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Nelson Ready to Write New Chapter at Valley
Patrice Nelson is holding multiple roles with the Valley Regional girls’ volleyball team this fall. Patrice is the varsity assistant coach, but she also has been fostering development for the Warriors’ freshman team. (Photo courtesy of Patrice Nelson )
Patrice Nelson was recently hired on as assistant coach of the girls’ volleyball team at Valley Regional High School. Patrice joins new Head Coach Christine Miller, who was the team’s assistant coach last season. Patrice is bringing years of experience, both as a player and a coach, to the Warriors this fall.
Patrice first stepped on the court as a high-school sophomore in West Fargo, North Dakota. She moved on to playing for St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, but soon transferred to Minnesota State University, Moorhead. An outside hitter, Patrice received some great praise from her former St. Cloud coach after she transferred.
“I transferred from St. Cloud State, because I had a coach that said I would never start. It was a big school, and we traveled on a Greyhound bus. Then I transferred to Moorhead. We had a coach that drove us around squished in her van, and her dog Belle always had a spot,” Patrice says. “I started there for three years, and it was always a big challenge for me to beat St. Cloud, and we were able to a couple of times. I remember my former coach coming up to me and saying, ‘You really turned out to be a great player.’ That meant a lot.”
In her senior season at Moorhead, Patrice was All-Northern Sun Conference First Team selection and also earned All-National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District First Team honors. Patrice also received All-State Division II First Team recognition through her play in the Minnesota State Tournament.
After graduating from college, Patrice went back home and then moved around a bit. She picked up some valuable coaching experience at a couple of the stops along the way.
“A few of the kids I coached at West Fargo went on to play in college. I thought that was pretty special to me. I’m still in touch with those girls, and that was back in ‘83,” says Patrice. “I coached in Reno, Nevada, and I coached fast-pitch softball. Volleyball was always my true love sport. Volleyball in the west is so strong. I would love to see volleyball become a bigger sport with kids at a younger age, especially with the boys. My son graduated, and he wished he could play with a boys’ team.”
When Patrice moved to Connecticut, she quickly found some like-minded friends through the sport of volleyball. That’s also how Patrice became acquainted with Coach Miller.
“I moved to Connecticut back in 1989. That’s how to make fast friends, playing a sport like volleyball. I met a lot of great people. I’m still friends with people that I’ve played with all over. It’s good for bonding when you find people who love the sport as much as you do,” says Patrice, who lives in Chester. “I met Christine playing in the H-K league years ago. We were on the same team, and Christine’s kids and my kids are around the same age.”
Patrice is taking on multiple roles at Valley this season as both an assistant coach with the varsity team and a coach for the freshman squad. Patrice believes that she makes the biggest impact on her student-athletes when she instructs them on their form.
“I feel like I bring more of the mechanical part of the teaching, picking out exactly how to position yourself,” Patrice says. “I’m a real stickler with these freshmen to always do the same thing and not fall into bad habits.”
Patrice feels that if she’s focusing on the mechanics of hitting the ball and making sure that her players are watching their form, then Coach Miller can concentrate on the bigger picture and develop some of the mental aspects of the game in the Warriors’ athletes.
“I think I’m more the observer. Christine is just awesome. She knows these girls and their capacity. She’s such a strong cheerleader for them,” says Patrice. “She’s helping them become better players and more responsible individuals who are stronger in their self-confidence. She doesn’t want the girls always looking to the bench. We are not the kind of coaches who pull the girls when they make a mistake. We want them to overcome it, learn from it, and keep playing.”
Coach Miller knows that Patrice is an impact acquisition for the Valley volleyball squad. Coach Miller is excited to see what the Warriors can accomplish with Patrice’s instruction to guide them.
“Patrice is a strong addition to the Valley athletics coaching environment. She brings prolific knowledge of the game and positive energy to our players. She has a demanding presence with complementary support to our team,” Miller says. “Patrice is versatile, adaptable, and fluid with all the challenges we have had to face as coaches this season. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to coach with Patrice this season. Her support, energy, and love of volleyball has impacted our team’s growth on and off the court.”
When Patrice isn’t coaching, she likes to spend time with her husband Jeff or her four children: Lanaya, Casey, Mitchell, and MacGuire. Patrice is also an accomplished collage artist who has had local showings in Essex and Chester, to name a few places. With three children out of the house and her fourth taking virtual classes online at UConn, Patrice feels that she can pursue some of her other passions more fervently.
“I have always wanted to go back to coaching. I also always wanted to be an artist, and now I’m in that place in my life to do it. I’m so excited to get this chance to do this at this age. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I always wanted to do,” says Patrice. “Right now, I’m part of the local artist show at the Chester Gallery. I did a show at The Left Bank Gallery in Essex. I also do commission work. Sometimes it’s a lot, and it’s all I can do is put something together for three months. Then I’ll take a break. It’s not always a constant, but now I have the time.”
Patrice enjoys seeing Valley’s athletes finally getting their chance to compete this fall. The hours of practice are paying off as the Warriors are off to a 2-0 start on the season.
Patrice believes that much of Valley’s early success stems from the leadership of the team’s seniors. Patrice wants to see the Warriors have a big year for their sake.
“I’m so impressed with them and their intensity. They give so much to this sport every day. They don’t want to go home, and they want to keep practicing,” Patrice says. “I love seeing kids like them. They are so grateful to have a season. I think they are just trying to make the most of it, and we’re trying to make the most of it for them.”