October 2, 2014

BY MATT FERGUSON
For Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Most college athletes find it hard to balance their school life and social life. Try adding that to coaching a college team and completing a master’s degree.

This is exactly what assistant volleyball coach Jessica Whitehead is doing with John A. Logan College.  Whitehead, who is second all-time in kills at Southern Illinois University, has ended her career on the court and has moved to the Volunteers’ sideline, helping head coach Bill Burnside with scouting and player development. 

“It’s a big transition from being a player to being a coach,” Whitehead said. “I’m on the edge of my seat (during games) thinking, ‘Oh, I can go out there (and play).’ Now, I’m telling the girls what to do and it’s been a big change for me.”

Whitehead brings an impressive resume to the Volunteers, winning 114 matches at Murphysboro High School under head coach Mike Layne and then leading the Salukis in kills last season. In fact, she ranked second in the Missouri Valley Conference in points and kill percentage despite playing through a misaligned kneecap.  

“I was in serious pain,” Whitehead said, “and we didn’t find out until after the season.  I would have to sit on the bench instead of standing with my teammates because it would lock-up on me.”

Her performance on offense and defense at the net last season had not gone unnoticed by Burnside and was an important factor in his decision to add her to the staff.  He felt that Whitehead’s experience at SIU and her local connection to the area made her an ideal fit.

“Jessica has been able to step right in and quickly establish herself,” Burnside said.  “She is such an open, caring person that I believe the players realized right away that she is someone they can trust.”

“I know some of the girls and I think they like me helping them out,” Whitehead said. “Some of the girls want to play on in college and I tell them that they have to be focused on their schoolwork first and then their play.”

Whitehead is still attending SIU, working towards her master’s in sports studies.