Morgan Golliver, Sports Editor
Aris Bird has been the head coach of the Utica College women’s volleyball team since 2013. Her main goal has been to help girls strive for success, while teaching them to become positive role models.
Unlike many of the other coaches at UC, Bird is only a part-time coach. She lives 75 miles away in Raquette Lake, where she works as the assistant to the Director of the National Reporting Service. Prior to working for the National Reporting Service, she taught middle school math at both Dolgeville and Granville Central Schools for six years and coached volleyball there as well.
Even with her full-time job, she is able to make herself available to coach at UC.
“This season, due to my schedule for my full time job and my player schedules who are currently in clinical for PT and nursing or night class for education, we have a combination of 6-8AM’s as well as 9PM – 11PM during the week,” Bird said.
“I am able to maintain my demanding schedule because my husband is extremely supportive and my mother and sister (a UC Undergrad and graduate alumni) help a lot with our 16-month old daughter Bayli and giving a hand in practice.”
Bird’s interest in volleyball came from her mother, who has been the varsity volleyball coach at Dolgeville for over 40 years.
“As an elementary student, I would travel with her to her matches and practices thus gaining an interest in the sport,” Bird said.
“In 6th grade, I started playing for Caroga Lake Volleyball Club and could not get enough of playing. In college I played for Niagara University; I was recruited as an outside hitter but quickly found out that my teammates were 6ft plus and I played as a defensive specialists for one of our outside hitters. As an adult, I have continued to play in the USA club circuit and in local leagues.”
The volleyball program had four coaches in four years prior to 2013, so the team needed stability, and needed to head in a better direction, and that is what Coach Bird brought with her.
“This past spring, we led all UC athletic teams with the highest GPA and three years ago we beat St. John Fisher for the 1st time in 15 years,” Bird said. “We also have completed multiple community service efforts including our pink night fundraiser for breast cancer, created a strong relationship with our Alumni, in which we host an Alumni Match every year, started the Rack Pack Fan group, host a volleyball clinic every year, and so much more.”
While Bird has helped raise awareness in the community, the team has struggled to win more than 10 games.
“Despite our struggling to break our max high of 10 wins, we have increased in competitiveness each year,” Bird said.
“We have competed against top teams in our conference in 4 and 5 sets in a match. I am extremely proud of my athletes as they are dedicated, committed, focused on their studies, treat one another with respect and strive to improve.”
This season, the UC Volleyball team is 1-9, coming off their first win against D’Youville College last Saturday. The team will begin Empire 8 conference play on September 22 against Elmira College.
Marissa Faroni, a senior and a Libero on the volleyball team, first met Coach Bird during her recruitment before coming to play at UC.
“She’s probably the most persistent coach that I had at my recruiting setting because she was really was involved with the campus,” Faroni said. “At the time, she seemed very dedicated, which I think she proved through these four years of being here.”
From freshman year to now, Faroni has learned a lot from Coach Bird.
“She’s really good with communicating with the players and she tells me straight up front what I’m doing wrong and how it might affect my playing time,” Faroni said. “I’m happy with what she’s taught me and what I’ve been able to translate going forward.”
Hannah Voss, a senior and a outside hitter on the team, looks at Coach Bird as a mother figure because her mom is a 1,000 miles away in St. Louis.
“When she first came in, the team was a little rough. She changed the whole atmosphere of the team and made it more about volleyball and less about college,” Voss said.
“Individually, she’s brought about a more mature side of myself and I personally have a close relationship with her to where I tell her everything and she listens.”
Overall, Coach Bird has embraced her time at UC and her team has come to accept her throughout these past few years.
“I am very blessed to work here at UC as the volleyball coach and very proud to call myself a Pioneer,” Bird said. “When you have the opportunity to do something you love, the miles, the time, the struggles and successes are all worth it.”