Volleyball Star Laura Doornbos Carries Life Experiences to Coaching
After a successful playing career at Illinois State, cancer survivor Laura Doornbos is launching her volleyball coaching career.
After a successful playing career at Illinois State, cancer survivor Laura Doornbos is launching her volleyball coaching career.

April 4, 2006

Normal, Ill. - By Bradley Cheehy Redbird Insider Reporter

While her volleyball playing career at Illinois State University may be over, Laura Doornbos' career in volleyball may be just beginning. Best known as one of the stars of the Redbird women's volleyball team over the past four years, Doornbos has moved on to a different aspect of the game, coaching.

But, for Doornbos, the biggest challenges in life have not always been on the volleyball court. While playing at ISU she was not only fighting the competition on the court, she was fighting it inside her body as well.

While most 17 year olds were concentrating on how to get through their senior year in high school, Doornbos found out she had thyroid cancer. But that did not stop Doornbos from playing volleyball at Illinois State. After her treatment, Doornbos worked herself back into shape and prepped herself to play at the highest level again.

"Probably the biggest struggle was just making sure I was paying attention to what my body was telling me," Doornbos said. "Making sure my energy levels were up and keeping a close eye on my health in general."

Doornbos had a celebrated career at Illinois State even though she was fighting cancer the whole time. Doornbos was named to the Missouri Valley Conference's All-Freshman Team her first year. She was second team All-Missouri Valley as a sophomore, and then first team All-Valley her final two seasons. These two seasons made her only the 11th ISU player to be named to the first team All-MVC twice.

Redbird head volleyball coach Sharon Dingman enjoyed coaching Doornbos, a hard-swinging outside hitter who finished her career among the top 10 in career kills and service aces.

"Clearly, she is one of the best players ever at Illinois State," said Dingman. "The record book and honors show that. To be honored every year of your career as among the best in your class or the best in the conference by a conference with as many excellent players as the Missouri Valley speaks for itself. She's been competing at a high level ever since she arrived at Illinois State."

The awards did not stop at all-conference for Doornbos. In November, 2005, she was announced as the 2005 Missouri Valley Conference Most Courageous Award Winner. This award is presented to a student-athlete, coach or administrator who demonstrates exceptional courage in life.

"I feel so honored that I was even nominated," Doornbos said. "There are so many athletes that have endured so much throughout their career. Many athletes have had career-ending injuries. I was lucky to be able to go back and do what I loved."

While Doornbos got accolades on the court, her coach realized what she brought to the team off the court as well. Known for her bright and outgoing personality, Doornbos has touched many peoples' lives by showing strength through her struggles and toughness on the court.

"I have been blessed to work with some amazing young women and I put Laura very high on that list," said Dingman, a 20-year college volleyball coaching veteran. "Her spirit and ability to play volleyball have left a lasting mark on me and Redbird volleyball. Laura is a winner and will always be a winner. She knows how to succeed, she knows how to use the gifts we've been given."

With all of the awards for her performance on the court, Doornbos is hoping to turn that success into teaching others the game. Doornbos' first year as a coach has included the Olympia Middle School (where she attended) team and Illini Elite Club Volleyball team.

"I love coaching. I had a seventh grade team at my old middle school this winter. These girls were great. They were so eager to learn, to play and have fun," Doornbos said. "I also coach an 18's club team. Being able to share my knowledge of the game with the girls and help them develop into better volleyball players is what it is all about and I love it."

Dingman shares Doornbos' excitement in knowing the great player is now a coach. Dingman thinks that Doornbos is going to turn her winning tradition at ISU into a winning coaching career no matter where she coaches.

"Laura also understands the role that a coach plays in an athlete's life," Dingman said. "Laura will be a great coach. She has already proven she's a winner and she has already proven she has the ability to coach and help young kids develop as volleyball players. Her positive attitude towards life is reflected in her coaching style."

Like all coaches, Doornbos will reach those times when she will ask her athletes to show more courage, character and commitment. With the personal challenges she has overcome as a person and a volleyball player, Doornbos' credibility will have her players listening.