Val Whitfield-Dunn, Louise McGehee Head Volleyball Coach
High School: Waller High School | Waller, TX
College: University of Texas at Arlington |Arlington, TX
Graduate School: University of New Orleans | New Orleans, LA
Coach Whitfield-Dunn is in her 18th season at McGehee where she has guided the Hawks to four state championships (2003, 2004, 2008, 2015) and seven state title match appearances.
The Hawks are currently and ranked #1 in Division V power rankings.
In 2015, McGehee's Val Whitfield-Dunn earned Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Hawks to a 42-4 record and the school's first state title since 2008.
Coach Whitfield-Dunn was also inducted into the UTA Hall of Fame in 2015. Whifield-Dunn was an outside hitter for the mavericks and is one of just five players in UT Arlington history to end her career with 1,000 kills, 1,000 digs and 100 service aces. Whitfield-Dunn is also the lone Maverick player to achieve that mark in just three years at UT Arlington.
She also helped guide UTA to the Southland Conference Tournament for three straight years and was named the tournament MVP during the 1992 season. Whitfield-Dunn ended her career with 1,490 kills, 1,148 digs and 125 service aces.
Whitfield-Dunn graduated from UTA in 1994 with her BS in criminal justice and political science. Before coming to Louise S. McGehee in 2000, Whitfield-Dunn served as an assistant coach at Tulane University and received her MA in Human Performance and Health Promotion from the University of New Orleans.
Whitfield-Dunn currently serves as the President of the Louisiana Volleyball Coaches Association (LVCA) and is a member of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association (LHSCA) Executive Council as the volleyball representative.
After your career as a successful collegiate athlete, what inspired you to get into coaching? Is it something you always wanted to do?
Well honestly I did not have coaching in my foresight. I was a political science and criminology major and my first thought process was to go to law school and become a criminal lawyer. But as a student athlete at UTA, you had to work the summer volleyball camps. I was asked to coach the summer volleyball camp, and I was assigned the developmental session for first time volleyball players. While working with them I found myself enjoying developing their skillset and just having fun with them. And then a couple of weeks afterwards I was asked to coach a club team, and that's where the head Tulane coach saw me on the club circuit and asked me to come be her graduate assistant at Tulane. It kind of took off from there.
You've coached at both the collegiate level and the high school level. What do you think sets coaching on the high school level apart?
On the collegiate level everyone is a superstar. You really don't have to fine tune their skills, but in the high school setting I'm having the opportunity to develop their skill set, their leadership skills and helping them to be all around good community people.
You've in your 18th season at McGehee, and you have guided the Hawks to four state championships (2003, 2004, 2008, 2015) and seven state title match appearances, and at the rate your team is going now probably an eighth. So the Hawks are no strangers to success. What is the biggest challenge in keeping the girls motivated and reaching for another state title?
With any athletes that are young we do our best to instill that there are different expectations every day. We don't worry about our record, we worry about getting better each day. They set their goals each week and try to achieve those goals. I meet with each of them individually each week, and the girls all understand there is no place for complacency in our program.
Usually we always hear about coaches impacting the lives of players, but more often than not it is the student-athletes that leave a lasting impact on the coach. How do your athletes at McGehee impact your life?
I get very emotional because these young ladies are my children. Each one of them has impacted my life in different ways. I get choked up when I think about it. Just seeing them start off in elementary school and see how they develop into young women. McGehee does a great job in developing this young ladies starting at Pre-K through 12th. Seeing them use some of the life lessons that you have taught them along the way is very rewarding and touching. As a coach, building the relationships with the players is vital.
As a veteran coach, what advice would you give a young coach?
I would probably give them the same advice my mentors gave me, that is you need to show these young athletes that you care. There's more than just the on-the-court stuff. There's a humanitarian and social side, and you need to instill in them those values. Also, stay consistent in who you are.
Who are some of the biggest influencers/mentors in your coaching career?
I would say Kathy George, the head coach at Michigan State. She was the first female to take a volleyball team to the final four. She was my college coach at UTA. I would then probably have to say my high school basketball coach Marianne Deshazier. She showed me that humanitarian and social aspect of coaching. She instilled in me that if you care for a kid as your own they will pretty much go through a wall for you.