crazy. But I do love the coaching aspect of it and right now I'm kind of tossing around the idea of this being my last year, simply because we want to follow Lauren next year when she's in college. So that's kind of a thing that I'm struggling with right now. Do I keep going, because I love it, but we do want to watch her play too."
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.