First Person with …
Jill Kramer

Jill Pape Kramer ’00 was TCU volleyball’s first scholarship student-athlete. In December, she returned to TCU as Director of Volleyball.

First Person with …
Jill Kramer

Jill Pape Kramer ’00 was TCU volleyball’s first scholarship student-athlete. In December, she returned to TCU as Director of Volleyball.

Jill Pape Kramer ’00 was TCU volleyball’s first scholarship student-athlete. In December, she returned to the university as Director of Volleyball. Kramer talked with the TCU Magazine about the new sand volleyball program and returning to her alma mater.

What was the TCU volleyball program like when you started?

I think the players who came [to TCU] at the time all came for the same reason. It was really important to them to be a part of the history of the program. We competed against some of the best teams in the country at that time in the [Western Athletic Conference]. And I don’t know that a lot of those players would have played Division I volleyball had TCU not been an opportunity.

Your return to TCU marks your sixth stop as a college-level coach. What do you find unique about TCU?

You can walk on TCU’s campus, and it’s got this small-town feel, kind of like Fort Worth. It’s got a big-time environment with a really small, close-knit feel, and that is special. It is really hard to find that. You get the best of everything.

What sets apart the TCU volleyball program?

One of the most unique things at this moment is that, to my knowledge, we are the only team in Texas that has decided to go all-in with sand volleyball. When I say all-in, we are putting our best foot forward.

We’re also unique in that I think we’re being supported rather well by the university. What I commend our athletic department [leaders] on is that they’ve decided, if they’re going to take a step in that direction, they’re going to do it in the right way. And they’re going to fund it the right way from the beginning. That’s something really hard to come by right now, especially with the NCAA and the way the face of athletics is tending to change.

Do some potential recruits want to do both indoor and sand?

What we’d like to do as [freshmen] comes in, if we can agree upon it, is for them to stay in the gym for their freshman year if they’re an indoor player and really learn our systems and concepts because it’s an important phase of their development. Once they’ve got that down and they understand what they’re trying to do; then work their way into sand as they get a little bit older.

How does a student athlete successfully balance sports and school?

Time management, that’s just the name of the game. I think we’ve got to give them the tools to do that. I send them a schedule every week basically from 5:45 in the morning until 9 at night. They get a spreadsheet where it’s Monday through Sunday of that. They need to account for every hour and kind of fill in where they’re going to study. I tell them where they need to be and when they need to be there for us and for class.

What made you want to get into coaching?

Honestly, when I left TCU after I graduated, I didn’t go in a gym or touch a volleyball for a year and a half. I was really fortunate because Mark Papich, who is currently the athletic director at the University of Incarnate Word, was also the head volleyball coach. He was also my coach my senior year for club volleyball. He probably did me the biggest favor of my career and offered me a graduate assistant position with him.

For [Papich] to give me the opportunity to get back in the gym and learn to love the game again and have fun with it, and also be able to give back, was probably the single-most important thing in my career. I just said at that point, I’m going to do this until it’s not any fun any more because I’m having so much fun doing this.

How would you describe your coaching style?

One hundred percent a player’s coach. There’s no way around it. I’m a little bit too much about them sometimes – [that’s] something that I’m working on. I always see the good in them and want to help them be the best that they can be. It’s that simple.

What are some of the most important lessons you teach the players?

My husband would probably laugh about this because I would say “communication” is one of them, and it’s for sure something I could always get better at. Everybody can. I think it’s huge — how to work with other people and communicate well, how what you do affects all. I think we try to bring that out in everything we do here. I think every day you want them to feel like they are being the best version of themselves, and you are giving them the tools to help them do that. If you can teach people, and learn yourself, to be in the present moment and put everything you’ve got into that, I think you’re going to be a lot happier, and I think you’re going to be a lot healthier because of it.

How would you describe the excitement of a live volleyball match to someone who has yet to see one?

It’s elegant, at least the way I like my teams to play the game but also really fast-paced. Our environment is one of the best ones to be a part of because you are right in the middle of the action. You are right there. I think you’re going to be at the edge of your seat the whole time.

What should fans expect from next fall’s team?

I think that this team has already put in a lot of hard work. I think our goal is to be the best that we can be every day, and I think this team has always had a lot of fight to them. I think they’re going to be confident in their preparation. They’re going to be methodical, and they’re going to be a team that you’re going to enjoy watching because they are going to really embrace being their best and going out there and putting their best foot forward, competing at the highest level that they can. That’s what anybody at TCU wants, to be able to have pride in whatever sport it is, whatever function is going on.

What’s the best thing about being back at TCU?

The funny thing is, until it really happened, until I really got here, I never knew how big of a dream it was of mine to be here. I can’t even put a word to what that feels like. It’s hard for me to sleep, and not because I’m stressed, but because I don’t want to stop. There’s so much I want to do all the time, and I think when you love what you do, it gives you energy.